Stewarding Agricultural Watercourses

Stewarding Agricultural Watercourses

(2022 - 2023)

Upland Agricultural Consulting partnered with Diamondhead Consulting to complete the first phase of the Stewarding Agricultural Watercourses (SAW) project. The project aims to uncover key challenges and opportunities that will allow the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food (AF) to build on the programs currently in place and take the next steps towards water resource stewardship on agricultural lands. A series of key directions which AF can take to help support agricultural producers in watercourse stewardship were developed and are outlined in this document.

The first phase of the SAW project was to better understand how farmers and ranchers are managing riparian areas and watercourses on agricultural land.

During the engagement process, participants shared concerns and ideas for change.

A What We Heard document was developed to provide a summary of engagement results from an online survey and interviews conducted by phone and zoom.

There were five key objectives associated with the engagement activities:

  1. Learn about barriers and challenges experienced by agricultural landowners and leaseholders in stewarding watercourses and riparian areas on farmland.
  2. Identify opportunities to address some of the concerns raised by agricultural landowners and leaseholders.
  3. Address the barriers to watercourse stewardship on agricultural land, laying out steps to short, medium and long-term implementation.
  4. Enhance collaboration between Indigenous communities, agricultural groups, and various levels of government.
  5. Enhance understanding of current stewardship of watercourses on agricultural land and ensure farmers and ranchers have a better comprehension of expectations around watercourses.

A survey was launched online to gather insights and experiences from producers on watercourse management. The survey was advertised through existing networks, including industry associations, and a total of 235 responses were received.

In addition to the survey, approximately 30 one-on-one interviews were conducted with a variety of stakeholders to further understand the challenges and develop some potential solutions. Finally, three focus groups were facilitated to circulate an early draft of the Discussion Paper for feedback. The three focus groups were organized by audience type:

  • practitioners (8 participants)
  • local government staff (21 participants)
  • provincial government staff (11 participants)

The input received during these sessions was instrumental in fine-tuning the potential actions and determining the list of collaborators for each action.

Following the finalization of the What We Heard Document, a Discussion Paper was drafted to provide some early recommended directions for AF to undertake in Phase 2 of the implementation of the Stewarding Agricultural Watercourses (SAW) project.  These directions were developed following the initial project engagement phase and are rooted in core concepts and themes which arose and are designed to be actionable and measurable.

The Discussion Paper and the feedback received will inform the development of the Stewarding Agricultural Watercourses Action Plan. The Action Plan will provide strategic direction for the Ministry to act on the recommendations proposed by agricultural stakeholders to improve farmers' and ranchers’ ability to steward watercourses on their properties.

The What We Heard report and Discussion Paper are available on the Ministry's project website.

Scoping Agricultural Ecosystem Services within Metro Vancouver

Scoping Agricultural Ecosystem Services within Metro Vancouver


Metro Vancouver contracted Upland Agricultural Consulting to undertake this study with the following two objectives:

  • To understand the benefits provided by ecosystem services within agricultural areas to resiliency, food production and the livability of the wider region, and,
  • To identify and recommend policy, regulatory or financial actions and mechanisms that can be taken to expand the long-term viability of supporting ecosystem services on agricultural land.

Farmland within the ALR makes up approximately 20% of the land base within Metro Vancouver Regional District. The potential of these agricultural lands to support ecosystem services has been recognized in the Regional Food System Strategy, Ecological Health Framework, the Climate 2050 Roadmap for Agriculture, and Metro 2050, among many other policy documents.


Assessment of Future Water Supply Options for the Greenhouse Industry

Assessment of Future Water Supply Options for Delta's Greenhouse Industry


This project was funded through the BC Climate Agriculture Initiative and the BC Greenhouse Growers Association. Upland was contracted to develop a Greenhouse Water Supply Risk and Options Assessment, with specific focus on greenhouses in the Delta BC community, which rely on potable water sources for irrigation purposes. These water sources may be vulnerable to use restrictions under drought conditions. This Assessment followed the Delta’s Future Agriculture Water Supply and Demand study which found that the existing surface water supply system could meet agricultural demands under the current climate and production levels but will fall short of meeting future water demands or support significant expansion of the industry without substantial upgrades. The assessment was completed through a combination of literature review and stakeholder engagement, which provided insights into the challenges and opportunities pertaining to water procurement within the greenhouse industry.

The assessment provided an overview of alternative opportunities available for water use by Delta greenhouse producers and an assessment of climate change and non-climate change related pressures on Delta's water availability. The assessment provides profiles of various alternative water procurement methods including rainwater catchment, aquifer access, and piping water in from the Fraser River. The various profiles including the relevant regulatory requirements, infrastructure upgrades, treatment technologies and costs of installation and maintenance. A webinar was presented to members of the BC Greenhouse Growers Association.

Provincial Open Burning Best Practices for Agriculture

Provincial Open Burning Best Practices Materials


The BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food contracted Upland to develop content for information materials related to best practices for open-air burning of agricultural vegetative wastes, alternatives to open air burning and provide clear regulatory guidance. The work completed included background research and consultation with producers and industry stakeholders. The project culminated in the creation of content for future development of fact sheets that included alternatives to open burning, best practices for diseased material burns and safe open burning, and regulatory consideration for conducting a burn. Alternative disposal methods outlined in the sheets include chipping and grinding, mowing and plowing, and air curtain burners.

Metro Vancouver Open Burning Best Practices

Open Burning Alternatives: Best Practices Guide for Managing Agricultural Wastes in Metro Vancouver


The Best Practices Guide was developed to aid in the reduction of air emissions from open air burning by providing clear alternatives for producers disposing of agricultural vegetative waste materials specifically within the context of Metro Vancouver. The Guide was developed with a combination of a literature review of relevant BMP materials as well as current and innovative practices in waste disposal, and interviews with subject matter experts.

The Guide is a user-friendly document which presents the challenges with open air burning disposal, followed by an overview of BMPs including step-by-step instructions, including chipping, grinding, shredding and mowing. Beneficial re-use of vegetative debris is also profiled through composting, off farm sales and mulching, including the regulations which impact these practices.

Commercial Cannabis Best Practices

Commercial Cannabis in BC: Best Available Control Technologies


With the increasing production of commercial cannabis across the province, this report, commissioned by the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, sought to understand best practices and available technologies to minimize environmental impacts which may arise during cultivation and processing. Research for this report was three-pronged including, a literature review of current and innovative practices, a jurisdictional scan of environmental best practices, and interviews with subject matter experts.

The report includes an overview of the biophysical context of cannabis production, including life cycle, production requirements, and processing options. Additionally, the report provides information on waste disposal, and an exploration of various Best Available Control Technologies for associated air emissions, liquid waste, and solid waste management. The report includes a summary of the jurisdictional differences in regulations, compliance and enforcement with examples from Canadian provinces (Ontario and Alberta) and American States (Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado).

The report is available on the Government of British Columbia website.


Farm Flood Readiness Toolkit

Farm Flood Readiness Toolkit


Upland was retained by the BC Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative to lead the creation of a Farm Flood Readiness Toolkit. The Toolkit is presented as a province-wide resource to assist producers in assessing flood risk and asset vulnerabilities, preparing a farm for flooding, and to identifying suitable farm-level strategies for reducing potential impacts associated with flooding. The Toolkit contains multiple Fact Sheets and associated Worksheets: the Fact Sheets are brief informational resources on specific topics and the Worksheets are interactive forms that can be adapted to best fit each producer’s operation. A completed set of Worksheets creates a Farm Flood Readiness Plan for the producer. The Toolkit provides resources on the types of potential flood scenarios that may impact a producer’s location as well as information on how governments communicate and respond to flood events. The toolkit provides farmers with relevant and applicable solutions and actions that they can undertake at the farm-level to prepare, and respond to flood events.

Visit the BC Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative website for more information.

BC Environmental Farm Plan Reference Guide Update

BC Environmental Farm Plan Reference Guide Update


Upland Agricultural Consulting worked with the BC Ministry of Agriculture on updating the reference materials that are used for the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) Program. The update included investigating and adding relevant content regarding Best Management Practices (BMPs), integrating new and/or updated regulations, and aligning content with the National Environmental Farm Plan objectives. The activities performed included reviewing the current suite of EFP documents and identifying gaps in BMPs, completing a jurisdictional scan of BMPs from other provinces and the USA, identifying new BMPs to include in the reference material, and ensuring that all policies and regulations were accurate and up-to-date. This was done in part by compiling relevant material developed by provincial and federal partners through a literature review and interviewing subject matter experts.

The publications that were updated include the EFP Reference Manual, the EFP Planning Workbook, EFP Biodiversity Guide, and EFP Riparian Field Workbook.

Link: BC Ministry of Agriculture's Environmental Farm Plan program and associated publications.


State of Practices & Technologies Assessment for Managing Extreme Heat Impacts

State of Practices & Technologies Assessment for Managing Extreme Heat Impacts in the Fraser Valley


Upland Agricultural Consulting was contracted by BC Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative to identify current practices for heat abatement in the Fraser Valley. The focus was specifically on the dairy, poultry and berry sectors.

The objectives of the project were to assess the applicability of technologies and practices that may assist Fraser Valley agriculture producers with managing the impacts of extreme heat, both now and under future climate conditions.

An Extreme Heat Project was identified as a priority for agricultural producers in the Fraser Valley Adaptation Strategies planning process in 2014-2015, and this project was prioritized for implementation when the plan was revisited and updated in 2018 (Fraser Valley Adaptation Strategies Update). This report was informed by two phases of stakeholder consultation, a literature review, and a jurisdictional scan. The consultation included in-person and telephone interviews with over 30 individuals, including producers, industry experts, government staff, and consultants. The literature review encompassed over 100 reports and articles, and the jurisdictional scan focused on regions with regions already accustomed to higher temperatures.

The project provides specific recommendations to support next steps to develop of informational resources, to close research gaps and/or transfer to relevant information to producers, for each of the dairy, poultry and berry sectors in the Fraser Valley.

Link to the Fraser Valley — State of Practices & Technologies Assessment for Managing Extreme Heat Impacts: Project Report (PDF)

On-Farm Composting in BC: A Step-by-Step Guidebook

On-Farm Composting in BC: A Step-by-Step Guidebook


The guidebook was developed by Upland Agricultural Consulting for the BC Ministry of Agriculture with assistance from Ministry staff and interviews with BC farmers. This composting guide is a step-by-step handbook intended to help farmers choose a suitable system that will produce high quality compost in a cost-effective way, in order to minimize waste and maximize nutrient recapture on their farm. The methods and processes discussed in the guide are best described as small and medium-sized compost systems. The guide discusses steps farmers should take, from choosing the right material feedstock and composting system, to troubleshooting the composting process, to considerations for selling the compost and includes economic considerations for composting systems. The guide includes lists of resources for equipment dealers, composting testing and tools, and feedstock calculators.

Link: BC On-Farm Composting Handbook in BC: A Step-by-Step Guidebook for Small to Medium-Sized Farm Operations.