Saanich develops agriculture and food security plan to ensure a sustainable future for the community

For the District of Saanich, food security starts in the community’s backyard.
Agriculture and Food Security Plan - Cover

The District’s new Agriculture and Food Security Plan (the Plan) sets a long-term vision to support a thriving, accessible, and environmentally responsible food system. The Plan outlines strategies and sets a policy framework to help Saanich protect and support farmland and to provide a vibrant agricultural legacy to future generations.

Success Story Snapshot

Energy Savings / GHG Reductions: Food related emissions amount to 19%   of the District of Saanich’s total carbon footprint. The Agriculture and Food Security Plan outlines household waste reduction, sustainable water management, integration with natural ecosystems, and increased local production as strategies to reduce food related emissions in the community and support the new commitment by the District to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% below 2007 levels by 2050.
Business Case: The Plan highlights priority actions that will collectively increase production on agricultural lands and in urban areas, improve management of waste products, and improve local food economy resources. Saanich Council has identified funding to support implementation of priority actions identified in the Plan, providing a strong foundation to initiate action.
Co-benefits: Actions identified in the Plan will enhance the community’s ability to adapt and respond to potential external influences or events that impact access to food. Many actions in the Plan also look at providing a stronger integration between farming and ecosystem management, and supporting a more sustainable and restorative approach to resource management. The Plan also supports an increased awareness of the important contributions farming has on the local economy.
Total project cost: The Agriculture and Food Security Plan had a budget of $45,000, which included engagement with the community and stakeholder groups and hiring a consultant to develop Plan actions.

Project Summary

In late 2017, Saanich Council committed to reducing GHG emissions 80 % by 2050 from 2007 levels. Saanich’s Agriculture and Food Security Plan (the Plan) will play a vital role in supporting the District in achieving this target and supporting policies set in the Official Community Plan (OCP) and the Climate Action Plan (currently being updated).

Saanich continues to have an important agricultural role in BC. Since the 1960s, the District has protected its agricultural and rural lands from urban encroachment with the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB). Although about 52% of Saanich is still protected by the UCB with policies set out in the OCP to ensure urban/rural connections are thriving, much of Saanich is not actively farmed and access to healthy, local food can be difficult for some households to attain. The District of Saanich recognized the importance of maintaining a balanced relationship between its urban residential and rural agricultural roles and saw an opportunity to seek new solutions to support local food systems and address food insecurity for the community at large.

In January 2016, the District of Saanich initiated a planning process to develop an Agriculture & Food Security Plan. The Plan outlines strategies, and provides a policy framework, to support agricultural practices and advance food security in the region. The Plan builds on the Agricultural Strategy for the Saanich Peninsula developed in 1997 by the municipalities of North Saanich, Central Saanich, Saanich and Sidney and will help enhance the viability and long-term sustainability of agriculture and food security in the District. This supports one of the priorities identified in their OCP.

The Plan focuses on specific actions that will enhance food security in the region as well as principles to guide future decision making. It sets a 15-year vision for Saanich to support a thriving, accessible, and environmentally responsible food system renowned for its vibrancy and resiliency that nourishes people, livelihoods, and relationships, works towards achieving self-sufficiency, and provides dignified access to affordable healthy food for all people. The goal is to ensure that land use practices in both urban and rural areas support ecosystems and provide a legacy for future generations.

The Plan builds upon existing planning and regulatory tools and aligns with regional and provincial policies (e.g. the Capital Regional District Food & Agriculture Strategy, and Provincial standards) to ensure that the framework established in the Plan is current, accurate, and defendable. Guided by expert knowledge and input from the task force, community members and stakeholders, the Plan identifies seven key themes to strengthen a sustainable food system and increase food security as well as implementation and monitoring / evaluation strategies.

The Plan was adopted by the District of Saanich Council in September 2018. Resources were dedicated to address the Plan’s Priority Actions.

The District of Saanich has consistently supported farming as an integral part of the community and has been progressive in planning and practice. 

Energy Savings/GHG reductions

Actions identified in Saanich’s Agriculture and Food Security Plan will support the District in achieving the recently set GHG reduction target of 80% below 2007 levels by 2050. Food production, processing, distribution, and sales account for a fifth of Saanich’s Carbon footprint. By reducing household waste, the community will reduce emissions while saving on transportation and waste collection costs. A strong focus on local and sustainable food systems is expected to result in emission reductions associated with food production, processing, and distribution. 

Business Case

The District of Saanich has consistently supported farming as an integral part of the community and has been progressive in planning and practice. Centrally located in the Capital Region and with half its land base as rural/agricultural, Saanich is uniquely positioned to support both traditional agricultural approaches and innovative urban food system initiatives. The Agriculture and Food Security Plan provides a unique opportunity to engage the community and pinpoint specific initiatives that can help address pressing issues and advance the local food economy.

The Plan highlights priority actions that will collectively increase production on agricultural lands and in urban areas, improve management of waste products and improve local food economy resources. Saanich Council has identified funding to support implementation of priority actions identified in the Plan, providing a strong foundation to initiate action.

Co-Benefits

In addition to making progress towards meeting the District’s GHG emissions reduction targets and actions, the Plan will:  

  • enhance the community’s ability to adapt and respond to potential external influences or events that impact access to food;
  • provide a stronger integration between farming and ecosystem management;
  • support a more sustainable and restorative approach to resource management; and
  • improve the contributions of farming to the local economy.

Lessons learned

Many lessons were learned during the development of the Plan. A key concern identified was the vulnerability of the agricultural sector. Factors contributing to this included: pressure on agricultural lands due to high land values, the creep of non-agricultural uses, and the increasing age of farmers. A key lesson learned was the strength of community capacity in Saanich. Residents who support the agricultural sector are engaged, informed, and capable of making positive change happen. Implementation of the objectives and the advancement of Plan priorities will rely on the community.

Challenges

As cities grow, the competition for land, and all its uses, increases. Housing, industrial and employment activities, ecological protection, and transportation routes are all needs that may conflict with agricultural objectives. Reducing this tension by identifying clear bylaws and policies, and increasing awareness of the value of local agriculture is key.

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