The War Against Urban Farming Continues on Vancouver Island

It never ceases to amaze me how threatened some folks are by the notion of urban farming. What could possibly be offensive about folks producing clean, local, nutritious food?

And yet, here we are.

It seems Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw have been fighting this fight forever. They grow organic food for market on their two and a half acres outside of Nanaimo, BC.

They have dealt with continuous complaints from their neighbour and have battled with the most backward, parochial City Council I’ve run into in some time. These folks missed the memo that we’re facing a food crisis. Apparently the neighbours perfect ( and wasteful ) lawn is more important than their citizens right to safe local food.

I’ve discussed the issue with a number of Council members by email, and laughed out loud when one described Becker and Shaw’s activities as “urban farming”. Two and a half acres??? Are you kidding me!? He wanted my thoughts about livestock in an “urban” setting. Ha. If only he could see the three-ring circus of fowl in MY backyard (which is a HECK of a  lot smaller than two acres and a lot more urban that rural Lantzville ).

Good grief. A little perspective would go a long way here.

If you would like to let the Lantzville District Council know that it is time to abandon their war on “urban” farming in their community, you can contact them at council@lantzville.ca

Here’s the update on the latest drama at Compassion Farm:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, April 30, 2012, Lantzville.

Last week Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw of Compassion Farm in Lantzville, founders of the Bowen Road Farmers Market, received another letter from the District of Lantzville (D.O.L.).

This letter states they are contravening the DOL small business bylaw by selling rain barrels.

In January of this year, Becker and Shaw met with the new mayor and signed an agreement to discontinue the importation of any manure onto their property. They were given to understand that this agreement would appease council and were told it would appease their neighbor, Jim Brash, whose campaigning against their use of horse manure is on-going.

This April they were informed that council wants to ‘reinspect’ their property. Ensuing communication revealed that Council is unwilling to disclose what they are looking for. Therefore, Becker and Shaw responded that they see no point in yet another inspection since nothing of significance has changed since the last inspections–by various levels of government: Regional District of Nanaimo Bylaw Enforcement, the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Further, no manure has been brought to the property in question since the above-mentioned agreement was signed.

On April 24th they received a letter informing them that council has a problem with their rain barrels.

In the same week, a friend who has donated grass clippings for 10 years shared a letter received from the RDN, threatening legal action if he continues to bring grass clippings to Compassion Farm.

“There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight,” says Becker. “The District of Lantzvile has moved the goal posts several times. Urban Farming is a global movement and is moving past being ‘allowed’ or ‘permitted’ to being supported, encouraged and protected”.

Contact:
Dirk Becker
250-390-5199

Also see:
http://www.compassionfarm.jigsy.com/

Previous Chronology beginning 19 months ago
• September, 2010, a letter instructing Becker and Shaw to “remove the piles of soil from the property”.
• a second letter arrived by courier on November 2nd, 2010, telling them “to cease all agricultural activity”. This letter stated that they were in contravention of the zoning bylaw and that home based businesses must be carried out within the dwelling unit or accessory building.
• DOL hired a lawyer and threatened the aspiring farmers with legal action.
• Supporters of the couple wrote several hundred letters, filled a petition with over 5,000 signatures and raised over $5,000.00 toward their legal bills.
• Becker and Shaw were banned from Lantzville’s 2011 annual family fair “Minetown Day” (having been the only agricultural booth over the last number of years).
• Becker and Shaw attended many public meetings in their attempts to resolve the issue.
• In the 2011 civic election Lantzville voter turnout jumped from from 22% to 44% and the mayor and the two councilors who were the most vocal against Becker/Shaw lost the election.

Salient points
• There are about 100 horses in Lantzville.
• for years D.O.L. workers delivered grass clippings from all of Lantzville’s parks to Compassion Farm.
• for several years, the Regional District of Nanaimo had Becker give rain barrel/water conservation workshops in the mid island area.
• the combined pressures of urbanization and industrial farming for export have squeezed local farmers to the point that more and more are giving up.
• Urban agriculture is recognised by the UNO as a growing necessity.
• 96% of Vancouver Island food is imported
• Less than 3% of land on Vancouver Island is arable

2 thoughts on “The War Against Urban Farming Continues on Vancouver Island

  1. julia christine stephen

    To think that on of the best places in Canada to have a garden, Vancouver Island, has this much trouble with it is maddening. I will do whatever I can to help…living in Edmonton I’m not sure what I cas do beside writing letters…but I will try.Thank you for making us aware of this.
    Julia

    Reply
  2. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

    Thanks Julia, I know Dirk and Nicole appreciate the support. It has been a long and exhausting battle for two lovely folks who are trying to make their community a better place.

    It really is silly. What makes it even sillier in my mind is how rural Lantzville is. Unfortunately as a culture we prioritize use of arable land for things like lawns, golf courses and horses, not food.

    If you want to keep up to date on the situation you can also join the Save Compassion Farm Facebook page here http://www.facebook.com/groups/143703205679538/ .

    Reply

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