A need to be more neighbourly

Regional agrologist Anne Skinner finds public complaints are dominating her job.

By Judie Steeves S

he may be trained to deal with issues related to the ‘growing things’ part of agriculture, but in fact Anne Skinner is finding she deals more with issues of people and their education about agriculture. Skinner is the regional agrologist with the provincial agriculture ministry in the Okanagan-

Similkameen and Boundary, replacing Carl Withler after he was named the industry specialist for tree fruits and grapes in the province. Both work out of the Kelowna office.

In the past, she has worked in the ministry with field crops out of Prince George, then in Vernon and with range issues for 20 years in Salmon Arm, Cranbrook and the Okanagan. During the two years in her new position, Skinner has found much of her time taken up with complaints from the public—in 2016 regarding the use of helicopters by cherry growers trying to save their crops from rainstorms—and last year it was about other noise from agricultural operations.

She speculates the root of the problem is that people tend not to know their neighbours any more. It used to be that people lived in one place longer and got to know their neighbours, so if there was an issue they were concerned about, they would tell the person, face-to-face, and a conversation would ensue. Today, instead they get mad and call the ministry office, or take the scatter- gun approach and call municipal authorities, provincial offices and the news media, instead of the farmer. She believes the answer lies in better communication in neighbourhoods and education of non-farming neighbours about the process of growing food.

“The public perception of how food is grown is very poor. But, there’s lots

10 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2018

of interest now, so this is a good time to educate people. The window to do that is open right now,” she comments. “We tend not to realize how many people know very little about

agriculture. They haven’t seen many vegetables and fruits grown, except in the supermarket. Many don’t realize how one wrong decision could lose a farmer a year’s income, along with the investment to get there. “And, they don’t realize that farms won’t continue to be there if the farmer can’t make a profit,” she adds. Skinner admits she’s surprised by how many people don’t know their neighbours and she warns that things will get worse if we don’t take action to change that. She believes there would be fewer

complaints if neighbours knew each other and if residential neighbours to farm operations learned more about what’s involved in operating that farm.

“Whether it’s about bees, helicopters, noise or sprays, complaints are not very productive. Agriculture is about so


Anne Skinner believes complaints by non- farming residents would diminish if they knew more about the process of farming.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32