Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Plight of Compassion Farm

Remember Dirk and Nicole up in Lantzville, who have spent hours of time with me on their farm, teaching me about farming, and making money in a sustainable way?
The city of Lantzville has given them a Cease-Farming order.
I guess some grumpy neighbour with nothing better to do decided to complain about a pile of compost in their front yard. (I've been there... there is no odour or anything untoward coming from their compost piles). Anyway, during the investigation into this, the bylaw officer decided that Dirk and Nicole shouldn't be farming on their 2 1/2 acre property. It wasn't zoned for that. They have been farming on this property for over 5 years now. Before they purchased the property, the previous owner had stripped the entire area, and sold off the topsoil and gravel, leaving a lifeless, barren land. This, to me, is just so sad. No one complained about that! There were no earthworms, no bees, no butterflies. Dirk and Nicole changed the entire property, one wheelbarrow full at a time. Now it is a healthy, happy land with lots of critters and bugs. You know how excited I get about having lots of earthworms and bugs around! (with the exception of slugs...)

Anyway, Dirk and Nicole have decided they need to get the by law changed that doesn't allow for urban farming. Many areas have already got on board with this (including Victoria, BC) and have changed by laws to allow for urban and sustainable farming. No matter what the zoning you live in. Lantzville is behind the times.
We are all helping in any way we can. Both my cousin, Lorelie, and myself, have written letters to the mayor and the powers that be in Lantzville, asking for change. There are many, many other people who are using their voices, as well. The more people who ask for change, the faster change will come.

If there were to be some sort of disaster on the Island (earthquake, etc) and we were cut off from the mainland, there is only 2 days of food supply for everyone. We import 95% of what we eat! That is just sad. We cannot live without food. This is such an important issue, that affects everyone, everywhere. Everyone should be encouraged to grow food... anywhere they can.

This is what Dirk and Nicole would like everyone to do:

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 far 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.
Each year:

- 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.

Our intention:

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 )

This is the letter I have written. I am not very good at doing this sort of thing, but I feel very proud that I am taking the time to step up for this important issue. I've never written a letter like this before! I am asking anyone who feels this is important to contact me, and write your own letter. I have all the contact addresses for you. My email is crazydogfarm@gmail.com. I will send you all the information you need to help!
Letter I emailed, and will also be sending via snail mail to the powers that be in Lantzville

I was astounded to learn of the shut down of Compassion Farm in Lantzville.

Since buying my own farm in Crofton two years ago, Dirk and Nicole have been instrumental in helping me learn how to farm sustainably, and teaching me about how important it is to have fresh, local food available. If Vancouver Island were to have some sort of disaster and we were cut off from the mainland, we would only be able to feed ourselves for 2-3 days. That's it. Set aside the fact that local, fresh food is way healthier and nutrient dense, and just makes more sense!

I realize we have set aside ALR land for such enterprises, but it is expensive, and super hard to find. It took me over 2 years to find a small piece of flat, suitable ALR land that I could barely afford. If we only allow farming on ALR, we will be making a serious mistake. There just isn't enough of it to support the growing population. Added to that is the fact that we lose ALR land to other projects and construction each and every year. One day, there will be no more ALR. Then what?

I implore you to start working on changing this outdated bylaw. We need to step up, and become leaders in both urban and sustainable farming. Victoria has already taken great steps forward, and we need to follow suit.

We need farmers such as Dirk and Nicole, not only for the food they produce, but for the education and value they give freely to the fellow farmer and backyard gardener alike.

No comments:

Flooded Driveway

Flooded Driveway
Too much RAIN!