Chilliwack’s agricultural diversity was centre stage at a day-long tour last week, sponsored by the Chilliwack Agricultural Commission and Chilliwack Economic Partners (CEPCO).
The tour, now in its 10th year, is aimed at highlighting the impact agriculture still has on the community, despite Chilliwack’s continued urbanization.
Agriculture accounts for 29 per cent of the local economic activity, said Ag Commission chair Walter Dyck before the two buses departed Friday morning.
Agreed Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz as she addressed the group during a lunch stop: “This is our bread and butter.”
This year’s tour not only highlighted that activity, but also demonstrated the range of farming operations in the city.
First stop was a farm near Rosedale that is tapping into the specialty chicken and duck market. V&H Joint Ventures, operated by Ken Huttema and Rob Vane, is producing Silkie chickens and a smaller number of broiler ducks. The Silkie chickens have a distinctive bluish skin colour and are popular in Asian cooking.
Down the road at Westcoast Holsteins, Jeff Kooyman was getting ready for the most important dairy show of the year. Westcoast Holsteins is an offshoot of the Kooyman’s 3,000-head dairy operation across the highway, but is focusing on breeding and elite showing.
Although Kooyman jokingly referred the 25-head operation as a hobby, the intent is to improve the herd for genetic purposes and future embryo sales. They’ll be taking 19 cows to show at the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin next month, where last year they sold a cow for $200,000.
At Little Mountain Greenhouses, Marc and Dianne Shane are taking a decidedly local approach. The couple purchased the operation six years ago and have since focused on the local market. Eighty-five per cent of the products Little Mountain grows are sold locally. That includes hanging baskets that are nursed from tiny slips to dramatic hanging displays. Currently, the greenhouse is getting thousands of poinsettias ready for the local Christmas market.
At JMC Farms, the tour group heard how Marc Dalton, a recent graduate of Sardis Secondary, earned a business degree in agriculture and has since joined with his brother to purchase the family farm. They’ve recently replaced their Holstein cows with Jerseys and expanded the operation to 80 from 20 cows.
If there was an unofficial theme at this year’s tour, it was youth. The group included staff and students from Sardis Secondary and Unity Christian School. They were joined by University of the Fraser Valley president Dr. Mark Evered, and Larry Stinson, chair of the UFV Board of Governors.
Stinson, speaking to the group during lunch, stressed the important role the university can play in shaping agricultural research and development in B.C.
That topic was picked up by Tom Baumann who talked about efforts to establish the Pacific Berry Research Centre.
“This is where it’s at when it comes to berries,” said Baumann.