Today Kathleen and I enjoyed the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce Agri-tour, better known as Agriculture is Big Business. The six-hour bus tour with stops at Vedder Transportation Group, Van Belle Nursery and Ritchie Smith Feeds was well worth it.
Our mission was, according to the Chamber's marketing, to find out what makes Abbotsford the Agricultural Capital of Canada. You may know that Abbotsford farms and agri-business create more than $1.8 billion for the city's economy and generates more than 11,300 jobs in the city.
So we got on the bus, watched a five-minute video and had the day outlined (on our bus at least) by Chamber vice-president and Agri Committee chair, Mike Welte from Farm Credit Canada. He and Lavonne Bandsma offered wine and hat prizes for answering important trivia questions after each tour. No, we did not snaffle the prizes. Goldie was an organizer of the tour.
Our first stop was at Ritchie Smith where we donned safety equipment and were handed radios with earphones (because it can be a noisy place) so we could listen to the great things they are doing with feeds for various livestock. Just click on the link above to find out all about them.
According to Chamber info, Ritchie Smith, a privately owned local company, has provided high quality animal feed products to the Fraser Valley since 1968. They have a dedicated staff of some 90 employees including sales representatives, nutrition, manufacturing, delivery and general office personnel.
Our tour guide was operations manager Leon G. Wamsteeker.
Bill Van Belle (at right) started this business with his wife in 1973. It is a wonderful success story. Ask him about it some time. The business began with just 10 acres of bare fields and a dream. Today, Van Belle Nursery includes growing space totalling 80 acres on three sites with customers across North America and a staff of growers, a sales team, and an office of leaders.
The sign shows you the last stop, Vedder Transportation Group. Again click on the link above to see their story. We had a wonderful lunch and tour here and listened to a speech by Richard Bullock, chair of the provincial Agriculture Land Commission (ALC). His job is to protect ag lands.
Mike Welte helps with the megaphone . . . we are looking at the Vedder Transportation Group rail division. The company operates a diverse fleet of 300 tractors and more than 800 semi trailers, employing hundreds of people. The company serves as a liquid and dry bulk distribution partner to the world's leading food products manufacturers. This includes transporting more than one million litres of raw milk every day, 365 days a year, from local dairy farms to the processing plants.
After our delicious catered chicken and salmon lunch at Vedder Transport, we listened to the passionate speech by ALC chair Richard Bullock about his job of dealing with thousands of applications to take land out of the agricultural land reserve ... not just in the Valley, but up north, too. He said the Chamber's agricultural statement is bang-on.
Bullock is a Kelowna orchardist and managing director of a large Okanagan orchard and agri-tourism operation.
He is active in industry organizations and has served as president of the BC Fruit Growers' Association, BC Tree Fruits Ltd., and Sun-Rype Products Ltd., and as director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. He is a former member of the British Columbia Marketing Board and the past chair of the British Columbia Farm Industry Review Board.
It was a great day of learning ... see you on next year's Chamber agricultural tour. Yes, it is big business in Abbotsford. The places we visited today were just the tip of the iceberg . . . so much more to see and enjoy.