The horses are gone without a fight.
In the place of the red barn where they sheltered and the small field in which they grazed, a new road is almost ready for paving.
At the end of the road is an under-construction WalMart – Leduc’s first major big-box store.
|Kenton Friesen, Business Edge|
|A closer relationship is being forged between residents of Leduc County's expanding Beaumont area and the surrounding farmland.|
Leduc’s city planner, George du Cloux, says the transaction was painless. The acreage owners got a satisfying price for their land from Melcor Developments and by the end of August, the road will be bustling with bargain hunters.
It exemplifies the perpetual dance in the Greater Edmonton region, where two-stepping and moshing must juxtapose on the hardwood floor that separates city from country.
With the Edmonton-Calgary corridor supporting 72 per cent of Alberta’s population and Statistics Canada pegging the province’s growth at 10.3 per cent over the last five years, keeping time to the music is a challenge no matter what the orientation.
A recent media tour hosted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) gave rural planners and specialists an opportunity to voice the concerns surrounding Edmonton’s expansion.
Just down the road from South Edmonton Common, bulldozed dirt and houses in all phases of construction are all that’s left of a dairy operation occupying the space only 18 months ago.
There are 52 million acres of agricultural land in Alberta, but it is still a finite source, says AAFC regional land-use analyst Candace Vanin. And 50,000 to 60,000 acres were lost to development pressures annually over the past 10 years.
|Kenton Friesen, Business Edge|
|Some city folks see rural properties as vacant sites waiting for a subdivision.|
It is obvious that land is the common denominator for all sectors of the economy, yet city folk often see farmland as vacant sites waiting for a subdivision.
Phil Newman, director of planning, Leduc County, emphasized farmland “is not vacant – it’s a very valuable use (of land) for society as a whole.”
That’s the message he brings when dealing with the ever-increasing land needs of the Nisku Industrial Park, Western Canada’s biggest industrial park. “The impact . . . and implications of that development on the agricultural sector is certainly an increasingly important part of our work here,” says Newman.
The park boasts more than 400 companies and employs more than 8,000 workers – numbers which are sure to keep climbing.
But Alberta’s agricultural sector doesn’t get squeamish when presented with big numbers. It generates an annual income of more than $16 billion in primary production and value-added processing. Kick that number up about $12 billion if including restaurants and retail.
One in three jobs in Alberta is directly or indirectly related to agriculture. In order to maintain a sufficient land base to keep the industry stable, urbanites must come to appreciate the steps local farmers are taking to fine-tune their land usage and work in harmony with their city-dwelling neighbours.
“Integrated land-use planning and environmentally sustainable farming practices are resulting in public support for viable farming operations that can co-exist effectively and efficiently with other land uses,” says Vanin.
Jim Hiley, AAFC land evaluation specialist, is helping to lead the way by modernizing how rural land is accounted for, distinguishing between crop-based and livestock-based farming.
Further detailing between types of crops and livestock allows planners to make land-use decisions more quickly and in the best interests of all parties.
Hiley led a study detailing agricultural uses of each of Leduc County’s 12 areas. County planner Newman is now using that study to help decide the confines of Nisku’s expansion.
The opportunity for relationship-wrecking conflict always exists, but the parties making the decisions all emphasize the importance of getting along.
Chicken manure is not pretty to the nasal passages, so farmers have to do their part to minimize the time between spreading it on the fields and working it into the ground.
Leduc city planner du Cloux can remember times when tensions were high between his department and the county, but Leduc’s major annexation of land in 1999 has “taken the edge away.” At current rates of growth, peace should reign around the perimeter of that city for the next 25 years.
But that doesn’t mean the horses won’t be missed . . .
(Click here to e-mail Kenton Friesen.)