Amara Farm co-owner Arzeena Hamir and daughter Amina tend to their stand last summer at the Wednesday farmers market in downtown Courtenay. File photo

Amara Farm co-owner Arzeena Hamir and daughter Amina tend to their stand last summer at the Wednesday farmers market in downtown Courtenay. File photo

Agriculture Ministry initiates programs to support B.C. farmers

The Agriculture Ministry has initiated a pair of new programs to support B.C. farmers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Small Farm Business Acceleration Pilot Program is offering up to $800,000 for business plan coaching for small and new farmers, and cost-shared funding for commercial farm infrastructure and equipment.

Government is also investing $90,000 in a new Raspberry Replant Program to help growers increase the acreage planted with raspberry varieties.

Arzeena Hamir, co-owner of Amara Farm in Courtenay, is encouraged by the announcement, especially the Accelerator Program. During her farming career of 15-plus years, this is the first time she has seen the ministry support farmers in buying infrastructure such as fencing and greenhouses to help grow their production.

“It’s fantastic,” said Hamir, the Area B director for the Comox Valley Regional District. “I know at least two farms in the Comox Valley who will definitely be applying. I’m just sad to see that there’s so little in the kitty. With over 17,000 farms in B.C., it won’t go a long way, but it certainly will help. I hope the province will do a second round next year.”

A small farm is defined as having a total annual gross revenue of less than $60,000 in the last two years. Program funding will cover 50-75 per cent of costs to a maximum of $17,500 for individual farm businesses.

As for the replant program, Hamir believes raspberries were hit hard by a virus that took out much of the acreage.

Along with the two new programs, the Province is investing an additional $800,000, this year and next, into the Beneficial Management Practices Program, which supports farmers in taking steps to better protect the air, land and water.

Applications for the Small Farm Business Acceleration Pilot Program were being accepted until Dec. 15. Details at:

bit.ly/388kXlD

Application intake for the Raspberry Replant Program are open until Jan. 11 to support the spring 2021 raspberry planting season. Further details here: bit.ly/3gN7684

To access and apply for funding for the Beneficial Management Practices Program, visit: bit.ly/3gRp21h