Do you know where your food comes from?
More and more here in BC, the answer is “Yes,” which is exciting news for BC farmers, like Sarah Sache.
“The public is so integral to what we do.”
Originally from the West Kootenays, Sarah married into a longtime Lower Mainland dairy farming family, and in addition to daily farm work, she’s actively involved in the agriculture industry at the provincial and national level.
Initiatives like Canada’s Agriculture Day (#CdnAgDay) and We ♥ Local BC, a province-wide movement connecting consumers with BC farmers and ranchers, help grow public awareness about food and farming, Sarah says.
“For me, coming from outside of agriculture, I was learning everything fresh. I understand how much the average person doesn’t know about farming.”
Fortunately, there are lots of ways you can get to know more about the farms you see around the province.
Curious? Here are 5 BC farm and food facts that might surprise you:
1. BC tops the list for female farm operators. The 2016 census found BC has the highest proportion of female farm operators in Canada at 37.5 per cent, compared to 28.7 per cent nationally. Across the province there are many farmers like Sarah producing the local food you love.
2. BC’s farms are precious. There are only about 17,500 farms in BC. While the number of BC farms is going down, their property size is increasing. The average area per farm has increased from an average of 327 acres in 2011 to 365 acres in 2016. Regardless of size, 98 per cent of those farms are family-owned businesses!
3. BC farms produce 200+ different commodities! BC’s unique climate means variety flourishes here. Find locally produced food to fit any taste and preference – from eggs, chicken, mushrooms and dairy to tree fruit, vegetables, grain and beef…. and many more. And don’t forget agricultural products like cut flowers and nursery plants. Local is everywhere you look! Reflecting on that diversity, “you get a real sense that you’re part of something special,” Sarah says.
4. BC is a leader across Canada. If you’ve enjoyed local bounty like cherries or berries, it’s easy to understand why BC-grown foods are in demand around the world! In fact, BC producers rank first in Canada for farm sales of blueberries, cherries, raspberries, garlic, apricots and leeks, and are second nationally in farm sales of greenhouse vegetables, floriculture products, nursery products, mushrooms, grapes, cranberries, and many more.
5. The number of farmers under 35 is growing. 1,825 young farmers are producing your food in BC. In fact, the proportion of young BC farmers grew from 5.4 per cent in 2011 to 6.9 per cent in 2016. As more family farms are passed to the next generation, young farmers are showing they have the drive and the smarts to carry on the important work of food production, and to succeed at it. Says Sarah: “I came to agriculture through forestry and mining, so I really don’t think farming experience should be a barrier. There’s such a wide array of options out there. Agriculture is really a sector worth exploring as a career.”
Celebrate BC agriculture
If you’re interested in starting off your new year by supporting locally grown food, check out We Heart Local BC’s recipes page for inspiration. And on Feb. 11, celebrate #CdnAgDay – sharing pride in the industry and highlighting the close connection between the food we eat and the people who produce it.