As Oak Bay residents, we might assume that the future of Sandown has little to do with Oak Bay. “Why should we be concerned?” would be a reasonable question. But as a former Council member from a rural community, what I have always appreciated about Oak Bay’s local government is their consistent support of regional efforts to protect and enhance rural and agricultural lands.
Oak Bay’s support has been expressed by their commitment to the 2003 Regional Growth Strategy that, put simply, is a joint agreement where municipalities signed on to protect rural and agricultural lands in the region, working together to contain density development and growth so that our rural and agricultural lands are not further threatened by “creeping sprawl.”
As we know, agricultural land on Vancouver Island is a diminishing asset. I understand that approximately 60 years ago, Vancouver Island produced nearly all of its own food but now produces less than about 5%. It’s common knowledge that because Vancouver Island depends on major transportation (ferries, shipping and air) to get food to the Island, if there was a castastrophe (earthquake) and transportation routes were severed, the Island has only 4 days of food in reserve.
I believe, therefore, that anything that local governments can do to enhance agriculture on Vancouver Island must be encouraged by all municipalities, urban and rural, underscoring Sandown’s future as having great regional significance.
The “grow and buy local” movement, combined with our concerns about local food safety and security, have helped to fuel the growth of farmgate/farm markets, organic growers and local food production. These are compelling arguments for securing Sandown’s 80+ acres as additional farmland that can potentially be used to feed the region and boost our capacity to feed Vancouver Island.
The opportunities for research, innovation and partnerships are also significant, including: the Victoria Airport Authority who offered to donate top soil to help remediate the land; the University of Victoria and other post-secondary institutions in the region related to research and agrology; local First Nations; local federal facilities such as the Centre for Plant Health and Institute of Ocean Sciences; and, our regional farming communities.
But most of all, we have an opportunity to provide a community legacy for future generations and invest in the most important portfolio of all — human and community health.