Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cherry crops harvest debate

RICHARD ROLKE Morning Star Thu Jun 22nd, 2017 9:00amNEWS

A growing demand for cherries is fuelling a political debate over food security and the economy.Regional District of North Okanagan directors spent considerable time Wednesday debating how some large tracts of land are being purchased for tree fruits. “It’s a little alarming when you lose your food supply to cherries,” said Janice Brown, Spallumcheen director. According to Brown, asparagus and corn fields in her community have been replaced by cherries.“All of those (vegetables) supply our grocery stores and farmers market. Now, the cherries will be shipped to China,” she said. Doug Dirk, Coldstream director, also expressed concern about what he sees as industrial agriculture.“Most of the economic development doesn’t end up in the community,” he said of fruit being shipped overseas and foreign workers being used. Recently, some Coldstream residents have protested large-scale orchards’ activities and noise late at night, including helicopters which blow rain off of cherries. However, the investment in orchards also has its supporters. “A lot of these are family operated but they are so big. To be viable, they are leasing land,” said Juliette Cunningham, Vernon director. Mike Macnabb, BX-Silver Star director, says expanded focus on farming shouldn’t be a surprise. “Agriculture is an industry no different than a mill or a mine,” he said. “Those fields that used to be used for hay are now being repurposed into another value.” In terms of economic impact, Macnabb says farmers pay property taxes and for water, purchase services locally and even if they use foreign workers, much of those wages are spent here. As for Brown’s concerns that cherry crops undermine the ability of communities to feed themselves, Macnabb insists that’s not the case in other towns. “There are a great number of market gardens going in,” he said.The cherry market is worth about $50 million and that could climb to $60 million in 2017.

No comments: