Farmland – protect it or lose it

by Nathalie Chambers and Robin Alys Roberts

Madrona Farm
Located 10 minutes from downtown Victoria, Madrona Farm provides food to over 3,500 homes in the Greater Victoria area. photo: Ian Baird /

• Picture Earth as four slices of an apple. Can we share it thoughtfully? After three slices for oceans, lakes and rivers, we’re left with one slice for land. But most of that slice is too hot, dry, cold or rocky to support us or too covered with inadequate soil or smothered with cities and highways. That leaves us only 1/32 of a slice, which we must pare down to its thin peel in order to find the class one and two topsoils optimal for growing food.

In the last 10 years, speculators have bought up enough farmland internationally – either for real estate gambles or to grow biofuels – to cover the UK eight times over. And every year for the past 25 years, the US has lost almost a million acres of farmland. Last year, Canada failed its UN-issued food security test: 2.5 million Canadians in 800,000 households are food insecure. Our Earth has to feed 7.1 billion people yet one out of every seven goes hungry.

It’s clear we need more food, but over the last 20 years, the number of Canadian farmers under the age of 35 has plummeted from 77,000 to barely over 24,000. Farming parents are advising their children to avoid the stress and debt. The single biggest factor blocking food security – the price of our remaining 0.5% of arable land – will continue as long as the price of farmland equals residential real estate.

By not putting food first, our food system is teetering on the edge of corporate ownership by a few elite, with Monsanto at the top, fuelled by international investors. As we face the removal and loss of biodiversity, pollinator decline, salinization, desertification, acidification and soil degradation, traditional sustainable agriculture practices are on the brink of collapse.

What can we do? Protect farmland – forever. Victoria’s Protect Madrona Farm Forever campaign rallied 3,500 people who donated $2.7 million to protect its 24 acres of rich farmland in perpetuity, offering long-term, sustainable leases to future farmers. This model, including their successful Chef Survival Challenge fundraiser ( is spreading across Canada to protect farmland, starting in BC’s Lower Mainland in September of 2014. Yes, we can!

Nathalie Chambers is a restoration ecologist/farmland conservationist. Robin Alys Roberts is a writer, editor and ESL tutor. Visit See Chef Survivor Challenge display ad.

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