UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Emerging farmer movements and alternative land access initiatives in British Columbia, Canada Dennis, Jessica Elizabeth


In British Columbia (BC), Canada, the number of young farm operators is declining while the average age of farm operators is at a historic high. A rising population, urbanization and natural resource and industrial development in BC continue to place pressure on the province’s limited agricultural land base. BC also has the most expensive farmland in Canada, driven by the valuation of farmland for non-agricultural uses. It is predicted that there will be a significant transfer of farmland in the coming decades; how the land will be transferred and to whom is of fundamental concern to the trajectory of agriculture in this province. In response to farmland access challenges, young and beginning farmer networks and alternative land access initiatives have emerged in BC. In this thesis I explore these emerging young and beginning farmer and land access initiatives through the lens of the agrarian question and food sovereignty. This research was part of a collaborative community-based project and employed a survey and ethnographic methods. I argue that there is an emerging movement of young and beginning farmers in BC entering agriculture from non-farming backgrounds seeking to redress the impacts of the corporate food regime through the practice of locally oriented, ecological farming. Narratives employed by new farmer movements share discursive commonalities with the theory of repeasantization and food sovereignty movements. I provide a characterization of the diversity of alternative land access models practiced by farmers in BC and the motivations for their establishment. My analysis of these models suggests that the potential for furthering community-led land reform efforts in BC is inhibited by the high cost of land, tenure insecurity, societal attitudes favouring individual ownership, and high transaction costs. There is a need for an attitudinal and policy shift towards the management of farmland as a public good rather than a market commodity in order to support new farmer establishment, community-based land management, and the continuity of locally oriented agriculture. I conclude with policy recommendations to support new farm entrants and farmland access in British Columbia.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada