Newfoundland and Labrador's move to increase the amount of land used for farming is meant to entice young people to get into the industry while also improving the province's ability to feed itself and import fewer goods. 

The province announced last week that 64,000 hectares of of Crown land is being turned into land for agricultural production, which means farmers will now have almost double the amount of land available to them.

The land will be spread out over 62 agricultural areas. The 64,000 hectares was selected after consultations with farmers, towns and other stakeholders.

Food security

The move comes as part of the government's Way Forward strategy, which highlighted the need for greater food security in the province by increasing food self-sufficiency by at least 20 per cent by 2022.

"Right now we only produce about 10 per cent of what we eat in this province," Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods Minister Steve Crocker told the St. John's Morning Show.

Steve Crocker NLFA speech

Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods Minister Steve Crocker speaks to the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture in February. (Twitter/@kellydaynard)

Crocker said some areas of the province's farming sector are already doing well, such as dairy, eggs and chicken.

However, government is hoping that more farmland will mean those industries will become even more self sufficient by growing their own food for the animals instead of having it shipped in

As well, there are hopes that new crops will start to be grown that aren't necessarily part of the industry in Newfoundland and Labrador right now.

"I saw a tweet a couple of days ago of a local greenhouse showing off their Boston lettuce that they have grown fresh for the first time this winter, here in this province," Crocker said.

Growing a new generation of farmers

Another way the province hopes the new lands will foster increased agriculture is by getting young people interested in being farmers.

Canola field in Pasadena

This canola field in Pasadena was the provincial government's first attempt at growing the crop on the island. (Joanne Chaytor)

In addition to making more land available, the application process is being streamlined for those who want to set up their own farming operations.

Crocker said there are already examples of young farmers who have been doing great things in the province, and he was especially inspired by what he heard on Friday at an entrance workshop in St. John's hosted by Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmers.

"Some of our young farmers have been very successful and they're very eager," he said.

Use it or lose it

Of the roughly 22,000 hectares currently being used for farming in Newfoundland and Labrador, about 75 per cent is actually in production. 

Crocker said his department is hearing more and more that the province needs to be more aggressive making sure the leased land is actually being used for farming.

"The province needs to enforce that, and have more of a use it or lose it policy," he said.