City of Abbotsford launches review of farmland policies

First stage of AgRefresh will seek input from members of the public.

More than three-quarters of Abbotsford's land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

More than three-quarters of Abbotsford's land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The City of Abbotsford has begun an 18-month project to review and revise its policies and plans for farmland.

Council gave the go-ahead at Monday’s meeting for staff to begin the first stage of an Agricultural Lands Review. The review has been given the name AgRefresh by the city.

The project aims to renew the city’s policy towards agriculture by taking into account the evolving nature of farming and related agriculture industries in the city. Mark Neill, the city’s director of community planning, said AgRefresh will aim to shape policies that reflect a shift towards more value-added, retail and other industrialized farming practices.

The first stage of the four-part process will focus on community engagement and include meetings with governmental agencies, workshops in April with industry representatives and community members, along with a public open house for local residents. Neill said the engagement process will hope to hear from farmers and residents in agricultural areas across the city, from the rolling hills of Bradner to Matsqui and Sumas prairies.

The engagement process will lead to a report being presented to council in September. Later parts of the project will focus on changes to the city’s Official Community Plan policy and bylaw regulation, along with the creation of a bylaw compliance strategy.

Neill noted that three-quarters of the city’s land – made up of around 4,700 different parcels – is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

As the city is one of four regulated communities in B.C., the province must sign off on any bylaws that affect farming.