British Columbia produces and locally sources over 300 food commodities, including agricultural products, livestock, dairy, and seafood. The 18,000 farms in the province produce the most diverse range of foods in Canada, and there are nearly 3,000 food processing companies in BC that develop value-added food products (The Future of BC’s Food System). The agriculture, food and seafood sectors generate work for roughly 60,000 BC residents and over 10,000 temporary foreign workers (Fast Stats 2018 British Columbia’s Agriculture, Food and Seafood Sector). Indigenous Nations have food systems that are unique to their territories, and their hunting, fishing, gathering and cultivation have been influenced by principles and ecological knowledge that have allowed sustainable and respectful harvests for thousands upon thousands of years. Food sovereignty is an important goal for many First Nations communities.
Warming trends under climate change may extend the agricultural growing season and increase food productivity in some regions of the province. Demand for food products will also rise as the population of BC and the world increases over coming years and as the global supply changes. Strong local food supply and distribution systems and the reduction of food waste will increase the resilience of our food supply to climate risks. Urban agriculture also has the possibility of increasing its benefits by providing stormwater management and relief from urban heat islands. At the same time, BC’s food systems face significant risks from projected water scarcity, unpredictable and severe weather, increases in pests and diseases, higher temperatures (affecting river flow, temperature and oxygenation), changing migration patterns and impacts to ecosystems and wild foods, as well as rising ocean acidity and deoxygenation. Our future food security is greatly intertwined with climate risk.
The BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative has 15 Farm Adaptation Innovator Program case studies posted online. These projects look at many topics including crop protection and optimization of water use in vineyards.
There is a lot that food systems workers and others can do to take action, however. Take a look at our ReTooling resources to see what climate change means for the future of local food production in BC and how you can ensure that you are prepared.