Our Update on Lantzville ‘Urban’ Agriculture

As a brief background, Dirk and I received our first letter from the RDN/District of Lantzville in September of 2010 telling us to “remove all piles of soil from our property”. In October, we received a second letter ordering us to “cease all agricultural activity” on our 2.5 acre property. For the story, see www.synergymag.ca/a-lantzville-couple’s-fight-for-the-right-to-grow-food

The following are point form updates…

  • Lantzville council members have received hundreds of letters in support of “urban agriculture”.
  • Our council is responsible for all residents of Lantzville.
  • A Lantzville couple, at a November council meeting, requested that council begin the process of reviewing and updating the bylaw to include “urban agriculture” as a legitimate home-based business.
  • We were asked by Twyla Graff, Administrator of the District of Lantzville, on November 25th, 2010 that we and supporters not attend further council meetings as “council had already heard our message loud and clear”. However, four months later, there had been no communication with us or the residents of Lantzville to indicate that any forward movement was happening with the bylaw.
  • In fact, councillor Rod Negrave had made a motion to begin the process of reviewing the bylaw and beginning public consultation… and he was voted down 4 to 2.
  • The next communication was through a mailout to all of Lantzville in late March titled a “message from Mayor Colin Haime to the residents of the District of Lantzville.” (This was six months after the first letter we received.) Within the message, he stated that council had received correspondence on the numerous benefits of local food production, but he listed none. Not a single benefit. However, in the same sentence, he listed seven “concerns” from odour to wellwater contamination. For anyone with a rudimentary familiarity with marketing or public relations, the significance of this biased communication is apparent. Also, the mayor has latched onto the phrase, and continues to use “intensive agricultural activities” to describe what we do. Ignoring that we explained in a letter to Council in November that what we do is considered small plot “bio-intensive” which is very small-scale, uses less soil, less water, growing plants close together. Instead, he and his wife, Councillor Denise Haime continue to refer to what we do “intensive agriculture” and (at the last council meeting of May 9th) “industrial agriculture”, (see the following 3 photos to find out what “industrial intensive agriculture” actually is… compared with the 4th photo which is our garden – what differences do you see?).

  • A group formed in Lantzville called Friends of Urban Agriculture in Lantzville. Their contact person is Andrew Mostad, visit www.LantzvilleUrbanAg.blogspot.com – from the blog: “We have a situation here where it looks as if our mayor and council are trying to take down a functional market garden (Compassion Farm) while

verbally supporting food gardening and urban agriculture. We want to work with our Council and will be offering to meet with them as soon as possible to look for common ground.”

  • The day of the public hearing, March 21st, Mayor Colin Haime posted on the “Lantzville Loggers” facebook group: “Back when we discussed the OCP in 2005, I was proud of the way Lantzville residents were engaged and acted during those meetings. I do not have the same hope for these discussions. Why? I have no idea. No one has said ‘ban urban farming’ except those involved with urban farming.”
  • So, he had no idea why he made such negative assumptions about “these discussions”, then makes an erroneous statement such as “No one has said ‘ban urban farming’ except those involved with urban farming.” What?
  • That evening, over 200 people attended the public hearing at Costin Hall whereby all but three speakers expressed that Temporary Use Permits (T.U.P.s) were not appropriate for “urban agriculture”. However, after the public hearing, we received a registered letter from the District of Lantzville inviting us to apply for a T.U.P. Many attendees of the public hearing, understandably, do not feel heard or represented. The council meeting following the public hearing found council members expressing their surprise at how well behaved attendees were at the public hearing.
  • The ShawTV clip of the public hearing shows the mayor of Lantzville using exaggerated language, “…but when you have…landscapers lining up” Lining up? He goes on to list potential water contamination as well as us “raising the property level considerably”… conveniently leaving out the fact that the previous owner had mined the property down three to five feet and that we have transformed what was essentially a gravel pit into a lush, living oasis.
  • April 13th, Councillor Warren Griffey and his wife arrived at the neighbour’s and walked our property line taking photos. I walked over and asked Warren what was up. He said, “Just seeing what’s going on, taking some photos.” I then asked him why he has never come by for a tour (only Rod Negrave has come by). He replied that he had talked to Dirk about a month ago (only because he and his wife were driving slowly past our house and Dirk ran over and stopped them on the road – Griffey did not get out of his car). I said I remembered that and again asked why he hadn’t come for a tour to see what it is we actually do. He said he had a very good idea of what we do. I asked him to explain (because I was curious if he really did understand). He quickly shook his head with his shoulders raised and exclaimed, “Agriculture! I’m not going to say it isn’t because it is!” This was such an off-the-wall response so I asked him what he meant and he said, “I’m not going to play games,” and he abruptly turned on his heels and walked back to the other side of the neighbour’s hedge.
  • A prime example of what goes on in Lantzville council meetings: we read in the minutes that Councillor Denise Haime had received four “comments” from residents “concerned” about impacts of “industrial” urban agriculture… but there was no mention of the hundreds of letters in support of small-scale urban agriculture.
  • Another example of what we read in council meeting minutes is Councillor Denise Haime saying she “had spoken to the previous owner” of our property and learned that “the property was in good shape”. Here is a link to the Engineering Site Investigation report of the property just before Dirk bought it: www.synergymag.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/7560-Fenmar-Rd-Site-Investigation-sm.pdf … Of particular note: the oil tanks, soil screening operation and the pile (of approximately 60 cubic metres) of asphalt road base, among many other things.
  • Another example is Mayor and Councillor, Colin and Denise Haime, carrying on at a council meeting about their daughter being attacked in the “Protect Urban Agriculture” facebook group. This is a fabrication. I was told by those who stayed behind for the February 28th council meeting (after the original public hearing was postponed due to too many people attending for the space provided) that council members brought up that Haime’s daughter’s VIU class came up with 20 potential negative impacts of urban agriculture. If the people in attendance misunderstood whose class it was, no harm done. The salient point being that the focus was on potential negative impacts, with no positive impacts mentioned. Mayor Colin Haime emailed me, demanding a public apology for attacking his daughter, to which I stated there was nothing to apologize for. From the beginning of this issue, Mayor Colin Haime and several council members have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, a negative bias rather than truly representing all residents of Lantzville.
  • At an April council meeting, Councillor Dempsey announced  they were going to “ram through a bylaw”, implying that is what supporters of urban agriculture want. At the time of this printing, the residents of Lantzville have received in the mail a draft bylaw for urban agriculture. It should simply be called, “Say NO to Urban Farming”. See the proposed bylaw: www.lantzville.ca/cms/wpattachments/wpID462atID3362.pdf
  • Some of the online comments made about the draft bylaw are as follows…

“The 2 person limit would outlaw the average family (2 parents + 2 kids) from working in the garden together.”

“Four (non resident) off street parking spots must be made available but only two people can be involved in the business and no on-site sales. They state “No pesticides or herbicides shall be used” (not that [Compassion Farm]would ever use it) but your neighbours, golf course, etc. can use toxic crap anywhere/anytime?! Residents can install lawn irrigation systems that use Lantzville’s water… [but small urban gardens cannot use city water]. My heart is just pounding! I don’t get how it isn’t our right, as a human being on this planet, to grow food?! Do you think that if the majority of residents in Lantzville turned their front yards into gardens as a way to show council that they will not have their right to grow food taken away from them, that it would create change within the system? We could start a sign up sheet, and one day a week go to these yards and help the owners with the labour of creating a garden! Maybe we could even get West Coast Seeds, etc. to donate seeds for this project. The horticulture students at VIU, Gaia, etc. could gain valuable hours by volunteering… could be a class project for them to learn project management, marketing… thoughts?”

“Yeah that’s designed to kill farming, but cleverly designed to easily allow for the average self-use food garden.”

“Your property and what you are doing is lovely. Seeing the neighbor, I was reminded of my friend Leah who is doing her masters in South Africa right now. She says there are properties of the poor, where they are growing lawns instead of food (and they are starving), because of the appearance of ‘status’ that it gives them. The whole idea of lawns is the idea of being ‘rich’. Urban agriculture is only having to be redefined in North America in the last fifty years because of the horrible mockery we’ve created of farming as a result of industrial agriculture. These neighbors appear to have never visited Europe, where it is a matter of national pride to have different vegetables, meat, poultry, mushrooms grown in different regions where they know that the soil affects taste, and the soil is prized. What you are doing is inspiring. What the neighbors and this bylaw are doing is holding on to the last thread of patriarchal, colonial and completely aggravating lack of conscious awareness into where our society needs to move with food security. This bylaw is ridiculous.”

“This document is from politicians who haven’t researched this issue, or spent any time with urban agriculturalists. Thank goodness for the election around the corner…I think our time would be well spent in convincing Rod Negrave to run for Mayor and rallying voters to relieve at least three of these people from the hard work of being an elected public servant. Clearly, listening to the people is far too demanding…”

“I think The Amend Bylaw No.60.23 needs to be revised as it is totally unacceptable! I hope the people will make this an election issue!”

  • It is very important how we as a community, as a society and as a culture frame this issue. This is not simply an issue of a bylaw. This issue is a matter of sustainability in general, food sustainability, food security and basic human rights.