Sustainable development compromise[d] in the planning of Metro Vancouver’s agricultural lands: the Jackson Farm case

Author/s: Jonathan Jackson

Creation date: 2012-04-23

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Senior supervisor: Meg Holden

Keywords: sustainable development, farmland protection, food security, urban sprawl, agricultural land reserve, regional planning

Geographic focus: Maple Ridge, BC; Metro Vancouver, British Columbia; Canada

Contact info: n/a

Research question/s:

How well are the three levels of government that play coordinated roles to protect farmland in Metro Vancouver functioning to foster good sustainable development policies and practices for agricultural land protection?


Loss of farmland to urban sprawl presents challenges to achieving sustainable development in Metro Vancouver. Beginning in the early 1970s, commendable steps were taken to protect agricultural lands in British Columbia, but Metro Vancouver has nevertheless continued to suffer notable losses of farmland. Maple Ridge’s Jackson Farm, settled in the late 19th century, is used as a case study of this phenomenon. Jackson Farm was bought by a developer in 2001 and, after many attempts, eventually excluded from the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve. The fact that Metro Vancouver later denied an application for its exclusion from the Green Zone makes Jackson Farm a particularly interesting case, and one that provides insight into potential policy improvements that could build upon Metro Vancouver’s farmland protection successes.


While the Jackson Farm case may not have resulted in the best possible outcome, it is nevertheless likely that compromises to sustainable development would have been even more consequential had it not been for the efforts of planning staff, community members, as well as some local and many regional politicians who recognized the importance of Jackson Farm and fought for its protection. Other lessons include a reminder that although the Agricultural Land Commission and Metro Vancouver both have mandates to protect agricultural lands that are premised upon similar principles, they may still arrive at different determinations on a given case. This highlights the importance maintaining the imperfect safety net created by the need for dual approvals. The Jackson Farm case also suggests that the ALC’s mandate in relation to sustainable development could and should be enhanced.