Community Farms Program

Community Farms Program

The Community Farms Program is at the forefront of encouraging alternative forms of land ownership to ensure our agricultural lands remain in production in perpetuity. We help landowners, farmers, and local communities develop and support community farm models in BC, conserve farmland, and build healthy, local food systems. We provide information and resources for community farm stakeholders through a web page, a network, roundtable and other meetings, and personal contact, and help farmers access affordable farmland. Download our Cooperative Community Farms Handout. Visit our Community Farms website.

What is a Community Farm?

A community farm is a multi-functional farm where the land is held “in trust” for community rather than owned privately. A community group or co-operative governs the land use agreements, and agricultural uses of the land are shared by a community of farmers. The primary focus of a community farm is local food production using sustainable agricultural practices. Land holders, land managers, and farmers work together by mutual agreement. Farmers are housed on or near the land. People who want to farm sustainably on a small scale are investing in community farming. There are currently more than 20 farms in BC that have experience and knowledge in sustainable organic farming practices and cooperative living. With the Community Farms Program, we’re helping create more farms like this in BC.

What is the Community Farms Program?

We support people involved in farmland conservation and community farming by providing information, resources, and assistance. The Community Farms Program is a multi-phase initiative. Phases 1 and 2 develop and test program models and resources. In Phase 3, we'll establish a business model for ongoing program sustainability.

Community Farms Program Goals

The goal of the Community Farms Program is to actively secure farmland for present and future food production. We do this by:
  • Facilitating farmland securement for local food production
  • Helping new farmers access affordable land
  • Providing an information hub of farm-related governance models, best practices, management tools, and training
  • Assisting a network of farmers, landowners, local communities, and resources to support community farm development in BC

Community Farms Program Activities

Every activity is a building block in the development of the Community Farm program and the future services it can provide. As we speak with farmers, groups, and interested individuals, we learn and understand more about what is needed, and adjust the program systems and resources in response. We continue to:
  • Facilitate formation of community groups (societies and cooperatives) that support farms and farmers
  • Help groups develop capacity in their communities to support community farms and farmers
  • Identify potential new farmers and survey their needs and assets
  • Link farmers with mentors, training and land
  • Provide informational resources, and maintain a CFP web site that houses community farm resources and links to partners and programs
  • Support a Council of partners, stakeholders and farmers to guide and develop the Community Farms Program
On-going project activities include:
  • Research and explain existing government regulations on land ownership and farming businesses and how they affect the development and operations of community farms on agricultural land;
  • Design and refine a “Whole Farm Planning process” to set conservation and sustainable agriculture objectives specifically for community farms;
  • Work with community farms in various stages of development to test, evaluate, and revise the models, templates, and Whole Farm Planning process;
  • Share project results with other BC communities to help support existing community farms, stimulate the formation of new community farms, and increase awareness and support for community farms among members of the public.

Why Community Farms?

In BC, communities face many challenges to conserving farmland and developing a local, sustainable food supply:
  • Ongoing development pressures threaten farmland;
  • Average age of BC farmers is 57 years;
  • Knowledge about farming is disappearing;
  • Low incomes, hard work, and high risks discourage new farmers;
  • Demand for local, organically-grown food is up, and exceeds supply;
  • High cost of farmland is a barrier for new farmers.
Community farms are part of the solution. They can help address some of the challenges faced by farmers and communities because they:
  • Support local food systems by supplying locally grown food;
  • Protect farmland for long-term food production through land trusts, covenants, and other means;
  • Give new farmers access to affordable land through long-term leases;
  • Provide supportive and flexible labour pools.

Community Farms Network

The Community Farms Network shares best practices in sustainable organic agriculture and cooperative farming and living through a mutually supportive association of community farms in BC. Members can access this broad, inclusive network for ideas, information, and inspiration without any obligation to join the Community Farms Program and its more specific participation criteria.

The Community Farms Network emerged from the first Roundtable gathering in February 2009 as an inclusive association that welcomes the participation of people and groups supporting community farms. Members of the Network benefit from:
  • Information and resource sharing
  • Face-to-face gatherings for celebration and sharing
  • Mutual mentorship and inspiration
  • Advocacy on zoning and housing policy and legislation
  • Linking initiatives, costs, equity (a community farm union!)
Ongoing Roundtable meetings will create opportunities for sharing inspiration, information, and ideas. For more information about the Community Farms Network and Roundtable gatherings, please contact FarmFolk/CityFolk.

Contact

Heather Pritchard – sustain@farmfolkcityfolk.ca

Media

May 29, 2008 Vancouver Sun article featuring Lohbrunner Farm. (pdf)