Identifying supports for northern farmers and ranchers

UNBC Stories
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The drought conditions this summer in B.C., put the precarity of the farming and ranching industries in full view, but a project led by a UNBC student is seeking to find long-term, locally focused solutions.

Matt Henderson, a second-year student in the Bachelor of Planning program, is spending the summer engaging with communities in the North Cariboo region to identify potential supports policymakers can consider to help multi-generational farmers.

“A primary goal of this project is to bring attention to the ongoing crisis of food security impacting our province,” Henderson says. “I don't claim to be an expert in agriculture, but I do support policies and governance with a localized context, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.”

After completing his independent study this fall, Henderson will return to the same communities to share what he found.

“This this a crucial piece in working with communities as reporting back is critical to maintaining vital relationships,” he says.

Supported by funding from the Planning Institute of British Columbia and with the support of School of Planning and Sustainability faculty members Dr. Tara Lynne Clapp and Dr. Theresa Healy, Henderson conducted community outreach sessions at farmers’ markets and other community events. He’s also using an online facilitation tool to connect with people who can’t make it to the in-person sessions.

Through the project, Henderson aims to shed light on the current state of the agriculture industry in B.C. He also wants to demonstrate the need to bring all interested parties together, including Indigenous communities, local governments, agricultural associations and the Agricultural Land Commission, to create change that will support the survival of small and medium-scale farmers and eliminate food insecurity both in urban and rural B.C.

The project allows Henerson to take the knowledge and skills he’s learning and UNBC and applying it to a project that will empower communities to have a say how land in their region will be used in the future.

"I am fortunate to be enrolled in a program that promotes, first and foremost, the importance of ethical community engagement and to not take relationships with community members for granted,” Henderson says. “In northern B.C. we as academics need to maintain a level of ethics and humility at all times. It is through the relationships we create today that will help us change the future."