Re: Land use balance is out there somewhere
- let's find it, Community Comment, July 6
Mike Schneider's column demonstrates he still does not understand how local farmers are working hard to balance differing land uses, including food production and wildlife conservation.
He poses the scenario of returning areas of Delta to grassy wetlands, and then asks the reader: "But what would it do for us?"
Despite my own personal curiosity to know what Delta looked like 150 years ago when it was an expansive grassland, seasonally flooded by the Fraser's spring outflow, it is doubtful that any portion of this region will be permanently returned to native state. Demand for land is too great.
However, and this is the point Schneider missed, grassland habitat can be mimicked, if only for a brief four years, on active, cashgenerating farmland.
And indeed, that's exactly the kind of balance of land use that has been occurring in Delta for the last 19 years.
Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust's Grassland Set-aside Program provides cost-share funding for local farmers to rest fields with grass and clover. Not the native tufted hair-grass that was present 150 years ago, mind you, but fescues, timothy and red clover; the same species used by farmers to make hay for livestock.
Left to grow, these agronomic species function similar to grasslands of old, and support bumblebees, songbirds and small mammals.
In turn, the small mammals are prey for hawks, owls and herons (yes, herons).
After four years, the grass is tilled in (much to the chagrin of the voles that must find new places to live) and the farmer once again grows beans, peas, potatoes or feed grain.
And another grassland set-aside is planted in another field, resting yet another piece of valuable soil.
So what do "we" get? Well, farmers get to rest the land, break up pest cycles and increase soil organic matter (read: good for growing food plants).
Combined with tile drains, grassland set-asides are an excellent way of flushing salt from the soil profile, thereby increasing the productivity of our local fields. In short: food.
The public receives open green space (550 acres of it, which, thanks to the efforts of local farmers and the trust, they don't have to pay for) and the collective capacity to conserve a portion of the amazing wildlife that can still share our region with us.
Increasing our reliance on pavement-based land uses will leave us with a community that retains little of its present day function, and one that is even more reliant on the pillars of our global economy (which at times resembles a house of poorly balanced cards).
One more comment regarding the assertion that greenhouses on all farmland is the only way to take food security seriously: Greenhouses grow some crops well. Not all of them. There's no need for greenhouses when growing potatoes or hay for milking cows.
David Bradbeer Program Coordinator Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust