It’s hard to make a plan when you don’t know where you are starting from, so when it came to creating a food and agriculture strategy for the Southern Gulf Islands, the first step was to get out the map and take stock of what was already there.

The Southern Gulf Islands cover 216 km2 across 70 islands and islets in the Salish Sea, including Galiano, Mayne, North and South Pender and Saturna Island.

Public open houses were held on each of the major islands, followed by visual inspections of each of the agricultural properties to determine the specifics of their agricultural activity.

“A land use inventory has never been done for the Southern Gulf Islands,” says Jeff Weightman, planner with the Capital Regional District. “This is a paramount foundation piece for developing a local food and agriculture plan for this area.”

The inventory and planning process are unique in that they include significant input from First Nations in the area who provided information about indigenous food systems as well as current agricultural uses.

The information gathered in the Agricultural Land Use Inventory will be used to develop a local food and agriculture strategy for the Southern Gulf Islands, and feed into the food and agriculture strategy and regional sustainability strategy being developed by the Capital Regional District.

“If communities like these don’t put effort into economic development for agriculture and supporting farmers, they are going to lose them,” says Weightman. “They depend on food and agriculture for a lot of economic benefits, and they have to be able to sustain it if they are going to carry on growing their own food, which is critical for community resilience.”

Funding: $14,124 through the former federal-provincial Safety Nets framework. (B0016.41)