City sowing seeds of economic diversity

The city is going back to its roots in looking at new options for investment in Campbell River.

The city is going back to its roots in looking at new options for investment in Campbell River.

The city’s economy has been founded on forestry, fishing and mining, three sectors that were at one time so lucrative there was no need for Campbell River to diversify economically.

But times have changed.

“Now we are facing, because of world economies, a different economic paradigm so we’re looking at options to re-identify ourselves so we’re much more resilient,” said Ross Blackwell, city land use manager. “One of the areas yet to be realized of its full potential is the agriculture industry.”

Blackwell said Campbell River was in part founded on agriculture, with a number of founders working in the industry.

The city wants to take a page out of history and is undertaking an agriculture plan to expose what Campbell River has to offer in terms of land base.

Consultants working on the plan discovered Campbell River has many thousands of acres of land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), which includes private and public lands that may be farmed, forested or kept vacant.

“We have a substantial amount of land classified as prime agriculture land and it’s as good as land in the lower Fraser Valley,” said Blackwell. “We have this fabulous land base, it’s just not being used for agriculture. We have what we need to have a viable, flourishing industry that can create jobs.”

Not only is the value in jobs, but in better eating habits.

Locally grown food is more nutritious and flavourful than when imported, as food loses its nutrients each mile it travels.

Blackwell said more and more people are becoming aware of the value of buying food produced closer to home.

“There’s a remarkable shift in the thinking of this. Before, as a society, we went with mass produced food that was based on volume, not quality,” said Blackwell. “The flavours weren’t really there. But the flavour’s going to be far better, stronger and richer when you bring in fresh, local produce. It may look the same, but it will taste totally better.”

The agriculture plan should be complete by early summer and is designed for use by city staff, Rivercorp and possibly the Chamber of Commerce to help attract investment.

It will also lay the roadmap in terms of constraints, opportunities and next steps.

“It’s something that you certainly will not see flourish overnight but instead grow over time,” said Blackwell. “Campbell River is at a crossroads and it’s a good time to embrace this industry.”

The public is invited to attend an open house to review and discuss the building blocks of the agriculture plan April 27 at the Sportsplex in Willow Point at 6 p.m.