Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Delta Farmers and UBC Farm Cultivating Sustainable Agroforestry

With increased consumer demand for ethically and sustainably sourced products, and new markets with the emergence of carbon offsets, BC’s agricultural sector has an exciting opportunity to contribute to sustainable land use and generate new income streams.  While many agroforestry stakeholders and community members are already practicing sustainability, there are opportunities for new products and services and new financing mechanisms that are not well known in the farming community.  The lack of inter-community and public awareness, market access, communication, and exchange of ideas in this area leaves significant gaps in the overall strength, vitality and innovation of the agroforestry sector.

The Delta Farmers' Institute (DFI) in partnership with the University of British Columbia Farm (UBC Farm), and with funding from the British Columbia Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative, will be hosting a workshop to start to address these gaps.  The workshop will facilitate discussion, networking, hands-on learning, demonstration, and an exchange of ideas across sectors, cultures and generations.  It will bring together a broad cross-section of farmers, land managers, policy makers, small businesses and others in BC’s lower-mainland, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands to help put sustainable agroforestry into practice on their lands.

The workshop, to be hosted at the UBC Farm in Vancouver, will be a forum to discuss small-scale production and marketing of timber and non-timber products and services, riparian and terrestrial buffers, emerging opportunities and technologies, removing barriers to market access, niche marketing strategies, and the role of regulation.  It will also include hands-on demonstration sessions covering forest farming, windbreak/hedgerow establishment, and managing a trial Mediterranean truffière.  Information presented at the workshop will be incorporated into a Future Directions package, a quick-reference guide that summarizes sustainable agroforestry trends, emerging opportunities, practices, marketing considerations, and challenges.

UBC Farm will host an agroforestry workshop
DFI is leading this project due to increasing awareness of, and interest in, the benefits of alternative sustainable opportunities such as agroforestry, among the regional farming community.  Agroforestry requires a long-term vision and commitment and DFI believes that building links between current and future generations of farmers is critical to our futures as successful land stewards.  Partnership with UBC Farm will enhance its organizational capacity, provide a working demonstration site with event hosting services, build on established partnerships with practitioners, researchers and policy-makers, and improve connections with students interested in careers in agroforestry and land stewardship.  The UBC Farm currently offers a wide range of interdisciplinary learning, research and community programs on site, while operating as a working food/fuel/fibre-production farm.

The Delta Farmers’ Institute was established in 1898 and is a non-government and non-profit farm producers’ organization.  DFI’s mandate includes supporting farmers working to increase conservation, greenbelt projects and production of alternative sustainable crops.  Most notably, DFI has been instrumental in supporting Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust’s establishment of roughly 18,000 m2 of hedgerows, and riparian and terrestrial buffers throughout Delta.