That’s the question being asked near Nanaimo and throughout British Columbia as a 2.5 acre organic farm has been given 90 days to shut down because…it’s a farm, when it’s supposed a yard. The area is zoned residential. But what do the words “farm” and “yard” really mean as we stride into a precarious food future?
A letter from farmer Dirk Becker:
Farmers Dear friends and supporters:
We have recently been instructed by the RDN, at the request of the District of Lantzville, to cease “all agricultural activity” on our 2.5 acre farm due to us being “residentially zoned”. This followed a letter in September telling us to “remove the piles of soil from the property” (which we worked out with the Bylaw Enforcement Officer and agreed to and moved the one pile in question within 48hrs).
Our goal is to have the bylaw updated to reflect the current awareness and future needs of our communities. Yes, we could apply for rezoning, however this would only help “us” not the many people who are urban farming or SPIN farming.
We are writing to you because this issue impacts all of us on Vancouver Island. Many of you are aware that only 5% of our food supply is grown on Vancouver Island, thus 95% is imported. It may shock you to know that there is only 2 days fresh food supply on Vancouver Island. That means, that any disruption in ferry service, trucking or problems at the US border (75% of BC’s food comes from California) would have a dramatic and immediate effect on our food supply.
To us, “urban farming” is much more than a growing “trend” throughout North America. It is the way of the future; and the future is now.
- land prices increase, preventing new farmers – especially younger ones – from acquiring land.
- remaining farmable land (even including the Agricultural Land Reserve) is forever swallowed up by development, further reducing our ability to sustain ourselves and increasing our already extreme dependence on imported food.
In light of this, we strongly believe it is our responsibility as individuals and as a community to stop and reverse this trend of complete UNsustainability and at least work towards a model of self-reliance.
That together, we see this as an opportunity to “change the system”. Please understand that we do not want the focus to be “us”. When you read the attached letter we received from the RDN, keep in mind what they are saying means: ALL “urban farming” and SPIN farming is illegal! (Small Plot InteNsive – where young farmers use people’s city backyards to grow food for sale). This includes: honey, vegetables, meat, eggs, plants, flowers, fruit, nuts – you name it! Of course, this affects Urban and SPIN farmers at the Bowen Road Farmers’ Market as well as other farmers’ markets in Canada where municipal bylaws have not been updated to reflect support for sustainable, local food production.
We are asking:
That you contact the individuals whose information we have provided below beginning with Lantzville Council members (and anyone else you feel compelled to). We suggest that you approach this issue in the more general terms of local food and sustainability rather than what “the authorities” are doing – focussing it on our specific case merely limits the potential for us to work towards meaningful change in broader terms.
Please share whatever is important to you about this issue (links are posted below). In your letter, make sure you ask questions, especially if you want a response. If your children would like to write, that would be great.
It is likely that Lantzville council and the RDN will respond by telling you that we can apply for rezoning (which may or may not pass). This certainly does not help the SPIN farmers in downtown Nanaimo! Again, our goal is to have the existing bylaw changed for the benefit of our entire community
(much like what Victoria and other cities have done – http://postcarboncities.net/node/3686 )
Here is a brief background of our property, which lends some context to our current activities (before and after photos attached):
The previous owner, Billy Binns, used an excavator and dump truck to mine and scrape the land bare. He had a soil screener set up on the property, selling the soil, then sand, then gravel, which resulted in lowering the level of this property by about four feet. When we assumed ownership of this property, all that remained was gravel. There were no worms, no grasshoppers, no birds, no butterflies; essentially – no living creatures!
Since 1999, we have made a tremendous effort to heal the land, beginning slowly – one wheelbarrow at a time. It has been a gradual, organic process – from planting a few fruit trees and having a small growing area, to expanding with more hand-made soil using wood chips from local tree companies and a small amount of horse manure from local, Lantzville stables. Now we have 4 kinds of bees, several types of dragonflies, numerous types of butterflies, frogs, toads, snakes, and hundreds of birds and much more! We have dedicated our time to supporting hundreds of community members who have sought guidance on how to become more sustainable in their own lives; from educating people on how to support sustainable local initiatives, to teaching families how to grow their own food. Three years ago, we also started Nanaimo’s most successful farmers’ market, The Bowen Road Farmers’ Market at Beban Park.
Healthy, fresh food is the cornerstone of healthy families and communities. As time goes on, the importance of this issue will continue to grow. We hope that you feel the same way and we thank you in advance for your support.
Yours in service,
Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw
PS: Please, if you would, “cc” us in your communication with authorities so we can keep track of the progress.
Topics and links related to these matters:
- Food security: The average meal has traveled 1,500 to 3,000 kms to get to our dinner tables, a model which is only affordable so long as the oil industry experiences no upset, whether resource, market, or technology-based.
- urban agriculture, http://postcarboncities.net/node/3686 ,
- transition towns, http://transitioncowichan.org/
- emergency preparedness
- ongoing increases in population
District of Lantzville Councilor’s phone numbers and email addresses:
Mayor Colin Haime said this email should also be used: firstname.lastname@example.org
Regional District of Nanaimo Board of Directors phone numbers, mailing and email addresses:
Brian Brack, RDN Bylaw Enforcement Officer and
Lantzville Emergency Program Coordinator Alternate
Twyla Graff, Chief Administrative Officer, District of Lantzville
Telephone: 250-390-4006, ext.116
Chris Midgley, Manager of Energy and Sustainability
Regional District of Nanaimo
250 390 6568