Lillooet was once the tomato capital. Today, ranching and forage crops dominate the local agricultural scene and the community is taking a closer look at agriculture’s future.
Last fall, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District adopted an agricultural plan for Lillooet and the surrounding area, known as Area B. This was the culmination of a two-year planning project partially funded through IAF’s Agricultural Planning Program.
Twenty-eight per cent of the Lillooet region’s population live on reserve land. According to the plan’s authors, the extensive input of the local indigenous community makes this plan unique amongst agricultural plans in BC. That’s a sentiment shared by Mickey Macri, a director of the regional district.
“We’re especially pleased by the involvement and support of the northern St’át’imc communities,” says Macri. “This plan is a true collaborative effort.”
Early stages of the project focused on getting an accurate picture of the current state of agriculture, including an inventory, GIS mapping and water modelling.
This information formed the basis for public dialogue with local citizens and agricultural stakeholders to focus priorities and identify action items. The plan was officially adopted by the regional district’s board in October, and has since been endorsed by the District of Lillooet. The St’át’imc have endorsed the process. The area covered by the plan is St’át’imc territory.
While local agriculture has had its share of ups and downs, it is now being viewed for its economic development potential.
“This plan is important because it assembles in one place the information about this unique agricultural area and makes it available to potential investors,” says Travor Chandler, a small organic orchardist in Lillooet and a member of the Area B agricultural advisory committee since it was created. “This should guide a shift in the use of agricultural land to higher value crops which generate more employment.”
Kevin Whitney, chief of T’it’q’et, one of the six St’át’imc communities invited to participate in the process, says exploring agriculture’s economic development and employment opportunities got him interested in collaborating. Unemployment is high within St’át’imc communities.
“We will use this experience, and the relationships we built with the regional district, to continue to pursue our goals of economic development and governance in our territory,” says Whitney.
With the planning complete, attention now turns to implementation. There are plans afoot to give the working group a role in implementation and a coordinator is being hired this summer to assist with the priority action items, including a new farmers’ institute.
The Lillooet agricultural plan can be found online at: www.slrd.bc.ca
Funding: $25,000 through the former federal-provincial Safety Nets framework. (B0016.35)