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Surrey farmers petition to protect ‘vital’ farmland from sale by federal government

A group of farmers in Surrey, B.C., have launched a petition to protect the land they farm, billed as one of the most productive in Canada, from being sold and converted into industrial property.

Tyler Heppell’s family has been farming the 220-acre property in the Campbell Heights neighbourhood for 50 years, leasing it from the federal government.

Over generations, the Heppells have used regenerative agricultural practices to increase yields. He now estimates it produces 20 tonnes of potatoes per acre, and up to 150,000 vegetable servings per day.

“My grandpa found it in the 1970s,” Heppell told Global News. “They were trying to farm it and grow hay and corn off of it, but the crop would die right away because there was no way to irrigate.

“Over the years, they were able to add nutrition to the soil and irrigate it, and now it’s one of the most productive farmlands in B.C., if not in all of Canada.”

Managed by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, however, the precious parcel of productive land was never included in British Columbia’s protected Agricultural Land Reserve.

An emailed statement from the federal department said it is in the process of divesting the property through Public Services and Procurement Canada.

The online campaign, launched by Tristin Bouwman, who manages crops for Heppell’s Potato Corp., calls on the Ottawa to keep the property — 300 acres in all — and lease it long-term to a local farmer, and apply to B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission to include it in the protected reserve.

The petition, which had close to 24,000 signatures as of Monday, also urges the City of Surrey to amend its community plan to prevent the land from any conversion that isn’t farming or forest preservation.

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