The RDEK is teaming up with two other regional districts and the Columbia Basin Trust to fund a project that will support the agriculture industry in the southeast corner of the province.
In partnership with the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), along with the CBT, each organization is pitching in $60,000 per year to fund a Regional Agricultural Liaison Services project.
The project is looking to hire a person or a company to provide one-on-one services and training with ranchers and agricultural producers across the region. Such a need was requested by the industry and was identified in the RDEK's Agricultural Plan in 2014.
"I'm not sure if we'll get one person or a large company to provide this service for us," said RDEK board chair Rob Gay. "It seems to me that it'll have to be more than one person, because you're dealing with a number of producers from the ranching sector in our area to market gardens all over the place to the wine and fruit industry in the Creston Valley.
"So that's what we'll be looking for, is this extension service and not only will it do a one-on-one extension, where we see them going right to the farm or producer's place of business, but also gathering a group of producers, cherry-growers for example, and having workshops that would be beneficial to them."
The two other regional districts were reluctant in moving forward without the support of the RDEK. While the RDEK supported the initiative, Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt was concerned about committing three years of $60,000 annually without seeing some kind of a report on project deliverables after the first year.
However, Gay is convinced that the service will benefit the agricultural industry, especially since it was requested by stakeholders.
"Are there ways to improve on irrigation or some of these more modern techniques that entry-level farmers don't know?" Gay asked. "I can really see the upside, but the scoring is going to be after the year. Are the producers, farmers and ranchers satisfied with the service? They're the ones that requested it and we'll try our best as local government to provide what they wanted — a substantial commitment; almost three quarters of a million dollars, so lets give it a whirl.
"I'm really optimistic. Others around the province are going the same way. This is a need not only here, but I sat with a group from the Prince George area and they're going the same way."