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Commentary: 100% Proven – Farming Smells

Imagine you live in Vancouver. You’ve loved being a renter in the city, but now you are ready to buy a house, and the prices downtown are impossible. You decide to move east, into the Fraser Valley, still an easy drive from the city you love, but with much more affordable real estate. You’ve driven past Abbotsford on the freeway a few times, and remember the picturesque vineyards to the west, and the corn fields to the east. Even the town’s slogan, “The City in the Country,” sounds delightfully quaint. So you make the move, and buy a house with a big yard out in the farmland. It should be like a modern day Little House on the Prairie, but with better amenities, right? Wrong.

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by Chelsea Thornton (Staff Writer)

Imagine you live in Vancouver. You’ve loved being a renter in the city, but now you are ready to buy a house, and the prices downtown are impossible.

You decide to move east, into the Fraser Valley, still an easy drive from the city you love, but with much more affordable real estate. You’ve driven past Abbotsford on the freeway a few times, and remember the picturesque vineyards to the west, and the corn fields to the east. Even the town’s slogan, “The City in the Country,” sounds delightfully quaint. So you make the move, and buy a house with a big yard out in the farmland. It should be like a modern day Little House on the Prairie, but with better amenities, right? Wrong.

Apparently, there are people who are terribly confused by the realities of country life. They imagine a lovely country home with cows grazing in the background, but forget that cows smell and require loud tractors and other machinery for their maintenance. They don’t realize that living next to a chicken farm will mean a constant supply of unpleasant odours and noise. They are surprised, and appalled, to discover that farmers spray manure on their fields.

What surprises me, however, is that they actually complain about it – not just casually to their family and friends – but also officially, to the Farm Industry Review Board. According to the October 8th edition of The Province, there were twelve complaints made in the Fraser Valley in 2009-2010, and seven since April of this year. Plus, the FRB mediated about 50 informal complaints in 2009, while the Ministry of Agriculture deals with twenty to forty of them every year.

These farms are operating on The Agricultural Land Reserve, which is land designated by the provincial government where agriculture has priority usage. Farming is encouraged, while other land use is limited or controlled. Although the boards usually find in favor of the farmers, who are, after all, using the land for its legislated purpose, it seems like a terrible waste of time and resources for these organizations to have to deal with these complaints at all.

First, if you are going to choose a farmer for your neighbor, you should be prepared for what seem like pretty obvious consequences. Although it might be a bit of a shock to some, our food doesn’t pop out of the ground sanitized and neatly packaged. Despite the extreme technological advancements in farming, it is still anchored in the management of living resources, and no amount of technology will change that.

More importantly, farming is an economic power in the Fraser Valley. A 2008 Chamber of Commerce reported stated that the agriculture sector in Abbotsford supports 11,300 full time jobs, which translates to one out of every four jobs in the private sector. The average wage for a farm worker is sixteen dollars an hour, twice the minimum wage in B.C.. Agribusiness generates a lot of money as well, with about 1.8 billion dollars in yearly expenditures.

The next time someone complains about the smell of manure contaminating the mood of their barbeque, you may want to point out to them that that smell played a crucial role in providing the fare for the evening.

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