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Good morning. It’s James Keller.

For young aspiring farmers, the cost of farmland is perhaps the most significant barrier to entering the industry, particularly in a place such as Vancouver Island where land is at a premium.

But a unique project near Victoria is aiming to change that, providing budding farmers with small plots of land for a fraction of what it would cost to purchase or lease on their own.

Freelance writer Kate Helmore writes about Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture in this weekend’s Globe.

The non-profit centre opened in January, 2021, and has an 83-acre farm in North Saanich on Vancouver Island. It’s located on an old racetrack, nestled in the shadow of Victoria Airport and downstream from an Amazon warehouse.

Sandown’s focus is regenerative agriculture – an ecofriendly approach that integrates livestock, removes tillage and uses crops that are good for the soil to sequester carbon and increase biodiversity.

But its larger aim is to foster the next generation of farmers through what they call a farmpreneur program. In addition to affordable land, the program provides farmers with the knowledge, support and community they need to become financially viable.

“We are facing a shortage of farms and farmers primarily because new farmers cannot purchase land,” Stephanie Jacobs, who farms a quarter-acre plot at Sandown and also teachers there, told Kate.

“It is simply out of reach financially. The program at Sandown offers farmers an opportunity to access land at an affordable rate to start farming.”

The program helps its students with marketing their produce, as well as research on how best to cultivate crops while connecting with other farmpreneurs.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council says 47 per cent of agricultural producers can’t find enough workers, leading to $2.9-billion in lost sales – and the situation is getting worse.

As of 2017, a quarter of farmers were set to retire by 2025, as 200,000 fewer young people were entering the industry.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.