Meetings summary - Jane Weixl
I am writing today after attending a BC Farm Industry Review Board hearing that was held on Jan. 30th, 2018 at the Prestige Inn in Vernon, BC. The hearing was discussing the impacts an industrial Cherry orchard, owned by Coral Beach Farms Ltd./David Geen, was having on Coldstream, BC and its residents. I also attended a meeting in Lavington, BC last night (June 21 2018) at which the same owner spoke about the negative impacts his Lavington cherry operation was having on that area . Affected neighbours were only given a few days notice of the meeting so attendance was not NEAR what it would have been with proper notice. Most in attendance were adjacent property owners and the farmers living on those properties. Many of the farmers that spoke have farmed their properties for generations....long before the industrial cherry orchards arrived. There were many issues that were discussed:
Sprays covering people's houses, cars, and yards at all hours of the day and night resulting in concerns about "moderately toxic", "highly toxic", etc. Since Coral Beach Farms Ltd. will not list which sprays are being used, or at what concentrations, it is difficult to know how to respond. One farmer's horse got ill after being in a nearby field and she couldn't tell the veterinarian what sprays the horse had been exposed to. Neighbours are afraid to allow their children to play in their yards. People can't sleep with their windows open. People can't invite friends over for a BBQ for fear they will be "sprayed out". At the Prestige Inn Hearing one solution suggested was that David Geen might be able to email neighbours beforehand so neighbours would have the opportunity to "leave their properties". I was stunned! Load up the family in the car and go where exactly?
Toxic chemicals seeping into the water table was a major concern. Farmers and residents in the area want to know that water sources are being tested on a regular basis and that those results are available to them. The Hullcar aquifer was polluted by a dairy operation in the area so residents are very aware of the threat to their water supplies.
One of my main concerns is the amount of ALR land being purchased for industrial cherry orchards. These orchards are replacing farms that were once growing food for Canadians. Now 80% of all the cherries grown are shipped overseas and 20% remain in Canada. Prime farm land in the South, Central and North Okanagan is disappearing at an alarming rate and with climate change affecting our import opportunities from the south I am concerned that we will not be able to feed ourselves. Families can not live on grapes, cherries and marijuana alone.
The quality of life for individuals listening to the loud whine of the blowers is driving some neighbours crazy....literally. They are getting irritable and sleep deprived and can not believe how negatively this industrial operation has impacted the community of Lavington. The same loud and continual noise occurs at the Coldstream orchard...24 hours a day. Maybe industrial orchards should be on industrial land NOT in the middle of existing residential neighbourhoods.
I have been purchasing apples and juice for years from an organic farm that is located directly across the road from a new property of Mr. Geen's on Coldstream Creek Road in Coldstream. I am sure that the sprays will drift onto this nearby organic orchard ruining it's ability to remain "organic". Another organic farm was destroyed 2 years ago by one of Mr. Geen's industrial cherry operations in another area of Coldstream. I spoke with the owner whose life, health and livelihood are forever altered.
I support protecting ALR land and I support farmers. My concern is that BC's "Right to Farm Act" (now often referred to around here as the "Right to Harm Act") protects the industry at all costs...even when it is an industrial operation against other farmers that are farming beside them. Do they not have the right to farm without another operation coming in to destroy what they have spent their lives and fortunes building? Farming is changing and the rules must change to keep up. I want to see the ALR protecting land that will feed Canadians and not destroy the quality of life for farmers that have been doing just that for generations.