KelownaNow – October 3, 2023 – Kent Molgat
The Central Okanagan may be sprouting highrises, but most of the land in the city is still farmland.
It was with that in mind that local officials got together for a farm tour.
Local political and industry leaders left their offices to visit Paynters Market, Quail’s Gate Winery and Farming Karma Fruit Company on Tuesday.
“Today is really offering us an opportunity to get a glimpse into agriculture,” said Regional District Chair Loyal Wooldridge.
“To know, how as leaders, we can best support them so the industry can be more resilient.”
The Regional District of Central Okanagan loaded a bus with mayors, city councillors and other community industry leaders for the field trip.
“Food nourishes us and we can’t take it for granted,” said Wooldridge.
Unlike most cities around the province, Central Okanagan municipalities are comprised mainly of farmland.
In Kelowna, for instance, 55% of the land base is zoned for agriculture.
“We’re very grateful to have experts with us today to show us some of those successes and challenges,” Wooldridge explained.
Paynters Market owner Jennay Oliver was happy for the chance to share the realities of the industry.
“We talked a lot about the challenges of farming,” said Oliver, “and all of the weather events that have been happening.”
She said it’s nice that people came to listen.
“It was really incredible to have such a great, diverse group of elected officials that came out to my farm,” said Oliver.
“We walked around and talked about the different crops we grow and they got their hands dirty.”
Along with the politicians on the tour were representatives from Okanagan College, UBC and Accelerate Okanagan.
Wooldridge said what he learned from the tour was how the agriculture industry finds different revenue streams to survive.
“Whether that’s agritourism so people can stay on farms and understand how farming is done, or looking at value-added products like Farming Karma has done with carbonated beverages.”
Wooldridge said local governments need to find ways to eliminate the barriers to success for the agriculture-related businesses.