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The Capital Regional District is seeking interest from municipalities in establishing a "food land trust."

Like a farmland trust, the idea is to preserve local agricultural lands specifically for food production. 

Municipalities are being asked to assess whether some municipal lands could be a part of the trust.

Establishing a land trust is part of the CRD's food and agriculture strategy of 2016. 

Saanich recently adopted an agriculture and food security plan and supports working with the CRD to establish a food trust. 

The municipality has fallow lands like the Panama Flats that could be put into the land bank. Saanich also owns Haliburton Farms, which is an incubating farm. It gives new farmers an opportunity to work the land for up to two four-year cycles and establish a business.

Erin Bett, who is working her second season on Haliburton Farms, agrees that a food land trust is needed. 

"Where do I move on to?" Bett said.

"The hope has always been and always will be to purchase a piece of land because that gives me longer-term stability… But beyond that there's not that many opertunities to lease, let alone purchase, land in this region and this is where I live and where I want to keep living and keep growing food and keep growing my business."

Not too far from where she farms is a two-and-a-half acre parcel of agriculture-zoned land for sale for $919,000.

Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff supports the food trust idea but questions what would it look like.

"Orignally there was talk of buying land and putting it into the trust," Brownoff said. "But there are other areas in the region that don't have any land so how will they be part of establishing a farm land trust?" 

Research from the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (CRFAIR) points out that the average age of farmers in the region is 57. More than half of them are expected to retire in the next decade, so the need to encourage young farmers is there.