The StoLo nation , a hunter gathering society who settled in the Lower Fraser Canyon, lived in the Fraser Valley 8-10,000 years ago. Hunting and fishing were the two main occupation and the land was rich in game. Deer , elk, seals, inhabited the forests while salmon, stickleback, eulachon, sturgeon and shellfish were available from the abundant waters of the Fraser, as well as the “delta” where the Fraser meets the Pacific Ocean.
1782, smallpox arrived overland from Mexico and wiped out 2/3 of the StoLo population. However, measles, mumps, tuberculosis, influenza and venereal disease further ravaged the aboriginals.
In 1827 the Hudson’s Bay Company founded a fort in Langley (Fort Langley) which occupied several thousand acres. The first farmers that arrived in the area were mostly goldminers. Clearing the land was backbreaking work but they endured and in 1870 the fish canneries began operation. Hay and dairy farming were major commodities then and the advent of the B.C. Electric rail system enables the farmers to reach urban markets like New Westminster and Vancouver.
By 1930 the Fraser River had become a barrier rather than a waterway and the Pattullo Bridge was built to connect New Westminster to the Fraser Valley.
In the 1940’s after the outbreak of World War II, the Japanese, who were prominent dairy farmers in the region, were interned and their land was seized and sold. Post war 1950 two things happened that changed the face of farming forever in the Fraser Valley:
1. greater mechanization at more affordable prices
2. improved freezing techniques- allowed farmers to harvest, freeze and send their product to market for year long enjoyment. Freezing literally bought them and the consumer time in a seasonal industry.
3. land value increased
Between 1952-1957 the population of the Fraser Valley increased by 400% and it hasn’t slowed down since. In the last 20 years the influx into this region, which has created “suburbia” has been incredible. It is expected that the population of this region will outstrip the City of Vancouver within 30 years.
Of the 10,000 farmers who work the land today most still run smaller, land intensive operations. Today’s farmer must be part businessman, mechanic, veterinarian and steward of the land. Greenhouse farming is becoming increasingly popular as a way to sustain the and, commit to safe farming practice and supply food year round As energy costs soar n the coming decades, these small scale and organic farmers are people we should all be thankful for as our attention more and more to the produce of our own lands.
Therefore as you are guests in this country for the Olympics consider the rich breadbasket called the Fraser Valley as you bite into a bowl of organic blueberries, fresh salad of Spring Greens, soup made of wild mushrooms or entrée with “wild” salmon.