Saturday, May 28, 2016

Farmer's vision takes root

by Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star posted May 28, 2016 at 11:00 AM
A longtime Okanagan farmer is spreading his roots north where he says the harvest is ideal. Sukhdev Sandher is hoping to purchase a 6.5 hectare parcel of land in Coldstream to grow cherries, which he has already planted. “We see a good future for our countryside,” said Sandher, who owns orchards in Kelowna, Oyama and the BX and whose brother has purchased the Spicer Block and planted apple trees. “The reason we are moving this way is price of land is cheaper.” The varying elevations also provide insurance for the farmer. “Last year we had two big hail storms, but nothing in the BX.” The elevation difference also means added tree time for the fruit, as there is a seven-day gap between pickings. “Nobody can beat us with the quality of the fruit. We have the best climate in Canada here in the Okanagan valley.” But Sandher’s plans to purchase land in Coldstream hinge on support of the Agricultural Land Commission. The land at 10610 Coldstream Creek Road is currently owned by Coun. Peter McClean, who is not involved with council discussions over the application. The property is in the agricultural land reserve therefore the application to subdivide must first be approved. The subdivision would allow McClean and his wife to remain in their home, while relieving them of the larger portion of agricultural land which would benefit Sandher. “The house has no use for me,” said Sandher, who lives in Kelowna. McClean has known Sandher since the early ‘80s when he and his brother arrived from India and worked for McClean on the farm. “It is so nice to see them becoming such an influence in the orchard community and having them invest in Vernon after spending many years establishing their families and farms in Kelowna,” said McClean, who hopes Sandher can further benefit from the purchase of his farmland, yet allowing him to stay on the smaller parcel. “If all goes well it will be wonderful to remain in our house on a piece of property that was purchased in 1904 by my paternal great-grandfather.” Coldstream council has reviewed the application and agreed to forward it to the ALC, but not without opposition from one councillor. Even though Sandher has stated no interest in building a home, parcelling the land could open it up for future development. “The relationship between the current tenant and the landowner could change in five years,” said Coun. Richard Enns. “Make no mistake about this application, there is no benefit to agriculture. This is farm property, it is currently being fully farmed, there is no reason for a subdivision.” Council agreed to request a covenant be added that if the ALC approves the application no housing be permitted on the larger portion of property. Meanwhile Coun. Gyula Kiss would like to see more agricultural properties dedicated to farming like this one. “I walk on Coldstream Creek Road a lot. It’s beautiful land, there’s available water and nothing is growing on there. I’d like to see all these beautiful properties produce something because that’s what they are supposed to be doing.” The change would also see the top 2.6 hectare portion of land put back into the ALR. “So in the end the entire property will be in the ALR if it goes through,” said Mayor Jim Garlick, noting that it would remove the possibility of one day having a road go through the top portion of lands therefore further preserving agriculture.

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