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Richmond Wineries Should Grow All Their Grapes or Relocate

Richmond councillors say that local wineries should only be allowed in prime fertile farmland if they grow the majority of their own grapes or fruit on site.

Muscat grapevine grow at the Lulu Island Wineries, Richmond, B.C. Photo by Natalia Buendia Calvillo
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Reported by Natalia Buendia Calvillo

Richmond councillors say that local wineries should only be allowed in prime fertile farmland if they grow the majority of their grapes or fruit on site.

Coun. Harold Steves is concerned that wineries are getting the majority of their fruits and berries from other sources outside of Richmond and they are taking away space from local farms that could grow food.

He said that prime fertile soil or class one agricultural farmland should be used to grow annual plants such as vegetables.  Class one soils are characterized as being deep, having good moisture and being well supplied with plant nutrients. He added that the productivity of the wineries would not be affected if they were on industrial areas.

Wineries should grow most of their fruit and berries

“One of the wineries was moved from an industrial park onto farmland. When they were in industrial land, they were bringing concentrate from Chile.”

Steves mentioned he still doesn’t know where some wineries get their products.

“We don’t know where the concentrate comes from for the winery in Westminster Highway,” Steves said at a recent Metro Vancouver regional planning committee meeting focused on challenges to preserving farmland.

Lulu Island Winery, located on Westminster Highway, sells ice wine, blueberry, raspberry, white and red wines. An employee said the only grape they grow on their farmland is the Muscat grape to make white wine. All of the other grapes and berries they use are brought in from the Okanagan.

According to Steves, farmlands on the Okanagan have poor soils that make them best suited for perennial plants only, such as grapevines.

“Nothing wrong in putting a winery there because their soil is gravel, but what they are doing is that they are producing berries and grapes in the Okanagan and then building the wineries on a class-one soil which grows our vegetables,” Steves said.

Local food production is decreasing

“Right now we’re producing 43 per cent of our vegetables and we used to be at 86 per cent; and it is getting worse.”

Richmond Coun. Carol Day said that class one farmlands should only be used to grow food and that the initial reason the city allowed wineries on farmland was to produce more food, whether it turns into wine or it’s eaten.

“What we are seeing more and more often is that they are bringing grapes from anywhere but Richmond,” she said.

Day said that the Agricultural Land Commission and the provincial government are ultimately the agencies responsible for making changes to farm policy.

The final word goes to the Land Commission and the province

“As the city all we can do is to say ‘No, hell no,’ but really what we need to do is to lobby the province to say that we put strict guidelines and make sure that we are producing local wine and local berries,” Day said.

“What we need is the minister of agriculture [to make] sure that the top priority is growing food period, and anything else that doesn’t follow that guideline shouldn’t be allowed.”

The Agricultural Land Commission designates wineries as farm use when they grow more than 50 per cent of their produce on location or bring it in from other locations in B.C.

Martin Collins, director of policy and planning at the commission, explained in an email to The Voice why the flexibility of bringing products from other B.C farms was added.

“Wineries were given more flexibility for the source of grapes (other than just the farm parcel upon which the winery was located) in the mid 1990s in recognition that parcel sizes in the Okanagan were fairly small (averaging less than four ha), and that the overall provincial area suitable for grape production was limited by climate.”

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