Boundary meat producers gave their overwhelming support to prioritizing agricultural infrastructure last week and government representatives heard the message. At the meeting to discuss the future of the meat industry in the Boundary, livestock producers said their number one priority is a licensed abattoir with processing and marketing facilities a close second.
“The turn out to the meeting was great,” said Doug Zorn, president of GFBRAS. “I am confident now that the society’s efforts to build an abattoir and to look at other needed supports are moving in the right direction to help grow our meat industry. It was really important for us to hear, again, the support from the producers to keep pushing forward with building facilities and services for this sector.”
The goal of the planning session, hosted by the Grand Forks and Boundary Regional Agricultural Society (GFBRAS) and Community Futures Boundary (CFB), that included over 30 producers and government representatives, was to gather information for a strategic plan for meat production and economic development. Regional District Director for Area D, Irene Perepolkin, Director for Area C, Grace McGregor, and MLA John Slater participated in the day’s session along with the region’s farmers including a representative from the Grand Forks Stockmen’s Association.
“It was really good to see 30-plus representatives from the Boundary agriculture community come out for the betterment of their industry”, said Slater, MLA for the Boundary Similkameen.
The group discussed increasing public awareness, questioning where one’s food comes from and the ethics of how it is raised or grown. They predicted that there will be increasing transportation costs that will also give rise to more demand for locally-grown food.
Based on these ideas, their vision for the future of the meat industry in the Boundary included an increase in the number of farmers raising livestock, an influx of a new generation of farmers and a model for the industry that is more of a community-supported way of doing business. The farms will continue to be small to medium size, farmers will be more profitable and there are increased jobs in the entire agriculture sector including more value-added businesses.
But the group was not just looking through rose-coloured glasses, they acknowledged the challenges the industry is facing and the work that needs to be done. Some of those challenges come in the form of bureaucracy, regulations, climate change, and the basic resources needed to develop the industry. Access to funding, encouraging volunteers to help move everything forward and community education are just some of the issues that GFBRAS spearheads for the region.
“We’re a small group of volunteers but we are committed to supporting the region’s agriculture,” said Zorn. He invited new members to assist in the work of the society, and in developing the services and facilities brought forward at the meeting on Saturday, Jan. 15.
A draft of the strategic plan should be ready at the end of March. In the meantime, GFBRAS will continue to work with the Kettle Valley Food Co-operative to see the construction of a mobile abattoir through to licensing and turn their efforts towards processing services next.
For more information please contact Doug Zorn, 250-442-3359.