Okanagan Similkameen Reduces Agricultural Waste

Some projects are so successful, the benefits keep coming and new projects are born. That’s what’s happening in the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS).

Historically, burning was a common orchard removal practice in RDOS. Sadly, wood smoke is one of the most dangerous health hazards in BC. In 2006, the RDOS took measures to reduce farm burning by developing an on-farm chipping program and waiving the tipping fees at the landfill for properly prepared agricultural waste. In implementing these programs, two opportunities emerged to benefit both agriculture and the environment: 1) using wood chips as mulch to improve the soil and 2) improving recycling options for farmers.

“Regional districts have the capability and expertise in many areas that can significantly support the farming sector,” remarks Brian Baehr, manager of agriculture environment initiatives at ARDCORP. “The RDOS is a leader in responding to the service needs of agriculture at a local government level.”

In 2007, with funding from IAF through the Agriculture Environment Stewardship Initiative, comprehensive guides highlighting best management practice for wood waste disposal and recycling of agricultural plastics made a significant impact on agricultural practices in the region. “With the funding from IAF, we were able to reduce both smoke pollution and waste going to the landfill substantially in a remarkably short period of time,” observes Allan Patton, a farmer and RDOS director for electoral area “C” (rural Oliver).

In 2010, with funding from the Agriculture Environment and Wildlife Fund, RDOS further updated the guides, complementing them with extension and educational materials to expand the program even more. Ten-minute film clips covering all of the material were developed and made available in both English and Punjabi.  Presentations were made at grower meetings and guides were widely distributed at local agribusinesses and government offices.

“When additional opportunities were identified, growers were more than willing to participate,” notes Janice Johnson, owner of A Foot Step Closer, consultant on these projects and former air quality coordinator with RDOS. “These projects not only strengthen agriculture, but they also improve air quality, soil health and water for our entire region. “

For more information visit: www.rdos.bc.ca

Funding: $30,000 provided through the Agri-Food Futures Fund. (AEWF 10-005, 006, 013)

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