As your MLA for Delta South and the BC Liberals’ agriculture co-critic for just over two years, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my experience representing the community and advocating for farmers across British Columbia.
Farming has not only been a huge part of our community and its history, it has been a central focus of my family. I still live and work on the East Delta dairy farm that was run by my father, and his father before him.
Like most farmers, our livelihood is powered by the passion we have for the work we do. My involvement in the family farm and auction business allowed me to gain valuable experience that I could use to serve my community.
As co-critic for agriculture, I have toured the province and met with farmers from Fort St. John, Smithers, Williams Lake, Creston, Cranbrook, Comox and all corners of British Columbia. I have discussed the achievements of farmers and ranchers, as well as the challenges they face, in my meetings with the B.C. Fruit Growers and the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.
I have heard about the hardships that farmers have experienced through challenging weather conditions, and the troubling new government legislation and increased taxes that are making it tougher for them to make a living. We have discussed best practices, research and development, innovation in the industry and the hope that we all share for the future of farming.
Locally, I introduced a private member’s bill in the legislature to protect the Brunswick Point farmland and bird habitat from any future economic development. This is an incredibly special piece of land that I hope will continue to be kept for agriculture and wildlife habitat in perpetuity and offered back to local farmers with long-term leases.
I’m proud to see many exciting initiatives taking place in Delta to support the next generation of farmers, like the Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust’s 14th annual Day at the Farm, which gives visitors the opportunity to experience the joys of life on the farm.
Emma Lea Farms serves delicious strawberry ice cream sourced from local products. Barnside Brewing is a new passion project of four long-standing Ladner farm families, making beer with hops grown right here on Ladner farms. Backroads Family Farm Market, run by the fifth generation of Guichon farmers, will host an Artisan Market on their premises in August for the first time ever. Ladner Village Market is as successful as ever, inspiring thousands of shoppers to buy local every summer and giving up-and-coming growers an opportunity to showcase their products.
These are just a few of the many amazing examples of innovation in agriculture taking place in Delta.
I am hopeful for the future of farming in Delta. Farmers do not shy away from hard work, they embrace it and they celebrate it. I thank the farmers in our community and beyond for their many economic and social contributions to our province, each and every day.
Ian Paton is the MLA for Delta South