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'We can’t eat money:' Hundreds fight to stop Surrey farmland from being developed

Reference: CTV News

A fight to keep Surrey farmland out of the hands of developers saw hundreds of supporters turn out to a public hearing Monday.

The hearing was before the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), which will decide whether a 200-plus acre parcel in should be protected.

“I’ve… watched over the years, a large turkey farm, chicken farm, hobby farms vegetable farms, forests, be completely destroyed and paved over to make way for warehouses. There is tremendous pressure on what is left of our farmland,” one woman said to commission.

“I just urge you, please, this is precious land. We can’t eat money.”

Another speaker echoed that sentiment, urging the commission to put the acreage into the province's Agricultural Land Reserve.

"For my grandchildren and their descendants, we need to keep our food secure,” she said.

The federally owned land, which is near 192 Street and 38th Avenue in Surrey, is slated to be sold.

“The amount of support and positivity in keeping this land agricultural was overwhelming,” Tyler Heppell of Heppell’s Potato Corp. told CTV News after the hearing.

“We had about 60 speakers come forth and no one spoke against it. There was also 400 written submissions, 398 of them were positive and two were against it going into the ALR,” he said.

His family has been farming the land for more than five decades, leasing it along with other farmers.

The property produces a variety of vegetable crops, including 70 per cent of all potatoes produced in B.C. between May and August.

Renee Prasad, an associate professor of agriculture technology at the University of the Fraser Valley, also spoke at the hearing in favour of having the land designated for agricultural use.

She said the property is unique and valuable for a number of reasons.

“It’s elevated relative to the other fields around it and… has more of a sandy texture compared to other fields in Cloverdale, for example, (which) have more of a muck soil texture,” she explained.

“When other fields are really saturated with water, or in the worst cases somewhat flooded, this field is not. So the growers are able to get in again early to start planting and they’re able to get in late to do their harvest,” said Prasad.

She said it’s also important to note that the land has been farmed well for 50 years by the Heppell family.

“They’re really excellent stewards of the land. They practise crop rotation, cover cropping and integrated pest management. All those practices mean that they’re able to have very predictable pest populations and that allows them to have really good yields,” Prasad explained.

Meanwhile, Heppell’s been using the power of social media to garner support for his cause, including reposting a CTV News story.

“I reposted it on TikTok and it got over half a million views and thousands and thousands of likes and comments,” he said.

He said a decision from the ALC is expected by the end of February.

But even if the commission agrees to put the property in the ALR, Heppell said the fight won’t be over.

“At the end of the day, the federal government still owns it and they are not bound by the ALR so our next task and our next push is to put a covenant put on this land that it remain in agricultural forever,” he said... Read More