Local growers face no shortage of hurdles as they seek to fill rising demand for locally grown foods, not the least of which is a lack of poultry processing capacity in Kamloops.
With a number of abattoir operators in outlying areas retiring from the business, that deficiency is only going to get worse, says one local grower.
“One of our biggest, most serious concerns that no abattoirs are allowed in the City,” said Tricia Sullivan, who operates Sullindeo Farm, a small, urban acreage off Dairy Road in Westsyde.
“Forty-four percent, about half of city land is agricultural land. You’d think they’d get the clue that there’s some farming going on.”
With 500 chickens and 125 turkeys, Sullivan watches the need growing day by day. They’re five weeks old, consuming 65 kg of feed daily.
She and her husband Leo drive to Cherry Creek or Darfield, where another processor is retiring.
“There used to be a local chicken service, but he retired … There’s no succession rate. Yes, farmers are a vanishing breed. We need young people who want to be part of this industry.”
While there is a shortage of abattoirs across B.C., she said the absence of a poultry facility in Kamloops stems from a City bylaw that prohibits residents from slaughtering animals on their own property.
The City’s food and urban agriculture plan, adopted two years ago, accounts for the need for more processing facilities, recommending a zoning review to ensure an adequate supply of commercial “modest-scale food processing facilities appropriate to the City’s ethnically diverse population, provided solid and liquid waste can be disposed of in a safe and appropriate manner that does not adversely impact municipal infrastructure and that issues of neighbourhood impact are adequately addressed.”
Sullindeo Farm represents the sort of multi-pronged enterprise required of small growers, a combination of strategies to achieve a sustainable venture. A landscape designer for 20 years, Sullivan “rearranged” the garden after they bought the acreage to create a cultured oasis within the agricultural surroundings of Dairy Road.
Sustainability is on a number of levels is key for Sullivan; profitability is somewhere down the road.
“The farm doesn’t create its own income. I’m relying directly on my husband’s income to subsidize my insanity,” she said with the driest of humour.
They looked at purchasing a fully inclusive abattoir unit from the Slocan area, but stopped short when they learned from the City that they wouldn’t be allowed to process poultry on their own property.
“That is the jam. That is why there is no service in town. It stupefies me that we are not allowed to do this.”
Coun. Donovan Cavers said he wasn’t aware that chicken processing was so restricted in the City. Zoning could be amended, he suggested.
“I don’t know if the City would want to get into the business of regulating it.”
Abattoir services are in short supply across the board, said one local processor, Ron Keely of Kam Lake View Meats. That’s been the case since the federal government tightened regulations a decade ago.
“There’s very few of us left,” he said, noting his customers are coming from as far afield as Pemberton and Williams Lake. He doesn’t process poultry, though, since it requires a different setup. Beef and pork producers keep him busy enough with 15 employees on staff.
Keely said he can see the need for a poultry service locally if more producers enter the market.
“You still need a government inspector, though, every time. That’s the rule,” he added, noting that some ranches hold special licences.
Sullindeo Farm also raises hair sheep and lambs and tending a near-market-sized vegetable garden and hay crop on four hectares.
For three years, they served pasture-to-plate dinners to Rocky Mountain Railtour excursions, catered by Cavers’ Conscientious Catering, until a complaint about a neighbouring event — coincidentally hosted by another City councillor, Dieter Dudy, at nearby Thistle Farms —prompted inspections and permitting requirements. Locally and sustainably grown foods are part of the agri-tourism marketing mix for both farms as well as for Privato Vineyard and Winery just up the road.
“We try to be sustainable for food around the calendar,” she said.
For six years, they’ve hosted “wwoofers,” volunteer farm hands who visit on exchanges through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The extra hands help with maintenance, maintenance and upkeep that never ends.
And Sullivan would like to get back into the business of hosting concerts, dinners and special events, having obtained a City permit for 30 guests, eight times a year.