Bylaws and Bullshit

Hay and flowers make up the majority of crops on Vancouver Island. Small-scale farmers, Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw, wanted to buck that trend and grow and sell organic fruit and vegetables. They converted a 2 1/2 acre block that had been mined to a gravel pit into a lush microcosm of pumpkin, potatoes, kale, and garlic. They’re intentions are familiar: to provide real, fresh, organic food to the people. Anybody with that motive has my respect.

Lantzville Council isn’t entertained by Becker and Shaw’s venture. The farmers may end up in jail for violating a zoning law that presumably prohibits such land use.

This is a classic example of procedure for the sake of procedure. Sure, and I am not aware that they did, Becker and Shaw should have sought approval to use the land for small-scale farming purposes. But as the saying goes, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. In a situation like this, one would expect that forgiveness would be granted. Instead, a letter they received from Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), on behalf of the District of Lantzville, read “You have 90 days to cease all agricultural activity…Your property is zoned Residential 1, which allows residential use and Home Based Business only”.

In a world that is being taken over by urban sprawl, plastic-wrapped food and urban-rural disconnect, this demand is not surprising. Most switched-off urban people would much prefer to live next door to a pretty golf course or inauthentic reserve planted with foreign trees and scattered with plastic play equipment than a life-affirming patch of biodiversity with its fruit-bearing plants and critters and creatures.

This isn’t the first story about individuals wanting to put their land to good use and then being told by draconian councils to tear the lot up. Jason and Jennifer Helvenston of Orlando, USA, were asked to get rid of their front yard fruit and vegetable garden. The City of Des Moines, Iowa, has attempted to ban the same thing due to aesthetic reasons – apparently organic fruit and vegetables are unsightly compared to expanses of green grass. And Michel Beauchamp and Josee Landry of Drummondville, Quebec were told that only 30% of their front yard could be used for productive gardening and were summonsed to tear up the rest.



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