Benefits of agriculture go well beyond food production

SALUTE TO AGRICULTURE

Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust has been closely working with the farming communities of Delta and Richmond for many years.

Over 40 farmers and land owners participate in its stewardship programs annually. This unique partnership was founded on developing win-win solutions for both agriculture and conservation.

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In addition to the Fraser River delta being an internationally significant site for migratory birds, it is also a highly productive agricultural region.

The stewardship programs the trust provides are designed to enhance land-use for both farming and wildlife by assisting with the costs to increase biodiversity on farmland while also improving soil health and supporting agricultural viability.

To further investigate the benefits supported through these stewardship programs, the trust recently completed a study in partnership with an ecosystem services specialist.

The wide array of benefits that farmland provides are called ecosystem services. These services, which are also known as “nature’s benefits,” support human well-being and a healthy environment. Pollination, pest control, water regulation, nutrient cycling, air quality, soil formation, carbon sequestration, and cultural identity and heritage are a few of the many services that are supported and enhanced by farmland and stewardship programs.

When most think of the trust’s stewardship programs, soil fertility and wildlife habitat are the first things that come to mind. However, a survey that was completed as part of the study highlighted the extensive range of additional benefits that are often not considered.

These benefits are more related to the knowledge and education as well as cultural aspect of ecosystem services, including education and scientific opportunities, heritage value, peace of mind, community well-being and viewscapes.

A rough economic assessment of the ecosystem services enhanced by the Grassland Set-aside Stewardship Program was also completed. This assessment calculated the benefits from the program amounted to about four times the costs.

Although the assessment is a rough approximation as the monetary values used for the estimate were selected from other studies and literature, it clearly highlights the extent of benefits attained at minimal cost.

As pressure on agricultural land continues to increase, it is important the full scope and extent of benefits provided by farmland and agriculture be accounted and recognized.

Not only do local farmers and Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust stewardship programs provide wildlife habitat and improve soil health but they also enhance a wide array of ecosystem services that support a healthy environment and all our well-being.

You can help by purchasing local food and if interested donating to the trust. To learn more about the organization and the stewardship programs it offers, visit www.deltafarmland.ca.

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© Delta Optimist

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