Regional Climate and Production Systems
Historical climate and production capacity
This region encompasses two regional districts, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, and the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George.
The center of the region is in the Sub-Boreal Spruce zone, which has hot summers and cold winters. Most of the zone is under snow for four to five months, and the primary growing season is only a few months long. The climate of the Robson Valley is distinct from the rest of the region, characterized by a zone commonly called the Interior Wet Belt. Summers are relatively dry, but a slow-melting snowpack helps keep soil moisture levels high. Annual precipitation varies across the region. Vanderhoof and Smithers have annual averages of just under 500 millimetres, while McBride has closer to 700 millimetres. For most of the Bulkley-Nechako & Fraser-Fort George region, long cold winters and cool nighttime temperatures are the major climate limitations for agriculture. Historically, the region has excellent capability for forage production without irrigation. A very small part of the land in production is under irrigation. Water has typically been a plentiful resource in the region, although this is changing.
To the south of Prince George and through the Robson Valley, the agricultural land runs along the Fraser River. Stretching northwest from Prince George toward Smithers, much of the agricultural land lies close to Highway 16. Most agricultural production is concentrated around Prince George, Vanderhoof, the Bulkley Valley and Lakes District, where the land is relatively flat and the soil is fertile. Soils across much of the region have high clay content. With good management, the soils can produce forage, silage and grain crops. Currently, an acidic pH and not enough organic matter are challenges for many producers in the region.
In 2016, the Bulkley-Nechako & Fraser-Fort George region was home to 1,239 farms — 7% of the farms in BC. Cattle ranching and forage production are the most common agricultural activities in this region. Other agricultural production includes dairy and other livestock (bison, sheep, goats and hogs), grain, horticultural crops and beekeeping. More grain is grown in the Vanderhoof area than in any other part of BC — outside of the Peace region — and production appears to be increasing in the region. The Robson Valley produces canola, wheat, barley, oats, specialized forage seed and forage crops. The Robson Valley and Prince George areas have a long history of vegetable production, consisting mostly of root vegetables and other storage crops. Closer to the coast in the northwest, there are also some greenhouses and tree fruit operations. Many of the vegetable and berry producers in the region grow a variety of crops on a small scale. Half of the vegetable and berry producers extend their growing season with greenhouses. Vegetable and small fruit sales are typically off-farm: direct to stores or at farmer’s markets.
Projections provided by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium were shared during the regional planning process where producers discussed how the anticipated changes would likely affect their operations. Then they identified four climate issues as their top concerns. Many of these projects are a direct response to the adaptation strategies and top issues outlined in the Bulkley-Nechako & Fraser-Fort George Adaptation Strategies plan. The projects are developed by CCAP with oversight and input from a regional working group. Other projects deliver applied research that supports climate change adaptation at the farm level. These 2-4 year projects fall under the Farm Adaptation Innovator Program.
Learn more about climate change adaptation in each region: