Future of farming: New plan for Edmonton area aims to grow food – and economy

The Edmonton area is finalizing its unique plan for the agriculture industry, developing a policy that aims to preserve some of the province’s highest quality farmland for a population that is expected to double in the decades to come.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Area Council will hold its final public engagement sessions in early June before signing its first agricultural master plan, a guide to the next three decades of the industry in Edmonton and surrounding municipalities.

The draft plan, released in May after three years of work, aims to conserve prime farmland to provide a safe local food source for future generations, according to Rod Shaigec, Mayor of Parkland County and chair of the task force. regional on the agricultural master plan.

The region’s population is expected to double to over two million people by 2044

“It is, in fact, one of the most fertile lands in the world. And we’ve lost significant tracts of farmland in recent years, ”Shaigec said of the area, which contains about a third of Alberta’s high-quality black soil.

“It is a complex task, but we must ensure that these lands are preserved.”

The farm plan was one of the council’s first priorities after being tasked by the province to chart the next 30 years of growth in the region.

Edmonton AM5:33Protect the best agricultural land

Plan for growth AND things that grow. We will talk about protecting prime agricultural land in the Capital Region. 5:33

Canola and grains have been staples of the agriculture industry for generations, Shaigec told CBC. Edmonton AM. But he expects plant protein and hemp to experience an agricultural boom in the region in the next few years as well.

“There is a company in Drayton Valley that uses hemp as an alternative to some of the oil-based products that are used in automobile manufacturing, so it’s endless,” he said of his applications.

According to the draft plan, about a quarter of Alberta’s food and beverage processing industry is based in the region, generating $ 3.7 billion in revenue and employing more than 6,000 people.

There are approximately 4,500 farmers in the region.

The Edmonton metropolitan area extends to Sturgeon counties to the north, Strathcona to the east, Leduc to the south and Parkland to the west.

The plan notes the uncertainty in the energy industry – with the pressures of climate change and the reduction in renewable energy costs in addition to a tumultuous pandemic year – that makes the growth of the agricultural industry so much so. more important.

“Humanity will always need food,” the plan states. “Alberta can produce food. As the most productive agricultural region in the province, the region has the potential to further strengthen the existing regional economic strength.”

The plan aims to strengthen the region’s value-added processing capacities, such as crushing, distillation and refining. Historically, there has been a one-to-one relationship between value-added agriculture and what is known as the farm, where unprocessed crops are sold directly to consumers.

But with the ability to double or even triple that ratio, the plan estimates the region could more than double the region’s agricultural sector GDP over the next two decades.

Six public engagement sessions take place from June 1 to June 10.

The task force aims to have the plan complete and ratified by the province by September, Shaigec said.

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