EnRoute – Dispatches along a regional journey

Mayor Rod Shaigec,
Chair, RAMP Task Force
November 2018

Welcome to the story of RAMP and agriculture in Edmonton Metro.

En route means we’re on our way toward a meaningful Regional Agriculture Master Plan or RAMP, to complement our award-winning Edmonton Metropolitan Region Growth Plan. Leading this journey is the RAMP Task Force; meet our members below.  

I’m proud to be the Chair of the RAMP Task Force. Along with my elected colleagues and expert advisors, we are tasked with creating a made-for-Edmonton-Metro solution to the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing agriculture and food sector.  

It’s true, we have a lot of land, but much is under siege because of a perceived endless supply of land in the Region. We are blessed to have some of the best agricultural soils in the country and, arguably, in the world.

Canada is projected to be one of only a handful of food exporting nations in a fast approaching future - we are in the “bread basket” of Canada, so protecting and conserving the best of that bountiful land is crucial.

So we are facing a challenge, yes, but there’s also the huge opportunity. How can we accommodate a doubling of the region’s population while maintaining a momentum in our ag sector, a momentum that sees us doing more with less, differently but more effectively, than just 30 years ago?

While technology and social awareness may be on our side, there is much to do and it will require the collaboration and support from many; it takes a village to raise safe and secure food supplies.  I’ll be keeping you up to date with our progress as we go.

Be sure to read the RAMP team profiles – you’ll learn who we are and what being on the Task Force means to us!

Till next time,
Mayor Rod Shaigec,
Chair, RAMP Task Force

Scroll down to see full Task Force Member Profiles

Mayor Rod Shaigec,
Parkland County, Chair 

“Let’s also look toward renewable ag resources that can replace conventional products and thereby mitigate environmental impacts.”

Councillor Kathy Barnhart,
Town of Beaumont 

“I’m excited about how together we can work it all out!”

Mayor Tanni Doblanko,
Leduc County  

“We are privileged never to have worried about food security; we must ensure a secure supply of ag land to keep it that way.”

Mayor Alanna Hnatiw,
Sturgeon County
 
"Sturgeon County is here to protect the value and viability of agriculture because, as they say, ‘you’re either at the table or you’re on the menu’!"

Councillor Paul Smith,
Strathcona County 
“Our work will be judged 30-50 years from now. We must be careful not to get distracted or sidetracked by today’s issues or individual concerns.”

Mayor Barry Turner,
Town of Morinville 

“We have noble goals and the responsibility to consider all impacts in order to create the best future for both agriculture and development in the Region.”  

Councillor Michael Walters,
City of Edmonton, Vice Chair

“Economic potential is huge. With that incentive as direction, through RAMP we can determine how much land we need to preserve and then build the legislative tools to protect it.”
 

 

 

Rod Shaigec traces his roots in agriculture in this region back more than 100 years. Born and raised in Parkland County, he actively farmed until 2010 when he entered politics. As Chair and a facilitator of the vital conversations that will form the RAMP, he sees the Task Force as the driving force in shaping the face of agriculture in the Edmonton metropolitan area. He feels the Task Force mission goes beyond protecting ag lands to advancing agriculture business and leveraging innovation to diversify the economy, staking out the Region’s place in the global market. In the long term he see RAMP informing land use planning in a new way; possibly through a different lens when looking at both urban and rural growth.  Rod believes this, in turn, can potentially strengthen the relationship between rural and urban municipalities. The resulting trust, along with a new policy framework, could contribute not only farmland preservation and certainty for farmers, but certainty for investors and opportunities for innovation in agribusiness. And as a food lover, Shaigec notes it will ensure safe, local food sources for all who enjoy food as much as he does!

Tanni is a 3rd generation farmer who returned to her husband’s cow/calf operation south of Calmar following a career as an educator in Edmonton, and thus is closely attuned to the issues in the Region. She sees RAMP as our “last chance to save our quality agricultural land.” She wants the Task Force to be bold, and multi-level in its approach, partnering with all regional agriculture stakeholders to position agriculture’s value as both a non-renewable resource and a key regional business/industry. She believes the Task Force’s diversity of input – including its expert consultants and municipal advisors – give its conversations breadth and strength. Because of this collaboration, and by linking agriculture to food, Doblanko is confident the RAMP work will attract broader public interest to this critical issue. 

A breadth of agriculture experience defines Paul Smith. Farming for 40 years on family land established in the 1890s, he also brings knowledge gained over 30 years as a multi-level ag industry representative to the Task Force table. He says it gives him a broader scope on issues, one that anticipates potential unintended consequences of good intentions, because he’s lived them. Appointed by his Strathcona County peers, Paul embodies the hands-on, successful, experienced producer who will be focused on creating solutions that will stand the test of time. 

Michael Walters was the apprentice of his grandmother Pearl, spending summers gardening at her side and later more fully engaged in the family’s cattle/grain farm near his home of Drayton Valley. As a result he is well versed in the art of harvesting and preserving fruits and vegetables and so, like many urbanites, he is not far removed from the “spirit” and even the “romance” of agriculture. He sees this manifest in growing interest in local food and urban agriculture – a sense that people are searching for a relationship with food that is being lost as more people grow up without direct experience of agriculture. For him, RAMP holds out the promise of a pathway to clear achievable goals for agri-business and a more diverse ag sector, and ultimately provincial attention to these issues.

 

With a fondness for important, complex issues and eager for Beaumont to continue to engage in Edmonton Metro, Barnhart was pleased to join the Task Force, admittedly as a non-expert. That’s because Kathy was raised in NYC and, as a long-time resident of smaller centres since, provides an outside perspective. At the RAMP table she says appreciates gaining a richer understanding of how all regional partners can benefit from RAMP’s work. She credits the initial Situation Analysis Report  as making the issues of agriculture through food “come alive” for her, and looks forward to the better understanding the role of urban agriculture and to Beaumont partnering more meaningfully with its neighbors, especially the rurals. 

Alanna Hnatiw says growing up in a small town, part of a 4th generation family farm, helped shape the values she brings to RAMP, particularly the importance of creating a frame around agriculture that builds opportunity and not constraint for the community.  Farm life is a true collaboration that often demands commitment from whole families; where all contributions are vital; and where traditions are valued but new ways embraced, because it’s a long-term, complicated, and expensive commitment. Representing the level of government that is closest to the farm’s gate, Hnatiw sees RAMP as an opportunity to listen to producers and understand the challenges they face. We need to consider the land, the economy and the people, balancing the needs of agriculture and development in a land use framework for the future. Some things, she says, once done cannot be undone, underscoring the importance of broad regional engagement and education throughout the process.

Barry’s interest and focus as a Task Force member is in addressing the future of the region based on the dual principles of ag land preservation and reducing urban sprawl. He recognizes it’s a potentially tough conversation, perhaps better started 50 years ago, but now worth whatever time it takes to get right. Without a direct personal connection to agriculture, Barry has appreciated overviews of the current status, noting that the Task Force’s “big win” would be to resolve the integration of those dual principles to the satisfaction of all sides. 

Overview

The Regional Agriculture Master Plan is the first activity undertaken by the EMRB following the approval of the Growth Plan in October 2017, indicating its commitment to the importance of this work for the long-term sustainability and prosperity of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

Growth Plan Agriculture Policy

Context:
  • Recognition of viability and sustainability of the Agriculture Sector for next 30 years
  • That food is essential to feed local population and meet growing global demand
  • Land is irreplaceable
  • Importance of agriculture and value-added agriculture to economic diversification and regional prosperity
  • Prime land is under constant threat, e.g. conversion to non-agricultural uses and fragmentation, and so must be preserved
Guiding principle:
  • Ensure the wise management of prime agricultural resources
Objectives:
  • Conserve adequate supply for local food security
  • Minimize fragmentation
  • Promote diversification and value-added production

MAP above is Schedule 11, Agricultural Land Suitability Ratings, found on page 80 of Edmonton Metropolitan Region Growth Plan. Darker green indicates increased prime soil classification.

Task Force

At its February 2018 meeting, the Board struck a Task Force to prepare the Regional Agriculture Master Plan.

Task Force members include:
  • Mayor Rod Shaigec, Parkland County, Chair
  • Councillor Michael Walters, City of Edmonton, Vice Chair
  • Mayor Tanni Doblanko, Leduc County
  • Mayor Alanna Hnatiw, Sturgeon County
  • Mayor Barry Turner, Town of Morinville
  • Councillor Kathy Barnhart, Town of Beaumont
  • Councillor Paul Smith, Strathcona County.
The Task Force members are supported at the table by Regional Technical Advisors, representatives of the Government of Alberta, and an expert Consultant team.
Regional Agriculture Master Plan Project FAQ
A: The Regional Ag Master Plan is about balancing competing interests to ensure responsible and sustainable growth and maintaining a viable ag sector.
  • Food Is essential and growing an abundance of it requires productive soil, ideal growing conditions, including water
  • The region is blessed with an abundance of some of the highest quality of soils in the country and is under constant pressure from competing land uses resulting in fragmentation & conversion of prime agricultural land
  • High quality, productive land is a non–renewable resource and in increasing demand given the growing global population and the trend towards urbanization
  • The Ag Sector is critical to the provincial economic diversification strategy, and requires support to be sustainable
  • Agriculture is deeply rooted in this region going back more than 100 years. It is part of our heritage, the social fabric of the rural areas and their cultural root; it  is an economic generator; it builds community and promotes environmental stewardship
  • The Ag sector  must remain viable for the next 50-100 years to meet the needs of  for future generations and global demand for food
A: The Ag sector is in jeopardy, threatening economic prosperity and a lifestyle. Leadership is needed at the regional level to ensure its survival and significant contribution to the sustainability, growth and diversification of Edmonton Metro.
  • In the development of the Growth Plan, issues facing rural growth emerged – urbanization; rural settlement; growth of other economic sectors, i.e. mining, oil and gas, recreation; and environmental considerations. All have contributed to a  loss of prime agricultural land, through fragmentation and conversion to non agricultural uses
  • At the same time the sector is undergoing tremendous change and having to adapt to new and evolving business models, technology, innovation, new crops, market volatility and effects of climate change
  • Agriculture is the largest landowner in the region and a major contributor to the region’s working and natural landscape. This effectively makes producers stewards of the land. and have an important role to play in determining the future viability and sustainability of the sector in this region, and need a stronger voice and advocate around the table of key decision makers
A1 As identified in the Growth Plan, there are three Objectives for the Regional Agriculture Master Plan Project:
  1. Identify and conserve an adequate supply of prime agricultural lands to provide a secure local food source for future generations
  2. Minimize the fragmentation and conversion of prime agricultural lands for non-agricultural uses
  3. Promote diversification and value-added agriculture production and plan infrastructure to support the agricultural sector and regional food system
A2 Project Outcomes expected to be to:
  • Provide clarity and flexibility for the agricultural sector
  • Establish a framework for consistent decision-making for municipalities (but not one-size-fits-all)
  • Enable economic diversification and economic prosperity
  • Create the conditions for a continued viable, thriving agricultural sector, responsive to urban and rural agriculture
  • Identify mechanism(s) to achieve integrated and collaborative planning in the rural area
  • Develop partnerships and alliances between different economic sectors
A3: The project has three Deliverables:
  1. The first is to develop a regional agricultural profile of the region based on a synthesis and comparative analysis of agricultural studies, strategies and master plans along with regional economic development plans, prepared in the region
  2. The second is to develop a Regional Ag Master Plan including Vison, Guiding Principles, Strategies, Policies and Implementation plan, tools, and KPI’s to measure the Agriculture Policy Objectives in the growth plan
  3. Third, is to develop a land evaluation and site assessment (LESA) tool for this region to support decision-making regarding land uses, by policy tier, and affecting the growth and diversification of the Ag Sector and to support the implementation of the Ag Policy Objectives of the growth plan
  • The RAMP and the LESA Tool will be used to ensure the support the implementation of the Growth Plan Principles and Policies to ensure responsible growth across the region
A: The Board has allocated two years to complete this project, with an expected completion date of May 2020.
 
A: The EMRB has appointed a seven-member Task Force to oversee the development of a Regional Agriculture Master Plan and land evaluation and site assessment tool (LESA).
  • The Task Force Members are:
    • Mayor Rod Shaigec, Parkland County, Chair
    • Mayor Tanni Doblanko, Leduc County
    • Mayor Alanna Hnatiw, Sturgeon County
    • Mayor Barry Turner, Morinville
    • Councillor Michael Walters, Edmonton (Vice Chair)
    • Councillor Kathy Barnhart, Beaumont
    • Councillor Paul Smith, Strathcona County
  • Non voting members of the Task Force include representatives from Agriculture and Forestry and the Provincial Land Use Secretariat.
  • A technical working group composed of experts from member municipalities, and a consulting team possessing broad industry experience and knowledge, together support the Task Force.
A: In its long term planning, the EMRB identified the viability of the Ag sector as a major challenge facing the region and prioritized the completion of a regional agriculture master plan as its first task following the 2017 municipal lecetions.
  • EMRB is a regional  Growth Management Board and exist under Provincial Regulation
  • It’s mandate is to prepare and oversee the implement of a Regional Growth Management Plan and a Metropolitan Servicing Plan, together giving direction on  how and where to grow in the next 30-50 year in order to accommodate the doubling of the Edmonton Metro population (to 2.2M) and the addition of 475,000 jobs (to 1.2 million)
  • Primary functions - regional planning, public policy and advocacy
  • 13 member municipalities – Beaumont, Devon, Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan, City of Leduc, Leduc County, Morinville, Parkland County, St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Strathcona County, and Sturgeon County
A: The Province of Alberta is involved for the full length of the project as liaison between the project and those provincial departments with a vested interest.
  • Two provincial representatives participating:
  • One from the Land Use Secretariat
  • one from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
A: All the information about the project and Task Force contacts will continue to be posted on the EMRB website on this RAMP webpage. Project Manager is Sharon Shuya.

Do you have a question or a comment for the Task Force? Please let us know here.

All comments will be recorded, answered, and brought to the attention of the Task Force. We will respond as soon as possible. Thank you!