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'Selfies' snapped for ALR protest

Local farmer Arzeena Hamir of Amara Farm uses the hashtag #farmers4ALR, starting a social media trend that is growing awareness about Bill 24. - Photo submitted
Local farmer Arzeena Hamir of Amara Farm uses the hashtag #farmers4ALR, starting a social media trend that is growing awareness about Bill 24.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Selfie, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013, has grown in use across social media platforms, and more recently, for a cause.

Across the province, B.C. farmers are posting selfies with the hashtag #farmers4ALR as an act of protest against the proposed changes to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and ultimately to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) by Bill 24.

Bill 24 - 2014 Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, proposes to split the ALR into two zones: Zone 1 which includes Vancouver Island, the South Coast and the Okanagan; and Zone 2 which includes the Kootenays, the Interior, and the North regions.

There would be minimal changes to Zone 1, while Zone 2 would be opened up to other possible activities on the land such as oil and natural gas development.

Arzeena Hamir, of Amara Farm in Courtenay, had no idea that her hashtag would catch on so quickly, adding that she likes seeing both young and old farmers connecting through social media for the cause.

"It really helps to see the faces of the farmers on their land," Hamir says.

Hamir adds that without a public consultation, the bill came by "pretty much overnight". She suggests that better alternatives to Bill 24 could have been discussed had there been a consultation.

"Land bank suggestions and better solutions would have come forward," Hamir says, and explains that food security and preservation of agricultural land needs to be a priority, especially within B.C.

"You lose farmland and it doesn't come back. It's a short term gain for long term losses."

Hamir disagrees with the idea that Zone 2 farmland is inferior to Zone 1 farmland.

"We have to look at it in the context of what all of B.C. produces. We can't compare the Kootenays and the North to the Fraser Valley or the Comox Valley. Obviously the growing seasons are shorter up north. That doesn't mean that those areas can't produce a wide variety of food."

Zone 2 is also responsible for meat production and provides much of the grain that Zone 1 farmers rely on in order to feed their animals.

"There's a direct correlation [between the two zones]."

Hamir is also concerned about how the price of land will increase if farmland goes into development.

In B.C., the ALR covers approximately 4.7 million hectares- five per cent of the province's land mass.

Bill 24 was introduced for first reading to the Legislature on Mar. 27.

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