Municipal governments could be allies to small urban farmers to create win-win partnerships. Many of these small businesses could develop in each community by converting unused small municipal parcels into profitable urban farms selling vegetables to local people.
Smaller communities may be a good place to start since they find it hard to attract businesses and get young people to stay in these quiet places.
This is a great way to support economic development without relying on mega-projects and large amounts of public debt. Small urban farms spin off a tremendous amount of economic multiplier effect as dollars get passed from one hand to another and then to someone else.
Research (see Vegetable brochure by the Canadian Organic Value Chain) shows that small farms of 2 acres or less are the most profitable. These operations sell vegetables directly to consumers for 6 – 8 months of the year. BC is the leader in Canada for these types of operations, according to the 2016 census.
Key barriers to urban farming have been identified in many good studies. Our key resources are done by Dr. Mullininx et al, at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). Two studies stand out: 2013 Surrey’s Under-utilized ALR Land and the 2017(?) South West BC Food System Design Project.
These barriers can be addressed through municipal by-laws. That is why young urban farmers and small municipalities should become partners to build food security.
Water access, long term land leases, capital for production investment and stable farm labour are all issues that municipal governments can help with. A big issue is farmland with big houses on it but producing no food. Tax incentives could be very effective at freeing up this lost production capacity.
Landowners must feel they are getting benefits from a long term lease to a young urban farmers. Young urban farmers need to be confident their investment in soil improvement and infra-structure will be available to them over the next few decades (20 years or more).
Which municipalities will make this wise investment in their future?