Assessing the Potential for Pocket Agriculture in Mountainous Regions: A Case Study in West Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada
AbstractFood security is a growing concern for rural communities that rely on imported food. Increasing a region's food self-reliance is a strategy to address this concern, but is a challenge in regions with limited arable lands as a result of topographically diverse, mountain-dominated landscapes. Mechanized, large-scale agriculture relies on contiguous areas of arable land, rather than small parcels of dispersed arable soils and suitable climates. The Kootenay region of British Columbia, Canada, serves as an example of the opportunities for mountainous, rural communities to increase their food self-sufficiency by considering the potential for agriculture on small parcels of land. Soil capability survey maps that provide a biophysical assessment of arable lands were used as a basis for determining (a) the potential land base available for small-scale agriculture, and (b) the potential for niche crops that may be grown on poorer capability lands in the Kootenay region. The soil capability criteria, coupled with farm survey data, were used to measure and quantify the distribution of underutilized farmland in the region. Results indicate that up to 90 percent of land capable of agriculture and 69 percent of high quality farm land protected under the Agricultural Land Reserve is not under production for crops or pasture. Global Climate Model scenarios for 2050 indicate that the region will have a longer growing season, hotter summers, and more frost-free days, which could increase the region's capacity to grow food but might require additional water for irrigation. The assessment suggests that soil surveys based on biophysical attributes can assist mountainous regions in assessing their potential for agriculture.
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