Young Agrarian BC Land matching program makes farming possible

Fresh vegetables are grown by Big Rock Ranch. (Image supplied)Fresh vegetables are grown by Big Rock Ranch. (Image supplied)
Robin Hunt, owner of Big Rock Ranch with some of the fruits of their harvest. (Image supplied)Robin Hunt, owner of Big Rock Ranch with some of the fruits of their harvest. (Image supplied)
The price of purchasing land is one of the biggest obstacles facing young farmers. (Image supplied)The price of purchasing land is one of the biggest obstacles facing young farmers. (Image supplied)
Fresh vegetables grown by Big Rock Ranch. (Image supplied)Fresh vegetables grown by Big Rock Ranch. (Image supplied)

There are 284 farmers across the province who get up every morning and live their dream, thanks to the B.C. Land Matching Program (BCLMP).

From Smithers down to Aldergrove and across the water to Malcolm Island, the program offers new farmers the opportunity to lease land to farm, which would otherwise be priced out of their reach.

Funded by the Province of British Columbia, with support from Columbia Basin Trust, Cowichan Valley Regional District, Real Estate Foundation of B.C., Bullitt Foundation and Patagonia, the program is delivered by the Young Agrarians. Simply put, it works as a go-between for farmers interested in entering the field of agriculture or expanding their existing business and land owners looking for someone to farm their land.

Farmers and land owners who matched outside the program and want help in drawing up agreements may also participate in the program. Robin Hunt of Big Rock Ranch in Buffalo Creek and regional coordinator with the Young Agrarians falls into this category.

Hunt lives and works on the 148-acre ranch, sharing the property with her grandmother and mom.

During the growing season, they sell their produce and meat at the South Cariboo Farmers’ Market and to local restaurants and grocery stores. They also offer a veggie box which can be pre-purchased at the beginning of the season and is delivered straight to your door.

As Hunt had family property to farm on, she did not need to go through all the stages of the land matching program, but when she moved on to her grandparent’s property, she needed to form a formal lease.

“Land assessment needs it for your formal lease and our business plan, as well as when we had funding when we started up our farm, we needed to have a formal lease,” she said. “They actually, through the land matching program, worked on lease agreement stuff with us.”

She added she did initially think about moving out of the area and was looking at being matched with other farms but ultimately decided to stay on the family property.

Darcy Smith, BCLMP manager, said that the Young Agrarians is the largest network for new and young farmers in Canada.

“We offer programs to grow the next generation of farmers and food producers,” she said. “We’ve been offering programs since 2012 that support new and young farmers with limited access to resources as they make the journey into agriculture in Canada.”

She said BCLMP was founded in 2016 as a pilot program in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley and consists of four stages.

Connect: At this stage, farmers or landowners reach out to a landmatcher to explain their vision or needs in terms of land.

Register: This is where the land matcher helps farmers and owners get listed in the digital inventory U-Map.

Get Matched: The land matcher provides hands-on assistance in making introductions in order to help owners and farmers find the most suitable match for their vision, needs and personality.

Develop Agreement: Once a match has been made, within the program or independently, the land matcher will facilitate negotiations and help draw up a lawyer-reviewed land use agreement.

Hunt and Smith emphasize the importance of supporting farmers.

The high cost of land is the number one barrier for people trying to get started in farming, said Smith. Even in an area like the Cariboo, where historically it has been seen as a more affordable place to buy land, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is accessible for new and young farmers.

“The affordable land is more likely to be raw land and requires a higher down payment, harder to get a mortgage, more work to get it ready to farm and live on and farther from the market and community resources,” she said.

“Also, the parcels tend to be larger, so a per acre assessment of how much land costs, while per acre might seem cheaper than other regions, the parcels end up being the same cost anyways.”

It was this need for affordable land that brought about the land matching program in B.C.

“I really see the farmers as a crucial piece of food security in our community and in our region,” said Hunt.

When the South Cariboo area was cut off from the Lower Mainland in the 2021 floods, Hunt supplied carrots and potatoes to the local health food store. They also supplied Quesnel with carrots and potatoes as the farm had around 5,000 pounds of potatoes and 2,500 pounds of carrots in storage crops.

“Alongside with CEEDS and the Horse Lake Farm Co-op, they also had a lot of potatoes too, so kind of between the farms, we kept the fresh produce going during the landslides.”

Hunt said they were in a similar situation during the 2017 fires. The highways were blocked off, and the towns were shut down. Forest Grove, where she lives, was struggling and could not get any fresh produce or meats, even diapers for kids. They donated fresh vegetables to the hall to make sure people in the community had food as the market was closed down.

Then they travelled the backroads out to the Interlakes Market and sold there, trying to keep food in the community as much as possible with the fires raging on, she said.

Hunt said they see their farm as its own entity and an essential piece of the community.

“I think things like the land matching program are really great because it is supporting new entrant farmers in finding land, and land is becoming very expensive. It’s why I farm my family property. I couldn’t afford to buy land, and so I moved onto my family property and started farming there because that was what was available.”

In her grandparent’s generation, everyone had a backyard garden. Everybody shared in the harvest.

“There were localized food systems, and we’ve only changed that in the last 60 years.”

Hunt said she doesn’t think society realizes just how crucial these backyard gardens were and what has been lost.

For more information on the BCLMP and other programs, visit

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