Edmonton farmer seeks conservation easement to secure land’s future, prevent development

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WATCH (May 25, 2019): An Edmonton farmer whose northeast property has produced food and offered sanctuary to wildlife for decades wants to make sure developers leave his land alone – May 25, 2019

An Edmonton farmer is working to protect his land from development in order to ensure that its forests and fields remain for future generations.

Doug Visser’s 233-acre property in the northeast corner of the city has produced a range of crops for Edmontonians for decades. It also includes 73 acres of old-growth forest, the largest amount within the city limits.

“We’ve done really well with growing vegetables and selling most of them locally,” said Visser, whose family first bought the land in the 1950s. “As a result of that realization of the merits of this land, we’ve decided that it’s worth keeping for a long time — forever.”

Visser is working with the Edmonton & Area Land Trust to get a conservation easement on the title of the land, which would require future owners to maintain its forests and farmland.

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“It’s an important milestone for Edmonton to have a place like this conserved inside of the city limits,” said Rebecca Ellis, a conservation manager with the land trust. “It’s part (of) other groups’ initiatives to see the river valley as a whole conserved, and this is an important bend in the river.”

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The land is used by the Edmonton Native Healing Centre for ceremonies and is also home to Lady Flower Gardens, which affords homeless people and others in need access to a community garden. Riverbend Gardens farms the land to supply farmers markets in Edmonton as well.

The property also serves as a haven for wildlife and a natural escape for people, according to Harvey Voogd, who is a board member of the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society.

“It’s a prime example of why Edmontonians love the river valley,” Voogd said. “It’s a ribbon of green going to the city, a place not only for us as people to relax and recreate but also for animals and other creatures and flowers and plants to grow.”

The Edmonton & Area Land Trust, which is a registered charity, is collecting donations to pay for lawyer and appraisal fees connected to the conservation easement.

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“I’m thinking about the future of the citizens of Edmonton and the world who are learning to appreciate the value that comes with land that can produce food and the recreational value of forested areas and addressing issues of climate change with special areas like this,” Visser said.

The lifelong farmer and the charity hope to secure the land’s future by the fall.