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'Trying to keep every acre of farmland for the future is critical': Battle brewing over protection of Delta farmland


There’s a push to protect a large parcel of provincially-owned farmland in Delta that comes with a controversial past.

The 600-acre Brunswick Point farmland is used to grow everything from peas and corn to barley and berries.

“We had roughly 70 acres of potatoes here last year and it would produce close to 2,000 tonnes of potatoes for the local market,” explained Cory Gerrard, manager at Swenson Farms.

“The Delta soil is very fertile. It holds moisture really well and we can grow very good quality potatoes,” he explained.

The Swenson family has been farming the land since the late 1800’s.

“My wife is a Swenson,” Gerrard explained. “They’re fifth generation farmers now.”

But Swenson Farms now only leases the land they owned until 1968.

“The government came along at the time and expropriated almost 4,000 acres of farmland here in west Delta for the future building of the Roberts Bank container terminal and coal port,” explained Ian Paton, the MLA for Delta South and Liberal shadow critic for Agriculture and Food

He said when the government of the day realized not all the land was needed, most of it was offered for sale back to the original farm families.

“Most of the families took up that offer, except for 600 acres here on Brunswick Point, which was never sold back to the farm families that have been here for many generations,” Paton said.

“It’s been a very sore spot for some families out here that were never able to get their properties back.”

For the third time, Paton has introduced a private members bill asking for a covenant on the land to protect it as farmland indefinitely, even if the province sells it.

Paton said he wants to ensure the land “doesn’t get swallowed up by the massive industrial development” that’s nearby. He said food sovereignty is becoming increasingly important in B.C. as farmland continues to be lost.

Gerrard agrees.

“Obviously trying to keep every acre of farmland for the future is critical,” said Gerrard who said he’s seen many acres of Delta farmland paved over.

“As a young farmer, it’s tough to watch that.”

Paton said the land is not only valuable for farmers, but as a resting place for migratory birds and species at risk.

“This area here is famous all over the world for migrating water fowl coming down from Alaska and Russia that like to stop here, in this part of Delta and feed on left over grain, left over potatoes,” Paton said.

In nearby Surrey, farmers are fighting to protect 200 acres of federally-owned land they fear will be sold and developed as has the neighbouring properties.

That land, allowed farmers to once again plant the first potato crops in the country earlier this month.

They are awaiting a decision from B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission on whether the land will be put in the land reserve. Farmers say they will then try and get a covenant placed on the property to protect it indefinitely.

Brunwick Point is already in the Agricultural Land Reserve. Farmers in Delta just want assurances it will stay there.

“Once it’s out, it will never be farmed again,” emphasized Gerrard. Top Stories

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