Gardening a Crime In Canada, Too

"CLICK TO ENLARGE" Growing vegetables in this yard, on Canada's Vancouver Island, could get its owners six months in jail. Note the unsightly piles of dirt, and the criminally edible produce.

(By  Synergy  Mag) “You have 90 days to cease all agricultural activity…” read the letter from the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), on behalf of the District of Lantzville. “Your property is zoned Residential 1, which allows residential use and Home Based Business only.”

With the subsequent public outcry and media storm across Canada, we’ve witnessed how important this issue is to people.

Cities across North America have changed their bylaws to support “urban agriculture” as a legitimate homebased business, including such urban centres as Victoria and Vancouver, BC.

We have 2.5 acres in total, as do several of our neighbours. Three doors down our road are both cows and horses. As you can see from our photographs, the area we live in can hardly be considered “urban”.

However, we are using the term to describe our situation as our property is zoned “residential” and we are doing small scale, organic growing of fruits and vegetables on one acre. Lantzville is a small community (population 3,500) just north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Even the name, Lantzville, evokes images of small town comraderie, walking down main street, basket in hand, to see the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. It’s surprising that on such a quiet, rural, two-block long, dead-end road, with forest across the street and acreages on either side of us, that we would end up being ordered to stop such an essential activity as growing food for others because of a particular bylaw.

The traffic on our dead end road (there are only four houses past us) has increased significantly as people make no bones about slowly driving back and forth to see what all the controversy is about. Of course, from mid-November to mid-February there isn’t much to look at except soil. The photos presented here cover what our property looks like from March through October as well as before and after photos.

Here’s a brief background of our property, to lend some context to our current activities:  The previous owner 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 the property by about four feet. When Dirk assumed ownership, all that remained was gravel.   There were no worms, no grasshoppers, no birds, no butterflies; essentially – no living creatures!

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Since 1999, Dirk has made a tremendous effort to heal the land, beginning slowly – one wheelbarrow at a time. Nicole joined him in 2006. 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 four kinds of bees, several types of dragonflies, numerous types of butterflies, frogs, toads, snakes, 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 (including 4H and homeschoolers), to teaching families how to grow their own food. Three years ago, we also spearheaded Nanaimo’s most successful farmers’ market, The Bowen Road Farmers’ Market at Beban Park. Not to mention volunteering our time to publish this magazine.

Our goal is to have bylaws 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 (Small Plot INtensive – where landless farmers use people’s city backyards to grow food for sale).

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The below links show just how  ridiculous  these  situations are  becoming.

U.S. urban farmer fined for growing food:

A local farmer hobbyist in DeKalb County, Georgia, who sells or gives away the various organic vegetables he grows for fun on his land, as he has for 15 years, is now being sued by the government.

A Calgary man in court over his right to have chickens:

Toronto bylaws squash veggie plot:

What constitutes a “natural” garden to the City of Toronto? Grass, apparently. Just grass. Plus, perhaps a few flowers. But certainly not vegetables.–the-real-dirt-city-squashes-front-yard-veggie-plot

Bylaw enforcement uses conservation officer who uses police in going overboard:

The destruction of much of Vancouver Island’s slaughter house capacity:

In 2004, Saltspring Island produced 2,342 lambs, and longtime residents were already worrying about the low numbers. By 2008, the tally was 44 per cent lower — a drop of more than 1,000 lambs in five years.

Our local newspaper gets a record breaking 130 comments on one of the articles on our particular issue:

Well-known urban farmer and local food production advocate Dirk Becker has been ordered to shut down his 2.5-acre Lantzville farm because of a home business bylaw that does not include agriculture in its regulations.


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