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Insights from the edge : farmers' perspectives on agricultural viability near urban centres Frye, Amy Lynn

Abstract

In British Columbia, Canada, 80 percent of agricultural revenue comes from the same three percent of the land on which 80 percent of the population lives. This close proximity of farmland and urban areas creates a unique context in which agriculture operates. Many factors that influence the viability of farms on the urban edge aren't accounted for by traditional land valuation tools that only consider physical characteristics of the land, such as soil quality, topography and climate. Farmland near urban areas is also affected by factors such as access to customers, conflict with neighbours and municipal bylaws. Many of these non-biophysical factors are becoming increasingly important to farmers due to the growth in direct farm marketing. The goal of this research is to help improve farmland management by providing information with which to update planning and land valuation tools. Specifically, the objective was to assess factors that influence the viability of farmland on the urban edge and expand the criteria by which agricultural land is valued. To do this, interviews were conducted with 29 farmers in British Columbia. The results of this study have implications for land management, edge planning, food security and local food systems. They confirm that a variety of factors unrelated to land's physical characteristics often determine a farm's success or failure. The results indicate that urban-edge agriculture is valuable to British Columbia for both economic and food security reasons, and is characterized by high risks and high rewards. Innovative planning and government support are needed to keep pace with the evolving face of agriculture and ensure that farmers can reap the benefits of an urban-edge location while avoiding its risks.

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