Cariboo Regional District asked to encourage local post secondary institutions to focus on local food security. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Cariboo Regional District asked to encourage local post secondary institutions to focus on local food security. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Rancher urges Cariboo Regional District to focus on local food security

Post-secondary institutions should help make region more self-sufficient, said David Zirnhelt

The Cariboo Regional District has deferred sending a letter of support in favour of developing an organic agriculture and food system extension service in B.C. at Kwantlen Polytechnic University after concerns were raised that the region should be focusing on food security and agricultural issues closer to home.

The letter, written by Kent Mullinix, director of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS), an applied research and extension unit at KPU, invited the CRD to consider providing a letter of endorsement in concept for the organic extension service and asked for the board’s willingness to consider a tangible financial contribution to support the service. A feasibility study is being funded by B.C.’s ministry of agriculture.

“We believe a coordinated province-wide organic extension service can contribute to the agricultural and economic development priorities of the Cariboo Regional District,” Mullinix wrote. “Programs, resources, and connections would be available to support the sustainability and viability of farms and food businesses in your region. The extension service will be accessible to and inclusive of all farmers and processors, regardless of organic certification status or inclination.”

However, Dave Zirnhelt, chair of the Cariboo Agricultural Research Alliance (CARA), urged the board’s committee of the whole March 4 to work with CARA and local educational institutions to help make the region more self-sufficient. He was updating the board on CARA’s long-term vision to support an economically thriving agriculture sector and the opportunity to collaborate.

“If it comes from Kwantlen, it’s going to be based in the Lower Mainland,” Zirnhelt said. “If we want to remain under control, we’ve got to get our institutions, TRU (Thompson Rivers University), University of Northern B.C. and College of New Caledonia, working with us in our region on our priorities.”

John Massier, CRD director for Electoral Area C, suggested the board defer the request from KPU until April 16 to get more information from the North Cariboo Agriculture Development Committee. He said it’s important to get more thoughts on the request as ‘it’s going to be focused on a learning association outside the region when we do have local stuff here.”

Steve Forseth, director for Electoral Area D agreed, saying he would like clarification on any financial impacts that might be involved. “I’m a little leery giving a letter of support.”

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