Diversifying the local economy

Burns Lake resident Doug Price thinks he may have found the perfect solution: the haskap berry.

Earlier this year, Lakes District News spoke with several producers in the Lakes District area to find out what their biggest challenges were.

Almost all producers mentioned that unstable weather conditions was one of their main challenges.

Well, Burns Lake resident Doug Price thinks he may have found the perfect solution: the haskap berry.

Also known as the super berry, haskap can withstand -40 C temperatures, and its flowers have been known to survive and set fruit after withstanding -11 C. Price planted about 1000 plants of the super berry this fall and hopes to expand production next spring.

When asked if the super berry could be the next big thing in Burns Lake, Price was confident that it could.

Last week I asked the same question to Bill Miller, Director of Electoral Area B for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.

Miller said the region needs more young people being involved in agriculture, and that the haskap can be ideal for them because it’s a growing industry and it doesn’t require a lot of capital to begin with.

However, he says that investing too much in one crop is not the solution for the region either because when there are too many sellers, often the market becomes saturated and prices goes down.

So Miller says haskap is just one of the solutions needed for the area. What Burns Lake needs, he says, is a combination of things to diversify the economy.

Why is this so important?

As I mentioned in last week’s editorial, with the uncertainty surrounding the forest industry – due to an expired softwood lumber agreement and the annual allowable cut of the Burns Lake Community Forest being significantly reduced after 2020 -, Burns Lake will have to find new ways to diversify its economy and become less dependent on forestry.

Investing in agriculture could be one of those solutions, so it’s definitely positive to see local producers finding solutions even before our local government takes action.

As if we needed any other reasons to be concerned about the forest industry, Sharon Tower, executive director of the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC), recently brought to the attention of the regional district that OBAC only has funding to operate until March of 2017.

The OBAC was created to plan and adjust to the consequences of the mountain pine beetle epidemic that swept through our forests and to help diversify the regional economy.

In a report presented to the regional district, Tower said 20,000 jobs are at risk in the interior due to a decline in the provincial allowable cut over the next decade, and that this decline is almost all due to the beetle epidemic.

She said OBAC is trying to get the attention of the federal government to these pressing issues and asking for more funding.

Maybe it’s time to put some pressure on our local MP, as well as local government and regional district to ensure that we are staying ahead of the game.


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