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History of Farming in Surrey

Thresing Dinsmore Farm

We can trace agriculture in Surrey to early pre-European settlements. Surrey’s agriculture industry began in the 1870s with pioneer farms that located in the Serpentine and Nicomekl River lowlands. These farms raised vegetables, dairy cattle, beef cattle, hogs, chickens, and horses and were sold to New Westminster and Victoria by boat. Hay and light grains were the major cash crops.

The Surrey Farmers’ Institute was founded in 1897. A Dyking District was formed in 1911, which oversaw the installation of dykes and tide flood gates for the lowlands, which were susceptible to flooding.

Market conditions improved in the late 1880s and 1890s. The improvement led to the change from crops being primarily used for subsistence purposes, to crops that were sold to grain wholesalers, dray companies, and local logging camps. In 1884, ferry service across the Fraser River was improved and local farmers began to provide a variety of produce, dairy products, and meat to New Westminster and BC's interior region.

Loney Farm in Surrey

Transportation (rail, automobile) methods improved and brought about more efficient shipping methods in the early 1900s. As the Metropolitan market grew, by 1920, dairy farming had expanded rapidly, leading to the decline in hay and grain. By the 1970s, mixed farming, which consisted of dairy farming, feed lots, vegetables, blueberries, and specialty horticulture, returned as major cash crops.

Today, Surrey accounts for 22% of the total gross annual farm receipts in Metro Vancouver, on 15% of Metro Vancouver’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) area. The key sectors are poultry, dairy, berry and vegetable production. Surrey is also home to the province’s largest floriculture greenhouse operation.

Sources:
Brown, J.A. Early Agriculture in Surrey. 1998.
Pearson, John. Land of the Peace Arch. Surrey: Surrey Centennial Committee, 1958.
Treleaven, G. Fern. The Surrey Story. Surrey: Surrey Historical Society, 1992.

Discover more on the history of farming in Surrey in the City of Surrey Archives.