"One of the highest callings is food and agriculture," said Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese in the opening remarks of the Agriculture Advisory Committee farm tour focused on energy.
Politicians, educators, agriculture administrators, and farmers spent a late June day together touring three local facilities to better understand their energy practices. Luncheon keynote speaker, Dr. Andrew Risemann, academic director of the UBC farm informed the audience about practices being applied at the UBC site.
"Things are changing in our community big time," said Dave Melnychuk, director of the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation (LSAF). "People are really thirsty for knowledge [about agriculture] and there is a gap there of public education."
South Alder Farms is a poultry and berry farm that incorporates modern packing technology into the berry division. The technology is so modern that a brand new sorting machine developed in Belgium sat in one of the packing areas waiting to be unpacked.
The main berry crops for South Alder are raspberries and blueberries and while this season is late, it has been the case for the last five years or so, according to owner Harvey Krause.
The approximately 40,000 square feet of cooler space is hydro powered and uses forced air to quickly cool berries coming in from the field. As explained by Krause, because of the newness of the equipment, everything is fairly energy efficient.
However, one problem experienced by the operation is urban encroachment.
"We use guns [flare guns] to control them," said Krause of starling control.
This along with tractors, manure, spraying, and other "normal" farming practices can cause issues with neighbours who don't understand what buying property next to a working farm can mean.
A common site in Langley is horses. What better location for Canmor Horse Farm, a thoroughbred breeding and training facility.
"We run a house of ill-repute for horses," joked owner Ole Nielsen.
Much of the technological advancement at Canmor centres around breeding where semi-portable ultrasound equipment is used to determine mare readiness.
"It's all relatively scientific," noted Nielsen.
Risemann spoke about the UBC action plan and the goal to reduce reliance on external energy to 100 per cent below 2007 levels by 2015.
"The president [of UBC] freely admits he has no idea how we will reach 100 per cent," said Risemann.
A number of projects will reduce energy consumption on campus and meet milestones along the way.
"Sustainability will lead to a stronger social fabric," he noted. "People have a right to natural light, clean air and comfortable buildings."
Risemann said it's coming. "We have the same challenges, but how do you make it an advantage?" he questioned.
The last visit on the tour was Bevo Agro Inc., a greenhouse facility located in Milner.
Started in 1987 with 2.5 acres, the facility is now almost 40 acres specializing in bedding plants, cucumbers, poinsettias, and mums.
Water is used and reused at Bevo through a system of collecting rainwater from the roof, cleaning it, using it, then disinfecting it and reusing it. This has reduced the organization's reliance on city water by more than 90 per cent.
Another cost-effective energy tool at Bevo is the wood burning boilers. In fact, in difficult years, when gas and electricity were more expensive, wood burning kept the facility competitive according to Leo Benne, vice president and general manager.
Heating is computer controlled, as are windows, lights, shading, water and more. Agriculture is big business in Langley, and the more energy efficient it is, the better for everyone.
"I've been married to agriculture all my life, but every time I go on a farm, I learn something," Melnychuk said.