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What Is Dirt Farming In Langley, B.C.

Updated on October 8, 2010

Dirt Farming Redefined

Dirt farming used to refer to an individual who farmed his orher own land with or without the help of family. In thetwenty-first century dirt farming is rapidly coming tomean something else entirely. Take for instance the Township of Langley, BritishColumbia where “dirt farming” has taken on a life ofits own. There are currently onehundred dirt farms in a community of 95,000 people, one dirt farm for every 9500 people. In the Township of Langley dirtfarms are active landfill sites. They are not sites that are used for dumpingwaste from surrounding homes and businesses. They are instead agricultural lands that are used forthe sole purpose of dumping dirt and gravel from excavations being dug in order toaccommodate new homes and businesses in Langley as well as neighbouringmunicipalities, Surrey and Abbotsford.

Questionable Practice

In British Columbia the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) iscomprised of 4.7 million hectares of private and public lands zoned agriculturalbe they farmed, forested or vacant lands. The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is the body that is responsiblefor the administering the use of these lands in order to preserve agriculture.  As such, the ALC has the power to approve ordeny applications for the use of agricultural lands.  The municipalities may require “farmers” toapply for a permit to truck fill onto their property but they are obligated, bylaw, to forward the permit to the ALC for approval.  The only criterion for the approval of apermit is that the action must benefit the farm land or the operationof the farm, for example improved drainage. The only power the municipality has is to enforce the permit - i.e. if the number of truckloads permitted goes over limit.

There Is Money In That Thar Dirt!

Considering that dump fees range between $50.00 and $80.00 per truck load many farmers are finding it of greater financial benefit to allow their farms to be used as fill sites rather than for the growing of crops or the raising of livestock. Many land developers and contractors are now buying up farm land that is far cheaper to purchase than residential, commercial or industrial lands. They then apply for permits under the pretext of and based on the only criteria – improving the farm. These new age dirt farms are cropping up throughout the province but nowhere more so that in the Township of Langley which has more farms than any other municipality in British Columbia. This practice of dumping fill on farm lands is happening in other municipalities as well and often illegally as the landowner does not bother with a permit application but charges half the price for dump fees.

Swept Under The Rug

Lets not push it under the rug, or push it to the side because, no matter what, it's going to keep coming up. You know, if you never deal with that dirt up under the carpet, it's going to get larger and larger, and it's going to keep coming up.
Herschel Walker

In doing the research into the practice of dumping the fill taken from development sites on farmlands practice, I discovered that it is going on in other municipalities in British Columbia as well; the Township of Langley is not alone in this.   However, other than reports of this practice going on in China, there is not much else reported on the subject of land developers and contractors using land designated as agriculture for the dumping of fill from construction sites.   I do not think this lack is due to the fact that this is a localized occurrence, quite the contrary, I think it is highly likely that this goes on throughout North America.  Due to the fact that much of the land mass of both Canada and the United States is given over to agriculture along with the fact that urban growth is ever expanding, it stands to reason that farmlands in both countries are not only receding due to urban sprawl but quite literally being buried by it.

At What Cost?

 The negative impact on well-water, water ways, fish, wild life and country roadways are not being measured because this practice is not generally known and is hidden from view.   There are hundreds of miles upon hundreds of miles of road through farmlands that are barely travelled upon with the exception of the farmers and those who take transport their goods to market.  In the case of the Langley Township, although the amount of land set aside and used for agriculture are far greater than the developed areas used for housing, business and industry the population is much smaller therefore any voices raised in complaint are much easier to ignore.   

The Future Of Dirt Farming

I suspect that “dirt farming” is not at all what it used to be and that this new definition will produce totally different outcomes than the old definition. 


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    • raisingme profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      They are not just dumping dirt on farms, they are dumping asphalt too. It seems that as citizens of the Township have become increasingly aware of what is going on they have made some noise. Prior to this coming to the public's attention via the newspapers the research I have done showed that scientists and environmentalist that have tried to bring this issue to the fore have been discredited and their findings made nothing of. It is the fact that developers get their people on councils that allows this practice to go forward - at least that is what I have found to be the case. I am just wondering if this practice goes on throughout North America of if it is an issue that is relevant to the Township of Langley only. When I first started researching this there was very little on the internet about it. Searches in the last couple of days have resulted in far more information being posted to the internet. I hope people keep communicating and do not forget about this issue until the practices is halted!

    • pager7 profile image


      8 years ago from Kampala-Uganda

      I fear for the future with this kind of farming, it seems to me to be a truely dirty farming practice, where are the environmentalists looking right now? They seem to be looking away from the real issues.

    • raisingme profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Thank you - n' I love your name! Hopefully mankind is going to wake up from its too long slumber soon!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      It is very sad to see so much wonderful farm land or potential farm land literally becoming land fields of waste really. Because as you said, "you really have no idea what is in the dirt. I think the last picture portrays it best. Thanks for sharing your insight on this subject. Thumbs up!

    • 2uesday profile image


      8 years ago

      This sounds like an awful thing to do, the top-soil is being buried by the new layers dumped there. When people do things like this to land for money it makes me feel sad.

      In the UK we are having to try to reduce landfill from household waste etc. as we may run out of potential land-fill sites in the future. Land-fill sites cannot be put just anywhere because of the problems they can cause - i.e. things get into the water table and the burying of household waste produces methane gas. I hope someone sees sense about this matter soon. Interesting hub.

    • raisingme profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Pretty much ethel!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Dreadful. It would still seem that where tha's muck tha's brass

    • raisingme profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      It would seem that the farmers and ranchers in the Township of Langley have started raising a little hell of their own and have brought this issue to the attention of the press. The thing is that when developers decided they want to "develop" an area they often get their "people" to run for the local council, talk a nice story, get voted in and push their own agendas through. I wonder what these "dudes" are going to do when they find out they can't eat money!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      Sickening, isn't it? I wasn't familiar with this practice, per se - or with using that term to describe it, but in my neck of the woods, where I have land in southwest Texas, several years ago there was a big issue raised about allowing the burial of dangerous toxic waste deep under the surface of the rocky land - land which is used for livestock grazing, is quite arid and totally dependent on underground water being drilled for human consumption and distribution by pipe over the ranches to water the livestock and wildlife, all of whom would perish without it.

      Burying dangerous medical, nuclear or other toxic waste would virtually destroy miles and miles of pristine agricultural land. So I key into this 'dirt farming' atrocious practice. Hope it will stir some resistance. The low density population for the ranch area in my ranch area managed eough majority to vote it out.


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