The Lower Mainland: hub of farming in B.C.

Pitt Meadows, B.C.Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District account for 1.7% of the total area of British Columbia, and 59% of the province’s population. The Lower Mainland is known for its large institutions and private companies; the value of farming to the area is less obvious.

BC Farm cash receipts, 2010, from Canada censusIn fact, farms in Fraseropolis collect 65 per cent of farm cash receipts in B.C. The provincial total is reported at $2.936 billion for 2010. This is from a bulletin on agriculture   recently posted by the Metro Vancouver authority, based on the 2011 federal census.

The average farm size in Metro Vancouver is 14 hectares, or very small; but the 2,800 farms produce high-value products, including berries, greenhouse vegetables year-round, and pedigreed horses. Langley farms collect about 35 per cent of the reported proceeds in Metro Vancouver; Delta is next with 21 per cent.

The Metro report provides little detail on the Fraser Valley region. This can be partly Pitt Meadows, B.C.filled in from a snapshot on agriculture posted by FVRD staff, drawing from 2006 census numbers. The City of Abbotsford is the agricultural powerhouse in the Fraser Valley; 70 per cent of its land is protected for agriculture, and it produces about a sixth of the reported agricultural value in B.C.  The City of Chilliwack is also an important agricultural centre. With about 2,800 farms averaging 23 hectares, the Fraser Valley region has more than half the dairy producers in the province, and about a third of the poultry and hog operations.

A caution, however; while reported farm cash receipts is an indicator of taxable value, we might speculate on whether it’s really an accurate measure of agricultural production in B.C. How many transactions are done in the form of barter? How many cash transactions go unreported?

And while we’re on the subject, does marijuana count as an agricultural product? When some B.C. mayors called for the decriminalization of marijuana, they used a figure of $7 billion in annual sales by B.C. growers, citing a Fraser Institute report. This is a little disappointing; the 2004 report puts the $7 billion figure at the extreme of an economic model, and settles on a more conservative (ahem) estimate of $2 billion. Even so, this expert view suggests that marijuana is the probably the most valuable agricultural commodity grown in B.C., if it is agricultural. And as with other valuable crops, growers gravitate to markets; the Fraser Institute infers that about 60 per cent of British Columbia’s marijuana grow-ops will be found in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley region.

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