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Land matcher to help new farmers in remote communities

New and young farmers in northern and central British Columbia will have access to support and services to enter the farming sector following the expansion of the B.C. Land Matching Program (BCLMP), delivered by Young Agrarians.

“I am so excited to be part of this initiative providing land access support to new farmers, and landowners, as they endeavour to grow food and community across north and central B.C.,” said Jolene Swain, the new dedicated land matcher for central and northern B.C., in a news release “Having lived and farmed in the North for almost five years, I grow ever more appreciative of the resourcefulness, ingenuity, self-reliance and generosity of our rural communities, and look forward to promoting the ready opportunities that our region provides for aspiring new farmers.”

Through the BCLMP, Swain will connect farmers looking for land with landowners wanting to lease their land for farming. Residing in New Hazelton and a farmer herself, Swain has a master’s degree in biology and a love for the natural world. Her past field work ranges from studying pikas – a small mountain-dwelling mammal – and plants, to biodiversity surveys in the boreal forest, to researching caterpillars and climate change in the organic orchards of the Similkameen Valley.

“Land matchers are making it much easier for young people and aspiring farmers to find affordable, suitable land and enter British Columbia’s vibrant farming sector,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “Their work to connect farmers and landowners in more remote areas will help ensure farmland is being farmed and secure the industry and land for future generations.”

Swain’s experience will help in leading land-linking workshops in the fall, developing relationships with landowners, land seekers and community leaders, and working with parties to negotiate land leases. She will also conduct a land access needs assessment in the region by engaging with farmers, landowners, local governments and ministry staff. Expanding the program into the central and northern regions of B.C. will also include “land socials,” events that provide opportunities to view available farms and connect communities to resources for leasing land.

The BCLMP falls within Grow BC, a mandate commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture that supports young farmers and food producers seeking a career in agriculture and addresses major challenges for new farmers, such as gaining access to land. The program is part of the Province’s larger New Entrant Strategy, a framework for increasing the number of new and young farmers working in B.C.’s agriculture sector.

Farmers seeking land in central and northern B.C., and farmland owners who are interested in making land available for farming, are encouraged to reach out to Swain and the B.C. Land Matching Program.

“We are thrilled to now have a land matcher for central and northern B.C. piloting the B.C. Land Matching Program through land technical assistance,” said Sara Dent, executive director, Young Agrarians. “We have watched our program start from an idea in 2012 and bud into a tree over the past eight years. From educational events, to land access supports, to business mentorships, we are excited to grow our capacity to reach more of B.C. New and young farmers are revitalizing the agricultural sector through hard work and determination. Access to land is the number 1 barrier for new farmers. We are happy to support that process through the BCLMP.”

Quick Facts:

* Since the pilot launch in 2016, the program has helped 37 farmers, with 50.58 hectares (125 acres) brought into or maintained in agricultural production.

* Since the program expanded in July 2018, 29 matches have been finalized.

* Number of land matches by region:
* Okanagan: six matches finalized;

* Vancouver Island: nine matches finalized;

* Columbia Basin: three matches finalized; and

* Metro Vancouver/Fraser Valley: 21 matches finalized.

Learn More:

Find out more about the B.C. Land Matching Program: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/programs/land-matching

Young Agrarians B.C. Land Matching Program: http://youngagrarians.org/land/

Government of B.C.’s New Entrant Strategy: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/agriculture-and-seafood/farm-management/farm-business-management/6322_agri_newentrantstrategy_web.pdf