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It’s an interesting thing. I grew up in South Delta, a town about 40 km south of Vancouver, a region renowned for its extremely fertile farmland and agriculture. And it’s an interesting thing, because like most kids living in South Delta, I never knew where my food was coming from. Furthermore, I couldn’t have named a single crop-type lining the highway that was growing in the fields surrounding my community. It’s an interesting thing; we would drive past these fields every day, without a clue as to what grew there and who was consuming it. It seemed normal, seemed routine to acquire food from the local grocery store, and I did little wondering as a child to where it actually came from.

Agriculture is a big part of the economy in Delta, and it is notable that especially in the past five years that this large-scale agricultural landscape has undergone drastic transformations. This has to do mainly with the economic growth of the region, and with five major mass-development projects currently underway (in addition to the ones recently completed), the landscape and community of South Delta is currently undergoing major agricultural transformation and evolution.

The South Fraser Perimeter Road, the Port Expansion Development, the Southlands Development, the Tsawwassen Golf Course expansion and the Hothouse tomato expansion project are the projects that are directly affecting local production of agriculture. It’s unfortunate that the land that is being cleared for development is extremely arable and fertile, and has undergone soil sampling and testing to determine this. The projects currently underway in South Delta are breeding misdirection from where our community and our world needs to be.

The South Fraser Perimeter road is an extreme example of wide-scale development that will be deeply affecting everything from unparalleled wetlands, current family farms, high-potential arable land, and most deeply, Burns Bog. Burns Bog is one of North America’s largest carbon sinks near a major city, and it is an ecosystem that will be irreparable, says Environment Canada, if this project goes through.

Furthermore, the tomato hothouses have been recorded for mistreating employees, many of who are migrant workers from South America. Adriana Paz, from Bolivia, arrived in Canada and got a job working in a tomato greenhouse in South Delta, which happened to be one of the first in the province to request migrant farm workers from Mexico. Adriana mentioned in an interview that:

My first observation was that brown bodies are the pickers, while white bodies are the managers. I naively asked my boss why there are no Canadian picking tomatoes. He answered me simple, “because this is not a job for them”.

This deliberate discrimination is unacceptable and wrong. Not only are migrant workers being brought north to meet the growing demands of a hungry population, it is reinforcing cultural segregation and disconnection with the land our food grows on. We have become so distant from where our food comes from, and have seemingly fewer opportunities to become engaged with agriculture communities.

In spite of all this, growing mono-crops, loss and/or corporatization of farmland in the surrounding regions of South Delta can be seen as major factor of inspiration for a rising trend in the opposite direction, one focused on biodiversity and sustainable agriculture for community members. Earthwise Farm was established in 2005, right around the time many of these large-scale development projects were proposed and initiated.

Seeds of Hope: Earthwise Farm and Garden

The butterflies were out at dawn, dancing around the douglas aster bushes. The bees hovered above the marigold flowers, and a classroom of children was tending to their plot of green beans, spinach and carrots. Volunteers hoed the ground while the ocean waves crashed on the shore only biking seconds away. This is one of the most fertile areas of farmland in the Lower Mainland. To ‘revolutionize our food systems’ and ‘learn about the environmental benefits of sustainable farming practices’ are some of the main goals of the Lower Mainland neighborhood of South Delta’s community-based farm, Earthwise Garden.

Founded in 2005 and beginning with nothing but a chunk of blackberry-infested land and a select number of dedicated individuals, Earthwise has expanded in four years to become a sustainable agricultural and educational haven for students from Kindergarten up through University. Furthermore, it has become a full operational farm, including eco-tours, workshops, and events.

From July through September, nearly every single weekend there was some sort of event or celebration of local and organic agriculture. From Farmer’s Markets to a Grow Local Fair, to a Biodiversity weekend to exploring other farms in the South Delta area by bike, the movement is growing stronger than ever, while meanwhile, these massive development projects continue. South Delta has always been well-known as a farming community in the Lower Mainland; the growth and development of large-scale farming in South Delta is a major contributing factor to the rise and expansion of Earthwise Garden and the sustainable agriculture movement in the community.

References

Environmental Assessment Office, 2009 User Guide. BC Provincial Government. Accessed September 28,2009. http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca/pub/pdf/EAO_User_Guide_2009.pdf

RFP for South Fraser Perimeter Road. BC Provincial Government. Accessed September 29, 2009.
http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/gateway/SFPR/docs/media/090409_SFPR_RFP_Issue.pdf

Gateway Program. BC Provincial Government. Accessed September 28, 2009.
http://www.gatewayprogram.bc.ca/

Earthwise Society. DRS (Delta Recycling Society) Accessed September 26,2009. http://www.earthwisesociety.bc.ca/

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