The $1.8B agri engine  

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By Grant Granger - Abbotsford News
Published: June 18, 2010 4:00 PM 
Updated: June 21, 2010 11:10 AM

David Hull couldn’t quite believe the numbers the computer spreadsheet was producing as he and Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce staff were punching in results from their survey on the economic impact of agriculture to Abbotsford.

“Hang on, hang on,” said the astonished executive director.

The survey, conducted jointly with the city and the provincial Ministry of Agriculture, said the industry generates $1.8 billion in economic activity annually in Abbotsford.

“It was a lot larger than we thought,” said Hull. “That’s a massive number in our town.”

And there were more impressive numbers:

The $1.8 billion is about 35 per cent of the city’s gross domestic product.

Primary agriculture produces in total revenues $20,400 per hectare, the highest in Canada, and three times more than that of the next most productive region, the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario.

Agriculture generates more than 11,300 jobs in Abbotsford, which is about 25 per cent of local private-sector jobs.

The average hourly wage per farm employee is $16.75, while the average annual salary in the agri-business is nearly $50,000.

There are more than 1,200 farms in Abbotsford
Hull said the city is the de facto hub of agriculture in the province. It’s more than just getting milk, picking berries and raising chickens because there are so many industries, industry organizations and government offices connected to agriculture that are based in Abbotsford.

The city is currently working on producing an agriculture strategy to help the industry grow even further.
“It does represent the very essence of what we do,” Jay Teichrob, the city’s economic development manager, told a chamber agriculture symposium Wednesday. “It drives the work in our city on a daily basis. It’s in our DNA.”

It’s why, Teichrob said, there’s a concentration on densifying the city core at the same time as protecting the 74 per cent of the land that’s inside the Agriculture Land Reserve.

“We want to be a sustainable community. We don’t want to be a bedroom community to anyone else,” said Teichrob.