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Food production to get a boost from regional district with Food Policy Council

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
August 5th, 2016

In order to support the growth of food production in the West Kootenay a new council has been created by the regional district.

A joint project to create a regional Food Policy Council for Central Kootenay is being undertaken by the regional district with the goal of enhancing the abundance of food production and agricultural activities in the West Kootenay.

The project aims to devise a local model of a food policy council that will join the agricultural industry with local government.

In addition to the RDCK, project partners Community Futures Central Kootenay and the B.C. Food Systems Network will be tasking project coordinator Abra Brynne with the expectation to pull together “stakeholders” in the region to determine the make-up and mandate of a food policy council that will support food systems across the RDCK.

This will help to help to shift the work on food systems in the region to more strategic, effective and efficient efforts, since it will be easier to identify redundant initiatives and to create effective partnerships, said Area A director Garry Jackman.

“Supporting local food production is a natural fit for local government from an economic, social and health standpoint,” he said.

The mandate of the council will be broad, with not only those in the agricultural industry being concerned, but also the realms of economic development, the environment, health and community.

A consultation period will take place with the stakeholders in the agricultural industry and will include social service agencies addressing hunger, farming, economic development to education.

Once established, the council is expected to “enable effective and regular communications between local government, food initiatives, farmers and anyone engaged in the food production system.”

Jackman said over the past several years the level of support through the province has declined or has become more remote and less hands on in regards to agriculture.

“But, given our mild climate, relatively long growing season and increasing demand for both niche market and farmers market products, I believe there is a strong future for agriculture,” he said.

“If a regional food policy can assist in any way, either by clarifying land use, supporting a coordinator role or assisting with grants to leverage other funding sources, then we need to examine the potential further.”

The ad hoc council already had commitments in place from the City of Nelson and the Interior Health Authority.

The core of the project is to develop a West Kootenay-wide food policy council and to utilize the lessons learned in the process to help other rural-based local governments do the same. The proposed activities would include:

  • Engaging local governments in discussions about what a food policy council is and can do;
  • Determining the mandate, scope, size and relationship with local governments for this regional food policy council;
  • Creating the actual council, which will include determining its make-up, who fills the positions and what the appointment process looks like;
  • Developing the terms of reference, identifying short, medium and long term priorities and work plans, drawing on the many relevant documents and organizations in the region;
  • Capturing the lessons learned and unique considerations and factors for rural-based food policy council creation; and
  • Exploring core funding mechanisms for the council over the long term.

Funding for the council will come from the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., Interior Health, the Osprey Foundation, Community Futures Central Kootenay and some directors of the RDCK.

The budget for the council would be in the range of $50-$75,000 for a year long project where most of the funds will go to staff to do the research, outreach, co-ordination and report writing, with some money for meetings, travel and materials.

A new agricultural strategy

The regional district is fully committing to an agricultural liaison strategy project for the Kootenay region.

That Regional District of Central Kootenay voted in favour of participating in the Kootenay Agricultural Liaison Strategy Project with the Regional District of East Kootenay, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and the Columbia Basin Trust.

The general manager of RDCK development services or the RDCK’s planner will represent the RDCK on the Kootenay Agricultural Liaison Strategy steering committee.

A request for proposals will be issued that is consistent with the project goals and directives.

The 2017-2021 Financial Plan will include funding for the project in general administration for $60,000 for the year over each of three years until 2019.

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