The trouble with attempting to be progressive is that there are often rules against it, whether written or unwritten. It may be the neighbours who don’t like the fact that you tore out your front lawn and replaced it with potatoes and squash plants, or in Dirk Becker’s case, it is the District of Lantzville’s Business Bylaw that prohibits agricultural activities in a residential setting.

The Mayor is in support of seeing some changes:

Haime [the Mayor] visited some of Becker and Shaw’s neighbours and has found that most people agree with urban farming, but they have some concerns.

“Nobody’s in opposition of growing food. I can’t see anybody opposing that, but how is it going to work?” he asked.

Becker said he has had difficulty with one neighbour over the years, but he and Shaw have never tried to hide what they do. They grow about 1,300 kilograms of squash in a single year, 900 kilograms of potatoes, 230 kilograms of watermelon and 4,000 garlic bulbs. Plus enough greens to fill a pickup truck 10 times over.

“What we want to see is an amendment to the bylaw as Victoria has done, where urban farming is considered legal and a home-based business,” said Becker.

Lantzville shuts down Dirk Becker’s urban farm – Nanaimo Daily News

ApplesThese laws, which are restrictive of change, whether good or bad, are the result of years of trying to remove our society from the evidence of the sometimes messy business of industries like food production, energy, manufacturing and waste disposal. Many of the changes made in the form of zoning bylaws had good intentions to start with, keeping smelly or toxic  industries away from housing and parks, but in many places, the efforts have destroyed any randomness or community cohesion that forms (in a good way) when different activities or social classes rub shoulders.

Simple solution, change the laws, municipalities need to stop being so restrictive on activities that do not create any worse noise or odour than the redneck neighbour who insists on revving his hotted-up pickup truck every time he drives to the liquor store. There are limits that are reasonable. It would be inappropriate to allow a CAFO (Confined Animal Feedlot) operation in a residential area, or an activity where large trucks or farm machinery operated frequently. Rather than resisting when someone pushes the envelope in a sustainable manner, quit thinking that the decision is going to lead to cows and manure piles, instead, see it as an opportunity to empower a citizen in an enterprise that has little effect on the neighbours, and possibly will help residents be healthier, and happier, and keeps a small amount of money from leaving the community to line the coffers of some multi-national corporation who really doesn’t care about your little community.

I hope this case can be sorted out quickly, this is a problem manufactured entirely  by a law that is at least a decade out of date.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.