What Is Dirt Farming In Langley, B.C.
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.
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.
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.