Vision 2012: Agriculture now
Duncan is the heart of the Cowichan Valley, which is still one of the richest agricultural areas on Vancouver Island.
There are 700 farms in the region, a quarter of which are large farms, which provide 84% of Cowichan's agricultural revenue.
Duncan boasts one of Vancouver Island's most popular and well-stocked farmers' markets. While most consumers buy food in grocery stories, there is a trend toward buying locally grown products, which is helping farm-gate and farmers' market sales.
Farmers are using internet marketing and social media to promote their farms, which is also helping to increase their revenue. Agri-tourism — agricultural activities that attract visitors to the valley — is on the rise thanks to the region's 14 wineries, and specialty farms like Merridale Cidery, Tea Farm, and organic farms.
Livestock farming is on the decline due, in part, to limited access to processing the animals. There are four government-licensed meat processing plants in the Cowichan Valley which service poultry and red meat.
Nearly half of all farm operators in the region are women, more than in the rest of the country. The average age for a farmer is 54, though the next generation is buying into the farming life.
Brock McLeod, owner and operator of Makaria Farm, explained why he and his wife Heather moved from Victoria to start their 10-acre farm five years ago when they were in their 20s.
"Farming allows me to make a positive, meaningful and tangible contribution to society. I used to work in the B.C. Public Service; when I left my job, I thought I was forsaking public service, but, ironically, I feel like I do more to serve the public now than when I worked for government," McLeod said.