The provincial minister of agriculture took a whirlwind tour of the Bulkley-Nechako region last week.
“It’s been fast and furious,” Don McRae said.
His tour coincided with a natural resource forum in Prince George where Premier Christy Clark was also present and touting the region’s growth on a number of fronts.
One of the groups McRae met with was the Sunshine Valley Cattlemen’s Association. They discussed markets that are opening up for farmers and ranchers because of B.C.’s quality food products that can be marketed to ever more sophisticated consumers.
McRae describe his visits as “mostly agricultural but not exclusively,” referring to meeting with municipal council in Vanderhoof and economic development officers as well as farmers. He noted his tour at Newsat Farms poultry raising and abattoir.
“It’s phenomenal to see such an investment by a couple who moved from outside the (region), who did not expect to become farmers, and now they employ up to six people, and they provide service to other producers,” McRae observed.
The farmers ship product to as far away as Mackenzie and their poultry last year was sold before it was even mature.
“It’s a showcase piece,” said McRae said of the mom and pop operation, “start small and grow.”
He noted that by hiring locals the Richardsons (Dennis and Vicky) are adding a quality of life to local workers. McRae’s also met with locals including ranchers who have formed the group, Nechako Lands and Watershed Stewardship Society.
“We talked about their work on Murray Creek,” he said, including making the flood project more productive.
“It’s going to cost a lot of money,” McRae estimates, “but the impact is going to be there for generations, not just environmentally, but also just for quality of life.”
He added B.C. is in a privileged position of having a large land base and a small population that we can be big food exporters of high quality foods and so local valleys could be in a position to be major players in that growing economy.
The MLA for Comox Valley, another major farming area was named minister of agriculture when Clark took the reins as premier. Liberal MLA John Rustad who guided McRae on his tour noted this is the first time in 15 years that a provincial agriculture minister has visited his riding.