The agricultural potential of Texada Island

By Tom Read

This former hayfield on Texada Island is a small pocket of rich bottomland awaiting a new agricultural enterprise

This former hayfield on Texada Island is a small pocket of rich bottomland awaiting a new agricultural enterprise

The Powell River Agriculture Plan, subtitled “Economic Development Discussion Paper,” by Gary Rolston, has just been released. Texada Islanders and ratepayers throughout the Powell River Regional District paid for this study so I was eager to see what it has to say about farming on our island.

Alas, Texada is largely invisible in the report (the author tended to lump us together with Lasqueti Island or to simply ignore us, unfortunately).  Still, the report contains useful information about the region as a whole and some good discussion questions that are relevant to Texadans interested in farming and in eating locally produced food.

Of particular interest to me is the report’s “SWOT” analysis for local agriculture, where “SWOT” stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.”  Here are the agricultural “Strengths” of the region as quoted from Rolston’s report along with my comments from a Texada perspective in italic type:

Strengths:

1)  Climate and soils that are suitable for a wide range of agricultural production

That’s true for Texada, as well. The widespread limestone deposits on our island give us a more alkaline soil than in Powell River, generally speaking, and our climate is usually a little warmer and drier, too. Texada has pockets of really good soil, but most often the soil here tends toward rocky and thin.

2)  Availability of irrigation water

Yes, we’ve got lots of water on Texada, too, unlike most other local islands

3)  Captive market – the local community supports local farmers.

“Captive market” is not how I’d describe the Texada food shopper today. In spite of our fine local grocery stores, many islanders like to buy most of their groceries at supermarkets in Powell River or at Costco (and the like) on Vancouver Island. This is likely to change as the cost of transportation rises.

4)  Land Prices are somewhat lower than other areas with similar coastal climates – the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.

This is true for Texada, too, but land prices are still quite high relative to the income a farmer can expect to earn solely from conventional farming. Possible solutions: There are agricultural land leasing opportunities on Texada, and a potential farmer here would also be advised to focus on value-added products or services to raise one’s income potential.

5)  Small scale – this could be a benefit if the industry can work together. Everyone knows everyone.

This is also quite true of Texada, which has only about 1/20th the population of Powell River. We should be able to cooperate with each other for mutual benefit because that’s what we do in many other endeavours on Texada.

6)  Isolation. This causes a few problems …. However, it is a strength that could be converted to opportunities albeit with some work. The “moat” that surrounds Powell River has some benefits in terms of protecting it from introduction of diseases and pests that may be affecting agricultural enterprises elsewhere.

Texada Island is surrounded by population centres that collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on food and other agricultural products. So we’re not that isolated, really. Yet, as an island that’s NOT on BC Ferries’ Circle Tour, we enjoy relative freedom from hordes of tourists, from urban land-use regulations, from crime and from population pressures in general. We’re ideally situated geographically to serve the communities around us, so I wholeheartedly agree that developing new agricultural enterprises and repopulating abandoned farms should be high priorities for Texada. ]

Yes, there are some potential strengths for agriculture on Texada Island, and they lead directly to real opportunities for those with entreprenurial vision and energy. That’ll be my focus in future posts.

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1 Response to “The agricultural potential of Texada Island”


  1. 1 David Parkinson September 20, 2009 at 07:19

    Thanks for taking a look at the Ag Plan, Tom, and adding your observations from the Texadacentric perspective. I haven’t had a chance to look at the plan yet, and I’m curious to see what it says about our overall potential for strengthening the local agricultural economy.

    A good strong buy-local campaign would be a nice way to start getting people to understand that their buying decisions have a direct and powerful effect on the local economy. The flood of grocery dollars to the island and lower mainland is a shame.


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