Revisiting resurrection of farmers’ institute for Langley

New Langley farmer Ava Reeve holds forum to discuss creation of a new, unified organization

Farmers may get better representation in Langley in the next year.

Inspired by Farmers’ Institutes, which are non-profit associations that serve and lobby for farmers in communities across B.C., Langley producers are invited to join in a discussion on Sunday, Oct. 27 as to whether to form a similar organization.

The event is organized by Langley resident Ava Reeve, a new farmer herself, with support from the Township of Langley.

But she emphasizes that the outcome will be shaped by the farmers who attend.

“I’ll present information about other organizations across the province,” Reeve said. “But, then I’m just there to facilitate. Ultimately the decision about forming an organization is in the hands of Langley’s farmers: what’s going to help you and your farm?”

While the farmers’ institute model has existed in B.C. for more than a hundred years, these cross-sector organizations have evolved to serve a wide variety of mandates and programs.

In practice, many of them have come to focus on running the local fair or farmers market, or administrating a community hall, but newer organizations are focusing more on active extension-style services.

For example, the farmers’ institutes that have appeared on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast during the past five years offer education opportunities with regular guest speakers, Reeve said.

They tend to have more small or mixed-production members, she explained: “because those producers don’t otherwise have a commodity association to support them.”

But others have become very active with local governments, presenting a united farmers’ voice.

“Delta’s Farmers’ Institute is an example of one that has more of a lobbying role,” Reeve said.

“Blueberry, potato, and corn producers there have had to unite to represent themselves in the face of all kinds of pressures from development and industry. They’re dealing directly with bodies like the City of Delta, Metro Vancouver or the port to protect their farmers and farmland,” she elaborated.

Farmers’ institutes have caught attention recently in the flurry of controversy about new regulations governing the Agricultural Land Reserve.

“None of these government bodies currently have the ability to communicate directly with farmers,” said Reeve. “So the opportunity in these situations is two-fold. We could make sure farmers are kept up-to-date on important information, but we could also improve how well farmers are heard when changes are being proposed.”

So, what will be the right fit for Langley?

“These organizations have a long history of representing and serving farmers,” said Reeve.

“And that’s recognized by the province and other governments. But what that actually looks like for Langley will be up to the farmers who show up.”

The event, which includes dinner, will take place Sunday, Oct. 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the W.C. Blair Recreation Centre, 22200 Fraser Highway.

Registration can be done online at langleyfarmorg.eventbrite.ca or by contacting Ava Reeve at langleyfarmersinstitute@gmail.com or 604-546-0345.

Click here for information on the farmers’ institutes.

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