Instead of gathering plaudits, a proposal to divert food waste to Fraser Canyon ranch for organic farming has attracted a roadblock, opposition from neighbours and a lawsuit against a local resident.
Proponent Roger McRae said the plan by his company, Northwest Organics, will improve soil on his farm and solve a societal problem with landfilling of material that has a beneficial use.
Northwest Organics purchased the historic 280-hectare McKay Ranch near Lytton late in 2009 after searching for a suitable location to recycle and use compostable kitchen material.
He said Thursday the company has all permits in place — something disputed by Thompson-Nicola Regional District officials.
“We’ve got a food issue in the world…. We should grow a lot more of our food, closer to home,” McRae said.
McRae said his plan is to gather kitchen scrap material, first from the local Lytton area and then going farther afield, if necessary. It will be mixed with wood fibre and placed in open windrows, which will be turned occasionally.
Once it meets the correct temperature and time requirements it can be used to improve soils on the farm.
“We can only produce what we use on the farm. We have to use 100 per cent of what we need on the farm.”
But neighbour Rhiannon Barbour-Thorpe, who operates a small neighbouring farm in the Botanie Valley, located about three kilometres from Lytton between the Fraser and Thompson rivers, said many local people fear what’s coming in and the company has not been co-operative with neighbours.
“They set up their own meetings. I didn’t know about them; almost no one did.”
Barbour said the material will be placed beside a small creek that provides potable water and there are also fears about importation of the apple maggot, a pest she said is not currently in the Interior.
“It’s already zoned as far as they’re concerned,” said Barbour-Thorpe.
TNRD officials said the company will have to seek approval under the solid waste management plan. There are also questions about zoning and allowable uses under the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Area TNRD director Barry Tait has toured the farm and heard plans. He said he doubts McRae can get enough organic waste from the area.
“I think the plan right off the bat is to bring truckloads up from the Coast,” Tait said.
While the operation appears small as proposed, Tait said many in the valley fear it’s a toehold on what could become an industrial scale operation that would bring in food waste for composting and ship out processed material.
“Technically it fits within organic-matter waste recycling and it’s a ranch and an agricultural activity. He can come in based on that. It’s expansion people are worried about.”
The proposal has gathered more than scepticism and fear. The company has filed lawsuits separately against Ed Roest and Mike Sam for defamation. The company’s lawyer is former Attorney General Geoff Plant.
The suit against Sam claims he set up a roadblock to the farm and spread “falsely (and) maliciously” claims that slaughterhouse waste and chicken carcasses would be composted, in addition to other allegations.
McRae said the operation has applied for organic certification. But a representative of the Shuswap Thompson Organic Producers Association (STOPPA) said the application has not come to them. Rules stipulate a regional body is responsible for the certification, but not necessarily the closest one.
“All that kitchen waste — who knows what’s coming up in it,” said association representative Mendel Rubinson.