British Columbia

Historic Okanagan farmland being considered for agriculture education centre

North Okanagan Regional District is reconsidering plans to sell off a 50-plus hectare parcel

North Okanagan Regional District is reconsidering plans to sell off more than 50-hectare parcel

Regional District of North Okanagan director Amanda Shatzko says the pandemic and concerns about local food sustainability have increased interest in establishing an agricultural education centre. (Amanda Shatzko)

A parcel of publicly owned farmland that was previously destined for sale is now being considered for an agricultural park and training facility for future farmers.

The Regional District of North Okanagan's board of directors voted unanimously last month to hire Kwantlen Polytechnic University to assess the suitability and capacity for a "regional agriculture food system education centre and programming" at the 50-hectare BX Ranchlands property east of Vernon, B.C.

They also approved a feasibility study for an agricultural park.

Amanda Shatzko, district director for Area C, who has spearheaded the proposal for an agricultural park and education centre, told Daybreak South host Chris Walker that she believes the idea has strong support.

"I think people are more in favour of trying to figure out how can we do that if we can have a local university be set up here as a satellite university and allow young farmers and people to learn about their own food system, without having to necessarily travel to the Lower Mainland to do that," Shatzko said. 

Paul Williamson, president of the BX Swan Lake Community Association, says there's community support for a proposal to use the publicly owned BX ranch lands for an educational and community farming facility. (Paul Williamson)

The interest in sustainable food production appears even higher, she said, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, growing concern about sustainability of food sources and opportunities for local residents. 

The district bought the BX Ranchlands in 2016 for the purpose of subdividing it to create a small perimeter park and selling the remainder. However, the plan to return the property to private ownership and possible development met with opposition.

Paul Wiliamson, president of the BX Swan Lake Community Association, is among the advocates for keeping the BX Ranchlands in public hands.

Williamson expressed support for the regional district's move to assess the potential for agricultural education and parkland on the historic property, but he said it will be important for the community to be heard on any plans that result.

With files from Daybreak South


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