Compassion Farm Update – May 2012

Daily, people ask us “What’s going on with your situation?”, “Is everything okay now?”

Lets get right to it, shall we?

On April 2nd we received an email telling us:

“…that Council, at its in-camera meeting held Monday, March 26th, 2012, directed that staff have our bylaw enforcement officer attend to your property and conduct a re-inspection”.

As nothing significant had changed since the last inspections (by various levels of government including, Regional District of Nanaimo Bylaw Enforcement, Vancouver Island Health Authority, Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Agriculture), we subsequently engaged in several back and forth emails attempting to illicit information as to what they actually wanted to inspect. Frankly, to us, it smelled like a fishing expedition and felt like a witch hunt. They refused to tell us the real purpose, declining to give any specifics, but claimed that this “re-inspection” was “simply to demonstrate a collaborative approach”!

Finally, after several days of emails, we wrote:

“This going back and forth isn’t moving us forward. For the record, we always have been, and continue to be, willing to be visited. If council truly wishes to demonstrate a ‘collaborative approach’ then it behooves them to be more forthcoming with their intentions. As we’ve previously stated, nothing of significance has changed in the last year and a half [ie: we are still growing food for sale, on residentially-zoned property]. If council is unwilling to openly and honestly reveal what they are looking for, and for what purpose, then we see no point in a ‘re-inspection’.”

We did not receive a response to that email.

On April 23rd we were contacted by a friend of ours who has been bringing grass clippings to us for the last 10 years (rather than driving them to Duke Point). He informed us that he and his wife had received a letter by courier from the Regional District of Nanaimo. The letter stated that he was to cease bringing us grass and if he did not, they would take legal action against him. Ironically, the letter was from the “Zero Waste Compliance Officer”. We are still scratching our heads and attempting to get an explanation in writing. Even more funny is, for years, the District of Lantzville brought their grass clippings here after mowing our parks.

On May 4th, Lantzvillagers, who brought two wheelbarrow loads of yard rakings (pine/fir needles from under their trees), received a similar letter, stating the RDN tracked their license plate number and also threatening legal action if they do not comply.

On April 24th, we received a letter from the District of Lantzville stating that we are in contravention of the small business zoning bylaw.

The letter states: “that the homebased business (sale of rain barrels) must be wholly contained within a dwelling unit, attached garage and/or accessory building (no outside storage of rain barrels). …and must not create noise vibration, glare, fumes, odours, dust or smoke detectable off the parcel and must not change the outside appearance of the property or create other visible evidence of its existence, except for one sign.”

We find this interesting because there are many home based businesses in Lantzville that conduct business outside their dwelling or accessory building.

For example, Councilor Brian Dempsey, who continues to speak against us on a regular basis, sells christmas trees on his residential land which he grows to achieve ‘farm status’ in order to pay less property taxes. Obviously, his ‘home based business’ is performed outside. He has people driving to his house to select, cut, wrap and load christmas trees. The trees have to be trimmed and pruned throughout the year and also cut for harvesting using noisy gas-powered machines. Conversely, our rain barrels are very quiet, food-grade, plastic barrels.

Consider the irony:

Lantzville’s number one issue is finding ‘water’. We happen to promote and teach water conservation and sell rain barrels to do just that. For a number of years, the Regional District had me do water conservation/rain barrel public workshops for them.

Lantzville’s number two issue is ‘urban agriculture’. We are the only farm in Lantzville that grows any significant amount of food for sale, yet tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent in an attempt to shut us down.

Therefore, it is natural for one to wonder what is ‘really going on’? Somehow, we have supplied happy citizens in this area with rain barrels for 12 years! It seems that because the endeavour of shutting us down failed, that those who were removed from council— and some who survived the election —are now looking for anything they can to ‘enforce’.

It bears mentioning that our new mayor and two of our councilors have demonstrated that they are progressive and forward-thinking. Three have clearly demonstrated that they are essentially ‘against us’. One has been the ‘swing vote’. We are hoping he will soon take a strong and clear stand.

In the recent civic election, Nanaimo had a 26% turnout. The capital of British Columbia also had only 26% (the best turn out in nine years). Lantzville shot from its paltry 22% and doubled to 44%. The citizens of Lantzville spoke loud and clear at the voting booth by removing three of the four councilors who were publicly against us. Only the ex-mayor’s wife, councilor Denise Haime, survived.

In a recent council meeting, councilor Haime, yet again exposed her extreme bias by flashing photographs (to the audience) of Nicole and I moving soil and planting an orchard. When our neighbor, Mr. Brash, complained during the public participation portion of the council meeting, she encouraged people to “Go to senior levels of government”!

Clearly some on council have no interest in what the majority of the citizens of Lantzville want. Many ‘in the know’ have told us that the ex-mayor and his wife simply want revenge and they will do whatever they have to in order to quench their insatiable thirst for it.

Our stand all along has been:

If the people of Lantzville want us to stay here and grow food, we will. If they want us to cease and desist and/or leave Lantzville, we will do so gladly.

Daily it is becoming more clear that food security and food sustainability is important to Canadians. Urban Farming is global movement. We only have two days fresh food supply in our grocery stores. If there is any kind of emergency, stores will be empty in two hours. Only 3% of land in BC is arable. We grow less than 4% of our food on Vancouver Island, therefore we import 96% of our food. Campbell River imports 99% of their food!

What will it take for politicians and lawmakers to understand the importance of growing food anywhere we can?

Our stand on ‘Urban Agriculture’ is:

Urban agriculture must move forward from a place of being ‘permitted’ or ‘allowed’, to a position of being supported, encouraged and protected.

One ex-councilor would go on about “Do you want a body shop next door?”.

The ex-mayor would ask citizens, “Do you want a pig farm next door”? The rumors and fear mongering about manure have continued to this day and need to stop. How do they think food is grown? In a hydroponic plastic bubble?

Councilor Denise Haime and others have insisted they are not against Urban Agriculture but their behavior frequently demonstrates otherwise. It seems obvious that anything more than a small, quaint English garden tucked away in one’s back yard is out of their sphere of acceptability.

Our question is:

When will certain council members respect the wishes of the majority of the good citizens of Lantzville who clearly cast their votes in favor of progressive thinking and removed three of the four who were not listening? Will they continue to choose being driven by ego and personal vendetta, or will they do what they swore an oath to do?

This is from the District of Lantzville website:

Mission Statement:

Provide a high level of affordable services in an environmentally and economically sustainable fashion while managing growth of the community and respecting the unique rural character and charm.

Council Values:

  • Act in a professional manner at all times, having respect for:
  • each other,
  • the roles of Council and Staff,
  • the decision making process,
  • opinions of all of our constituents, and
  • Carry out adequate research and thoughtfully consider the issues before us, while serving and representing all of our Community.

We will let the reader judge as to level congruency there is between the above statements and their actions over the last 20 months.

For the record, our neighbour, Mr. Brash continues his campaign of bullying harassment, yelling at us that we live in a “shit hole”, following us when we leave the house in our truck and continuing to take photographs, almost daily, of us and guests who visit.

For background, the chronological timeline or more information, please go to:

Dirk Becker is an organic farmer, agricultural advocate and assists in the creation of this publication.