An old farm in Langford is getting a new partner.
“We’ve been in process with this one for quite a while,” said Heather Pritchard, FarmFolk CityFolk Farm program manager.
The Supreme Court of B.C. recently approved the transfer of Lohbrunner Farm from The Land Conservancy to FarmFolk CityFolk. In total, $500,000 was secured for TLC with $200,000 coming in the form of creditor forgiveness and $300,000 in direct funds.
The society plans to maintain the 13.4-acre farm, which includes the original farm house, for agricultural purposes while prohibiting the use of pesticides, herbicides or any deleterious substances on the land.
FarmFolk CityFolk secured the farm as part of its larger goal of developing a provincewide Food Land Trust. The society, together with its partners, is accepting donations of land, acquiring land and making it accessible to a new generation of farmers and community groups. Lohbrunner was the first parcel acquired for this Trust. “We thought this would be a perfect test case,” Pritchard said, noting it allowed them to work out all of the legalities in starting this sort of land acquisition. “I think it’s really necessary. B.C.’s farmland is really unaffordable … We need to look at our farm land and make it more accessible to younger farmers.”
Many West Shore residents may be familiar with Lohbrunner Farm. Norma Lohbrunner lived on the 40-acre farm since marrying her husband, Joseph, in 1945. The pair worked the farm until Joseph passed away in 1968. After that, Norma fought to keep the farm running as a food-producing resource for the local community and honour Joseph’s wish that the land not be developed. In 2007, she donated the land to TLC through a “life estate” agreement that allowed her to live on the property. She passed away in October 2011.
Since her passing, a dedicated group of farmers has continued to care for the land, which is within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
However, TLC has been operating under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act since 2013, which required the sale of some of its holdings to pay creditors. Earlier this year FarmFolk CityFolk, a not-for-profit society based on Granville Island, began talks with TLC, a private donor and the Vancity Community Foundation to secure the funds required to maintain Lohbrunner Farm in trust.
Pritchard has been working with the group of volunteers that continued to work the farm for about a year, while the legality of the sale was also being worked out in a parallel process. “They have applied to be incorporated as a co-operative … we expect to be approved very soon,” she said.
The expectation is that the co-operative will be in charge of the daily operations and lease land to other farmers trying to make a living in the agricultural industry. “We’ve cultivated an additional three acres and we expect to make that available to other younger farmers,” Pritchard said, adding they aim to have leases available as of Jan. 1.
Pritchard herself has a history with the farm. Through a project in partnership with TLC, she met Norma and was able to have a number of conversations about her vision for the farm and the bird sanctuary. After the project ended she lost track of the farm, but it appeared back on her radar when one of the volunteers reached out to her about forming the co-operative.
“It’s come full circle,” she said.