Agricultural Land

Home grown food is smart growth.

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) represents 5% of BC’s land base. Buying locally grown food supports BC’s farmers and minimizes transportation-to-market costs. Protecting scarce farmland from urbanization is therefore a key smart growth strategy.  

Farming in BC makes cents:

  • over 36,300 people are directly employed in primary agriculture
  • over 280,000 are in food related jobs
  • over $2.4 billion is farm cash receipts annually
  • over $115 million is spent at BC’s farmers markets annually

Why is Agricultural Land Important? 

Fertile land is a valuable but scarce resource: 

  • 5% of BC’s land is suitable for farming; only 1% of that has the best soil with the highest capability for growing crops.
  • The Lower Mainland, Southern Vancouver Island, and Okanagan have the majority of the high quality soils in BC.
  • 79% percent of BC residents live next to land responsible for 78% of BC’s farm revenues.
  • BC’s agricultural sector supplies lesss than 50% of the province’s food requirements.
  • A healthy agricultural sector helps diversify the provincial economy.
  • Local food production reduces our dependence on imported foods and associated costs and impacts.
  • Diverse farmlands create a variety of wildlife habitats and support bio-diversity.
  • Open, green spaces near urban areas provide scenic landscapes, recreation opportunities, and contribute to our enjoyment of BC’s outdoors.

BC Farmers Need Our Support

  • 38% of BC farmers are over the age of 55
  • 50% of farm sales average less than $10,000 annually
  • most farm operators rely on an off-farm income (second job)
  • 41% of farmed land is leased or rented from other owners

Most of the ALR is located in the North (around the Fort St John and Williams Lake areas) where soils are of poorer quality and products are located further from the biggest markets.



To learn how the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) works click here.


Governments Can

  • Request a meeting with Smart Growth BC staff;
  • Provide no support for ALR exclusion, subdivision, or non-farm use applications;
  • Talk to a Professional Agrologist in your area;
  • Set up minimum lot sizes that are large enough to discourage subdivisions (minimum of 8 hectares); 
  • Suport the establishment of a local Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) if one does not already exist; 
  • Work alongside the ALC when reviewing any land use plans (OCP, Regional Growth Strategy, Zoning Bylaws, etc);
  • Join the ALR Watch listserve for a province-wide discussion;
  • Keep the lines of communication between government, local producers, and farmland advocates open and transparent.

Citizens Can

  • Talk to staff at Smart Growth BC
  • Contact your local government to discuss their support for the ALR;
  • Talk to a Professional Agrologist in your area;
  • Hold a meeting to discuss threats to local farmland and strategies to protect it;
  • Circulate a petition stating your opposition to the loss of farmland;
  • Make a presentation to your local council;
  • Discuss the matter with your local Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) - or set up an AAC with the help fo the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands;
  • Talk to everyone you know (and everyone they know);
  • Write to your local paper (letter to the editor, op-ed, etc.);
  • Make an effort to purchase BC-grown products at your local grocer;
  • Ask your local grocer why more BC-grown products are not available, or not highlighted;
  • Sign up for the ALR Watch listserve to join a province-wide discussion;
  • Find out about the work of other community groups like SPADE, ALERT, and ALR-PEC (see links below).



Members of S.P.A.D.E. - Saving Penticton's Agriculture from Division and Extinction


Resources - Smart Growth BC

Resources - Other Organizations

 Report Title
Salt Spring Island's Plan to Farm
Derek Masselink, Masselink Environmental Design
Food Connects Us All: Sustainable Local Food in Southern Ontario
The Metcalfe Foundation
Planting Strong Boundaries: Urban Growth, Farmland Preservation, and British Columbia's Agricultural Land Reserve
Hannah A. Cavendish-Palmer
Public Amenity Benefits and Ecological Services Provided to Local Communities in the Fraser Valley: The Case Study of Abbotsford, BC
Mark Robbins, BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands
A Work in Progress: The British Columbia Farmland Preservation Program

Note: This article provides a concise summary of BC's Agricultural Land Commission and the Agricultural Land Reserve. The article appears as a chapter in a book entitled: Farmland Preservation - Land for Future Generations. This book was edited and published by Wayne Caldwell, Stew Hilts, and Bronwynne Wilton of the University of Guelph.

To order a copy of this book, or to find out more visit this website.
Barry E. Smith
Regulating the Farm: Improving Agriculture's Viability in the Capitol Region (Connecticut): A look and enhancing the economics of farming
Connecticut Department of Agriculture: Agriculture Viability Program
BC's Food Self-Reliance: Can BC's Farmers Feed our Growing Population?BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands2006
Case Studies of Agricultural Land Commission Decisions: The Need for Inquiry and ReformR. Green of the Environmental Law Clinic, University of Victoria2006
BC's ALR: It's Historical Roots
G. Gary Runka
Protecting the Working Landscape of Agriculture: A smart growth direction for municipalities in BC
D. Curran for West Coast Environmental Law
ALR-PEC Background DocumentALR-PEC
Towards a Healthy Community Food System for the Waterloo, Ontario RegionM. Xuereb and E. Desjardins, Region of Waterloo Public Health2005
The Loss of Dependable Agricultural Land in CanadaN. Hofmann, G. Filoso, and M. Schofield - Statistics Canada2005
Growing Together in Greater VancouverB.E. Smith and S. Haid2004
ALR and Community Planning Guidelines

Farm to Cafeteria Connections: Marketing Opportunities for Small Farms in Washington StateK. Sanger and L. Zenz2003
Town Meets Country: Farm-City Forums on Land and CommunityAmerican Farmland Trust2002
Unscrambling the Omelette: Understanding BC's ALRC. Garrish2002
Development and the Urban Fringe and Beyond: Impacts on Agriculture and Rural LandR.E. Heimlich and W.D. Anderson2001
Feeding the Apartment Dwellers: A Planning Strategy to Enhance the Long-term Viability of Contemporary Farming in Canada's Urban Regions
K. Huhtala, K. Thomas, J. Hiley, and E. Kenney
Urban Consumption of Agricultural Land
N. Hofmann for Statistics Canada
Agricultural Sustainability and Smart Growth
Funder's Network
Stakes in the Ground: Part 4 - Going Forward
Moura Quayle
Canada's Action Plan for Food Security (large file please be patient)
Federal Government