Rumors Abound Despite Water Testing at Compassion Farm

MEDIA RELEASE: Sept. 28, 2011, Lantzville, BC

The situation in Lantzville that has polarized four council members and one neighbour against a local small-plot vegetable farm run by Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw has taken a turn after one year. Despite water testing by the Vancouver Island Health Authority and an investigation by the Ministry of Environment, Lantzville’s Mayor Colin Haime has continued to fear-monger by insisting that the small-plot farm is a danger to the Lantzville water supply and its residents.

Conrad Berube, Environmental Protection Officer for the Ministry of Environment, wrote in an email to Becker and Shaw, “All indications I have thus far indicate that there is little evidence of environmental impact at the farm or neighbouring properties and that the property-use dispute should best be handled through local zoning bylaws.”

He also wrote that he had spoken to Lynne Magee, the Regional Drinking Water Co-ordinator for the VI Health Authority, who took water samples from the property, and shared that their analysis did not indicate that there were “any excursions from Canadian guidelines for drinking water quality.”

“It was one year ago that we received our first letter from Bylaw Enforcement”, says Nicole Shaw. “Over the last year the mayor has moved the goal posts several times. First, he insisted that the problem was a zoning infraction stemming from the selling of our produce at the farmers’ market which was grown on our residentially-zoned property. After he and council received hundreds of letters in support of what we are doing, he changed his position to ‘concerns’ over how we affect our neighbours. After neighbours wrote letters in our support and spoke at council meetings, the mayor changed his stance to ‘concerns’ about traffic, pests and odour–none of which council had ever communicated to us; we found out by reading it in a mailout from the Mayor to all residents of Lantzville. Ten months after the first letter, the mayor moved the goal posts again, this time citing ‘concerns’ about contamination of the water supply. Which, again, wasn’t communicated to us–we found out through the media.”

“Mayor Haime’s campaign is fundamentally libelous and slanderous and has definitely impacted our sales at the farmers’ market.” says Becker. “We no longer have people lined up at our booth. We have seen them move to other vendors’ booths.”

The mayor, who teaches accounting at VIU, accepted a lengthy presentation to Council from Robert Wager, a VIU technician who often writes in support of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Together, they have added to the fear-mongering by lumping the Becker/Shaw small-plot vegetable farm, which utilizes compost to nourish the soil, with large-scale, industrial operations which use heavy equipment to spray anaerobic, liquid cow manure slurry over hundreds of acres. This slurry method mixes manure with water, creating an anaerobic environment which supports dangerous bacteria and pathogens.
Connie Kuramoto, who has been teaching Horticulture for over 30 years explains, “The two methods could not be further apart. Dirk and Nicole’s compost is aerobic, full of oxygen and the good micro organisms. When your compost is full of healthy aerobic microbes they consume the worrisome microbes like E. coli and C. difficile which have difficulty living in the presence of air anyway. When you use plant material and wood shavings like they do in making their compost, it provides the perfect aeration. This is a situation where worms and healthy microbes thrive.
“Compost and manure have been used by farmers for thousands of years.” says Becker. “As petrochemical-based fertilizers become more scarce and expensive, we will continue to see a greater return to traditional methods which has served the human race perfectly well for aeons.”