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A Lantzville Couple’s Fight for the Right to Grow Food

Nicole and Dirk

Author: Nicole and Dirk

Article:

“You have 90 days to cease all agricultural activity…” read the letter from the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), on behalf of the District of Lantzville. “Your property is zoned Residential 1, which allows residential use and Home Based Business only.”

With the subsequent public outcry and media storm across Canada, we’ve witnessed how important this issue is to people.

Cities across North America have changed their bylaws to support “urban agriculture” as a legitimate homebased business, including such urban centres as Victoria and Vancouver, BC.

We have 2.5 acres in total, as do several of our neighbours. Three doors down our road are both cows and horses. As you can see from our photographs, the area we live in can hardly be considered “urban”. However, we are using the term to describe our situation as our property is zoned “residential” and we are doing small scale, organic growing of fruits and vegetables on one acre. Lantzville is a small community (population 3,500) just north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Even the name, Lantzville, evokes images of small town comraderie, walking down main street, basket in hand, to see the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. It’s surprising that on such a quiet, rural, two-block long, dead-end road, with forest across the street and acreages on either side of us, that we would end up being ordered to stop such an essential activity as growing food for others because of a particular bylaw.

The traffic on our dead end road (there are only four houses past us) has increased significantly as people make no bones about slowly driving back and forth to see what all the controversy is about. Of course, from mid-November to mid-February there isn’t much to look at except soil. The photos presented here cover what our property looks like from March through October as well as before and after photos.

Here’s a brief background of our property, to lend some context to our current activities: The previous owner used an excavator and dump truck to mine and scrape the land bare. He had a soil screener set up on the property, selling the soil, then sand, then gravel, which resulted in lowering the level of the property by about four feet. When Dirk assumed ownership, all that remained was gravel.  There were no worms, no grasshoppers, no birds, no butterflies; essentially – no living creatures!

Since 1999, Dirk has made a tremendous effort to heal the land, beginning slowly – one wheelbarrow at a time. Nicole joined him in 2006. It has been a gradual, organic process from planting a few fruit trees and having a small growing area, to expanding with more hand-made soil using wood chips from local tree companies and a small amount of horse manure from local, Lantzville stables. Now we have four kinds of bees, several types of dragonflies, numerous types of butterflies, frogs, toads, snakes, hundreds of birds and much more! We have dedicated our time to supporting hundreds of community members who have sought guidance on how to become more sustainable in their own lives; from educating people on how to support sustainable local initiatives (including 4H and homeschoolers), to teaching families how to grow their own food. Three years ago, we also spearheaded Nanaimo’s most successful farmers’ market, The Bowen Road Farmers’ Market at Beban Park. Not to mention volunteering our time to publish this magazine.

Our goal is to have bylaws updated to reflect the current awareness and future needs of our communities. Yes, we could apply for rezoning, however this would only help “us” not the many people who are urban farming or SPIN farming (Small Plot INtensive – where landless farmers use people’s city backyards to grow food for sale).

This issue impacts all of us on Vancouver Island. Many of you are aware that only 5% of our food supply is grown on Vancouver Island, thus 95% is imported. It may shock you to know that there is only two days fresh food supply on Vancouver Island. That means, any disruption in ferry service, trucking or problems at the US border (75% of BC’s food comes from California) would have a dramatic and immediate effect on our food supply.

To us, “urban farming” is much more than a growing “trend” throughout North America – it is the way of the future; and the future is now.

Each year land prices increase, preventing new farmers – especially younger ones – from acquiring land. Remaining farmable land (even including the Agricultural Land Reserve) is forever swallowed up by development, further reducing our ability to sustain ourselves and increasing our already extreme dependence on imported food. In light of this, we strongly believe it is our responsibility as individuals and as a community to stop and reverse this trend of complete unsustainability and at least work towards a model of self-reliance.

Our intention:

That together, we see this as an opportunity to “change the system”. From day one, we did not want the focus to be “us”.

Keep in mind what the bylaw means is that all ”urban farming” and SPIN farming is illegal! This includes: honey, vegetables, meat, eggs, plants, flowers, fruit, nuts – you name it! Of course, this affects urban and SPIN farmers at the Bowen Road Farmers’ Market as well as at other farmers’ markets in Canada where municipal bylaws have not been updated to reflect support for sustainable, local food production.

Articles in the media have been hit and miss as far as accurate information goes, with some columnists even expressing opinions without knowing a thing about the issue, so it made sense for us to list the events as they have taken place over the past few months.

Sept. 24th – We received a letter by courier from the RDN, letting us know that they had received complaints about the condition of our property. (to read this and the subsequent letter, click here and scroll to bottom)They cited Lantzville’s “Unsightly Premises” bylaw stating that their recent inspection “confirmed piles of manure and soil all over the property as well as on the District of Lantzville right of way.” They stated that we were to remove “the piles of soil and manure from the property and boulevard within fourteen (14) days,” and if we did not comply that Regional District staff could “remove the items at [our] expense”. We couldn’t help but notice the irony in that the letter was dated September 23rd, the same day that 8,000 compost bins were distributed to households in our region!

Sept. 29th – We met with the RDN Bylaw Enforcement Officer, Brian Brack. Paul Manly, an independent filmmaker who has been following us for the past year, came along but was not allowed to film the meeting. During the meeting, we agreed to move the one pile of soil that was closest to the road and Mr. Brack gave us an extension to the end of October. Later that day, Mr. Brack and his manager arrived at our house, drove into the backyard while we were working and asked if we were going to move the pile. Dirk said he had planned on getting on it later in the day. After weeding for a few hours, we borrowed a trailer and worked until dark moving the pile. We had moved over half the pile before returning the trailer. The next morning, Mr. Brack and his manager showed up again. I was feeling irritated as he asked again if we were going to move the pile. I told him we worked until dark moving the soil and were planning to finish it soon. Dirk then came to the door and reiterated the same. We finished moving the pile that day. So… We moved the pile within 48 hours of our meeting with Mr. Brack. In that 48 hours, Mr. Brack and his manager showed up at the house twice, once per day, both times asking if we were going to move the pile, even though their letter gave us 14 days (until Oct. 7th) and Mr. Brack had given us a verbal extension until the end of October.

Oct. 25th – Mr. Brack arrived at our place again (for at least the fourth time that we are aware of) and informed us that he’d been instructed to enforce our zoning and would be sending us a letter to that effect.

Our place in March

Nov. 4th – We received the second letter by courier, dated Nov. 2nd stating that we have “90 days to cease all agricultural activity”. We immediately emailed Mr. Brack to ask him for a copy of the bylaw as it wasn’t available online and we wanted to understand exactly what the infraction(s) was. (We were told by City Hall that we could either read the bylaw in the City Hall office or purchase a copy for $35.00). We also asked Mr. Brack who he would recommend our friends and neighbours should direct questions to because we would be sharing this information with people. His response was, “I would suggest your friends channel their questions through you and you can liase with me by phone or by email or make an appointment to see me in person.” We emailed back saying, “their questions would be of a more general nature, about the bylaw, urban renewal, sustainability and urban farming. While we appreciate that you are a Bylaw Enforcement Officer and your job is to ‘enforce bylaws’, we hope that you appreciate that this issue transcends the nuances of our particular case. Out of common courtesy and professionalism, we are asking who you suggest that our friends should contact about the issues beyond yourself and Twyla.” (Twyla Graff is the Lantzville Administrator). …We did not receive a reply.

Nov. 9th – We sent an email to Lantzville’s mayor and council giving them the background of the property (shared above) including before and after photos, sharing web links to urban farming sites including Victoria’s bylaw change, letting them know Vancouver Island only grows 5% of the food we consume here, the importance of supporting local agriculture and giving them the heads up that they may receive questions from Lantzville residents about the current residential zoning bylaw. Two councillors replied, thanking us for the email. The Mayor did not respond.

Nov. 14th (we allowed five days to pass) – We then sent a detailed email to friends and neighbours in Lantzville only, attaching the letters we had received from the RDN, so they would understand that this meant all “urban farming” and SPIN farming is illegal. We stated our intention was that we do not want to be the focus, that our goal is to change the bylaws so that everyone in our region and across Canada who wants to grow food for sale, can do so. As we still had not received a reply from Mr. Brack, we listed the contact information for those who made sense to us: our Mayor and Council, the RDN Board members as well as Mr. Brack, Twyla Graff and Chris Midgely, the sustainability director, to bring them into the loop.

Within two hours of sending this personal email out, the Mayor of Lantzville, Colin Haime, got hold of it and reacted by sending us an email, criticizing and lecturing us as well as letting us know that he had only received one email so far from a community member. (Umm… since our email had only been sent two hours prior… that would make sense, no?).

For the next few days, a strange email exchange ensued with us doing our best to address his “concerns” and what seemed to be him avoiding our own points and concerns. He repetitively used phrases such as “I’m merely stating…”, “Just a suggestion…”, “Just my opinion…”  followed by what sounded and felt to be biased opinions. He wrote that he was within his mandate, working on behalf of all 3600 residents, while the vociferousness of the exchange strongly suggested otherwise. He “merely stated” that we were “using children as emotional pawns”; criticized the subject line of our email to friends and neighbours which read “Dirk and Nicole have been ordered to stop farming”; asked “Why is current agricultural land in Lantzville inadequate for farming?”; let us know that emails to “RDN directors will carry no weight in achieving changes to bylaws in Lantzville”; and insisted he was within his mandate by telling us the “RDN directors have no ability or desire to allow Dirk and Nicole to farm.” We mentioned that we saw him visit the neighbour’s and suggested while he was right here it would have been a good opportunity for him to stop in to see what we are doing (Nicole recognized his vehicle as having already been to the one neighbour’s house three to four times). He didn’t respond to that point, or to a number of direct questions we asked. To us, it was essentially a one-way communciation, so after five emails we finally asked him to refrain from emailing us until he could do so in an unbiased, open and professional manner.

A council member dropped by during this exchange to see the place. To this day, he is the only one who has come for a tour and communicated in an open, warm, collaborative manner. Another council member emailed us to ask a series of “questions” such as “I find it interesting that Richmond does not allow backyard chickens, why don’t you get people to jump all over them?”

A local couple obtained a copy of Lantzville’s bylaw 60 and as it is written, residentially zoned properties cannot “grow crops”. It doesn’t address selling, just growing crops. Vegetable gardens are crops, so as the bylaw now reads, in essence, people on residentially zoned property cannot grow food.

Nov 19 – The media called! At that point in time, we also sent a detailed email to community members in the broader Nanaimo area.

Over the next few days, several articles were published in Nanaimo newspapers, some of which, particularly Derek Spalding’s articles, went across Canada, the U.S. and were even published in the India Times. Once the media became involved, the mayor suddenly changed his tune and sounded open and collaborative.

Nov. 21st – The media called and asked us to respond to them being told that we were being given an extension by the District of Lantzville – that was the first we’d heard of it.

Nov. 22nd – Brian Brack emailed to ask us to meet with him and Twyla Graff. This was the first time we had heard from him since we asked him who the community should contact about the bylaw on Nov. 4th, 18 days earlier.

Nov. 25th – We met with Brian Brack and Twyla Graff. Before getting to his point, Mr. Brack complained about the amount of emails and phonecalls they were receiving. He also warned us that we were “at risk of alienating the RDN”. Dirk stopped him to remind him that all Mr. Brack did was send a letter ordering us to stop farming and our lives were “turned upside down”. Whereas Mr. Brack and Ms. Graff were getting paid to deal with community concerns. After sharing our dissapointment concerning the manner in which we had been treated by the Mayor, lost sleep, lost crops due to being overwhelmed by this issue, we moved on to what they wanted to cover in the meeting. They verbally gave us an extension of 90 days to farm (for a total of 180 days from Nov. 22nd). They said then we could apply for a “Temporary Use Permit” (T.U.P.) which could give us up to three years, giving staff time to arrange public consultation meetings. They asked that we and supporters not attend the December council meeting as council had already heard our message loud and clear.

So, where we are at now is essentially a waiting game. What they told us in that meeting is they will begin a public consultation process by the end of January. They asked us to give them time to get their ducks in a row, as it were. Therefore, understandably, we and our supporters are waiting with bated breath, poised and hoping for the best.

We have received hundreds of emails and phone calls in support (and for the span of a few weeks we each received 200 emails per day!). Many of the letters sent to council, media and us said things like, “Eyes across Canada are watching you Lantzville,” “This is an opportunity for you to lead by example.” And this is indeed how we see it – an opportunity.

In summary, 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. Furthermore, this issue also addresses and delves into our societal values. It begs the question, at this point in time, with what we now know, what do we value more: unbridled development (further destroying farmland, our food system and our ability to feed ourselves by building yet more golf courses and shopping malls on farmland) or do we value our health, that of our children’s and the health of our environment – our earth which we depend on for our health and our survival. The future is for us to decide. Let us decide now.

We feel strongly that it is our responsibility as citizens to decide the future of our communities. This requires us to stand up and take the lead by making our voices heard. This then will force our “leaders” to follow us. They are our elected and paid “employees”. We, the taxpayer, are the “boss”. When there are bylaws and laws that do not serve us, and are even unjust, it befalls and behooves us to make sure those laws are changed for the good of all.

Below, you will find some current examples of what we speak of. We encourage you to make yourselves more aware of what your rights are as a citizen before they are taken away without you even knowing. It is much easier to retain your rights than it is to get them back once you’ve lost them. We look forward to your letters and feedback on this issue.

Dirk and Nicole are local food advocates, farmers, founders and board members of the Bowen Road Farmers’ Market, volunteer publishers of this magazine as well as active community members.

Links:

Shaw TV Interview with Dirk Becker, Nicole Shaw and Mayor Colin Haime (5 min):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMvorJvbo4U

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Contact info:

District of Lantzville Councilor’s phone numbers and email addresses:

http://www.lantzville.ca/cms.asp?wpID=465

Mayor Colin Haime said this email should also be used:  council@lantzville.ca

Regional District of Nanaimo Board of Directors phone numbers, mailing and email addresses:

http://www.rdn.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=1886

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Calgary man in court over his right to have chickens:

http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Feathers+another+Cowtown+chicken+caper/3920399/story.html

Toronto bylaws squash veggie plot:

What constitutes a “natural” garden to the City of Toronto? Grass, apparently. Just grass. Plus, perhaps a few flowers. But certainly not vegetables…

http://www.yourhome.ca/homes/outdoorliving/gardeningandlandscaping/article/877949–the-real-dirt-city-squashes-front-yard-veggie-plot

Bylaw enforcement uses conservation officer who uses police in going overboard:

http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/opinion/article/1356483

The destruction of much of Vancouver Island’s slaughter house capacity:

In 2004, Saltspring Island produced 2,342 lambs, and longtime residents were already worrying about the low numbers. By 2008, the tally was 44 per cent lower — a drop of more than 1,000 lambs in five years…

http://thetyee.ca/Life/2010/03/11/LambsToSlaughter/

North Vancouver Mayor declares war on lawns:

http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Mayor+wants+convert+North+Vancouver+lawns+into+gardens+fruits+vegetables/3816483/story.html

Our local newspaper gets a record breaking 130 comments on one of the articles on our particular issue:

Well-known urban farmer and local food production advocate Dirk Becker has been ordered to shut down his 2.5-acre Lantzville farm because of a home business bylaw that does not include agriculture in its regulations.

http://www2.canada.com/nanaimodailynews/news/story.html?id=c59ffbaa-16ec-4768-a0d1-d6df650e2ff0

U.S. urban farmer fined for growing food:

A local farmer hobbyist in DeKalb County, Georgia, who sells or gives away the various organic vegetables he grows for fun on his land, as he has for 15 years, is now being sued by the government.

http://www.frugal-cafe.com/public_html/frugal-blog/frugal-cafe-blogzone/2010/09/14/cabbage-gate-punish-the-productive-georgia-county-sues-local-farmer-for-growing-too-many-vegetables-on-his-land/

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 17th, 2011 at 5:29 am and is filed under FEATURE. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

39 Responses to “A Lantzville Couple’s Fight for the Right to Grow Food”

  1. This is a very exhaustive account of the issue, well done.

    Have you figured out what the wording of your bylaw should be? As soon as you establish your wording then the opposition will be able to come forward with their, either reasonable issues that can be debated and possibly compromises figured out, or false issues that can be rebutted and would reveal the climate change denial and culture of entitlement ideology behind them.

    Would you amend definitions in existing bylaws, to suit, or create a whole new Urban Farming bylaw and then address any conflicts with existing bylaws with amendments as needed?

    I guess we could define the animals and activities that are prohibited. Urban Farming could be included as a type of home-based business. It would require a definition. Perhaps the definition of an “Urban Farm” could be debated on the BC food systems Network. What is your definition Dirk?

    Do you think we need a BC-wide food sovereignty resolution like the one Vermont passed recently? Then from this provincial resolution there will be pressure on municipalities to develop the corresponding bylaws.

    Not to say we need to wait for the resolution to develop the municipal bylaws. I think we need to allow for goats (milk for babies and children), chickens, ducks, vermiculture and other agricultural micro-enterprises so that people can work towards employing themselves as well as feeding themselves in a RAPIDLY changing climate.

  2. Lia says:

    This article was coherent and logical. It painted a very clear picture of events as they have transpired.
    The simple truth is that the more local organic food there is–the better. If it is grown in an isolated rural area, that is good, but if it is grown in a slightly more urban setting, because of the reduction in transportation requirments, that is even better!
    The only reason that any law exists–supposedly–is to encourage “good” things to happen, and discourage “bad” things from happening. With that in mind, it is obvious that the bylaw needs changed. A positive enterprise that feeds many nearby people high quality food, should be supported, and not harrassed.
    I think it is great that Dirk and Nicole have recognized the scope of the issue and its implications for society as a whole and not focused only on the upheaval caused in thier own lives by the bylaw enforcement. This situation is a great oppotunity to ignite poitive change.

  3. Jorg scott says:

    I am very grateful to Dirk and Nicole for being catalysts on this issue. I would also like to express gratitude to the city of lantzville as it struggles to look beyond the egos involved and instead focusses on the larger issue. We desperately need increases in local food production. We need it more than we need manicured lawns or maximized property values. We need it now before food prices rise even faster than they already are. (its coming this year folks). Our children need it to increase their access to nutritious food. Our economy needs it as the global economy continues to shake down traditional revenue streams and people look for alternative ways to support their families. Our earth needs it as small scale local food production tends to be more sustsainable than industrial agriculture. As a plus, local food production is generally more accountable and transparent to the community it serves. History will favour the proactive on this issue. Lantzville and the RDN have a golden opportunity be proactive for the benefit of us all.

  4. PER AKERMALM says:

    Hi,

    Great article. Generally, bylaws are too detailed and are written to regulate specific purposes, not the actual effects on neighbours and other people involved.

    Not only urban farming, but other types of businesses are at issue here. For example, if I wish to set up a machine in my basement to produce something that I can sell, there are bylaws that actually prevent that. Further, those bylaws have their extentions into the insurance provisions too, which pretty well make my house insurance invalid if such a business is located in a home. Someone might suggest that some kinds of home manufacturing are noisy or dangerous. Suppose, for example, that a manufacturing process is somewhat noisy, but cannot be heard beyond the walls of your dwelling and also suppose that you or your son own a noisy motorbike that is driven at all times of the day and night. There should be no problem with the small manufacturing machine in the basement, I would think, but to me and many, many others, noisy motorbikes are definitely a problem.

    I would suggest that the right way to change the laws and the bylaws would be to specify what physical parameters should be given limits. For example, noise levels, effluents/smell from any residential operations, disturbing truck traffic for home businesses, etc. can be regulated. The police in some countries routinely use noise level meters to measure the noise level from vehicles and do not try to determine if for example a motorbike muffler system has been altered in some way. No, it is the actual measured decibel number that is used. The same kind of reasoning can be used for residential farming. There should be no issue whatsoever if your neighbour grows food on their property, provided levels of noise, smell, etc. are within determined and reasonable limits. What may have a bearing on the issue would be the amount of traffic when customers buy such residentially grown food. However, if traffic safety is respected so that vehicles can park safely on a wide shoulder or on a driveway, that should also be OK.

    I was very impressed with Nicole’s and Dirk’s beautiful garden pictures. All power to you Nicole and Dirk!

    Per Akermalm

  5. annie hewitt says:

    Thankyou for spreading the story, and not giving in to the legal jargon. Your story and plight are traveling the globe (I am in Spain) and we are outraged at this blinkered response to a logical solution. Is it possible that Dirk has upset a council member in the past? and now they see an opportunity to bully you into compliance.

    I do believe this is bigger than LANZVILLE.
    I do believe there exists a plan for a New World Order. (did someone say Monsanto?)
    I do believe Dirk and Nicole are some of the pioneers in this lifestyle that is embraced by more and more “ordinary” people, and they will be able to continue to do what they do. We need them! Perhaps we will see the right to grow food written into the constitution, (which is really just words on paper and an excuse to bankroll lawyers).
    Blessings to you and a Pox on the interpretation of this ridiculous bylaw

  6. Randy says:

    I see nothing here but a one sided rant. I have personally viewed the email exchange between Mayor Haime and Nicole Shaw and her quotes are inaccurate and some of the contents of the above are outright lies.

    Why dont you start by being honest? Why don’t you publish the actual email exchange?

    This has more to do with the promotion of Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw. They are using a very important issue for their own self promotion.

  7. Tracy Garrett says:

    This bylaw sounds stupid at a time we are promoting the 100mile diet.

  8. annie hewitt says:

    I don’t know if this will help…its from the UK.
    http://universallyaware.ning.com/forum/topics/big-news-on-council-tax-case?xg_source=facebookshare

    man stands up to the council and wins.

    blessings
    Annie Hewitt

  9. Unbelievable!!! This is outright nonsense. BTW I live in a decidedly urban setting and I fully intend to grow herbs and veggies (not on a “big” scale as you do, though).

    And yet they tolerate all kinds and polluting businesses bordering residential areas?

  10. Lyn Hancock says:

    Thanks, Dirk and Nicole, for your rational narration of the steps that led up to your situation. Your place alive with vegetables is a welcome sight for we health and planet conscious types. I found it unbelievable that anybody would complain. Do you have a photo of what they were complaining about? If the complainant thought ‘the pile’ was so unsightly – and indeed if it was – couldn’t just a warning ‘ticket’ be given? Maybe good can come of this eventually and bylaws changed to accommodate what you have been doing to grow and sell healthy produce for the local market. I regard you as heroes here in Lantzville and I couldn’t help speaking my mind about it to whomever would listen in the municipal offices as soon as I heard about “the cessation of all activity” command. I wish you well.

  11. Hello

    My vision to inspire local growing of food for our community is to provide housing for farmers.. please see my web site and newspaper article from our local paper here on Saltspring Island.
    All the best to you.. I would like to help. let me know what I can do..

    Johanna Murray

  12. Pegi Willan says:

    Dirk and Nicole,
    Keep up the good work. Pleasure to see people that love the land and our earth.
    Sometimes I think the ability to impose decisions on others causes a form of dementia for so many times there is little thought behind the rational of the ideas.
    If there is something your commenters can do like sign a huge petition online let us know. You will have so many signatures I am sure.

    Good luck from Victoria

  13. Sol says:

    Excellent article. I’m bewildered by the fact that the former owner of your property was able to strip mine the property (I’m assuming they weren’t reprimanded by the municipality?) and here you’ve restored the land and were told to stop it. Way to go for not giving up. You’re an inspiration.

    I thought this might be of interest to some of your readers. Our SPIN farming business, City Harvest Co-op, that operates on multiple backyards in the City of Victoria, was also told a few years ago that growing food on backyards wasn’t okay. The reason was a concern by the municipality that the homeowners could have their taxes reduced (because the land was being used for agricultural use). The owner at the time, Paula Sobie, managed to work with the municipality to have the bylaws changed and a special bylaw for Small-scale urban agriculture was implemented. I believe the municipality was good to work with. Below are some extracts from the new bylaws. Of note to, as one of your readers referred to limiting noise, that the tilling we do is controlled under the noise bylaw that was already in place to limit the amount of noise from lawnmowers and other noisy machines.

    So far these bylaws have worked well for us. The municipality has also been supportive by dropping off piles of chopped leaves from their curbside pickup in the fall.

    From Oak Bay Municipality’s Zoning Bylaws: (these are extracted from the municipalities website)

    ?SMALL-SCALE URBAN AGRICULTURE: means a subset of the general class of agriculture, carried out as a secondary use of land and consisting of the cultivation of a portion of a parcel for the production of fruits or vegetables for sale or exchange for money or other valuable consideration. (Bylaw 4381 – Dec 17/07)

    Prohibitted uses…

    Agriculture, other than small-scale urban agriculture where expressly permitted;
    (Bylaw 4132 – Nov 13/01) (Bylaw 4381 – Dec 17/07)

    Uses permitted:

    6.1.2.(2) Without limiting the application or derogating from the requirements of the Rubbish and Weed Control Bylaw, small-scale urban agriculture, provided,

    (a) the total area of land within the parcel which is under cultivation for the
    production of fruits and vegetables for sale or exchange does not exceed 95
    sq. m (1,023 s.f.), with two contiguous parcels straddled by a single principal
    building to be treated as one for the purpose of applying this subparagraph;

    (b) fruits or vegetables produced for sale or exchange are not grown or
    cultivated within a greenhouse or other building;

    (c) no artificial lighting is used in connection with the small-scale urban
    agriculture use;

    (d) no sign is erected, placed or maintained on the parcel identifying or in any
    way connected with the small-scale urban agriculture use; and

    (e) fruits or vegetables produced for sale or exchange are not available for
    purchase by the general public on the parcel. (Bylaw 4381 – Dec 17/07)

  14. Richard says:

    Please don’t shut down farms. I would rather eat local fresh food, but it’s getting so hard to come by. If more farms are shut down, I may starve to Death!!! I already don’t agree with not being able to sell medicinal herbs ie. garlic, holy basil. If we let people shut the good things in this world down, we will all be forced to microwave dinners and live off of vitamin supplements.

  15. Simonne says:

    Way to go Nicole and Dirk! You are fighting for us all, and we appreciate it! Hang in there!

  16. Sue Beatty says:

    Really enjoyed your talk at the Nanaimo Home and Garden show.

    I just started veggie gardening a year ago so still have lots to learn. I did manage to grow some veggies to eat over the winter and hope my crop does better this year – last year I’m afraid even my zuchini and squash didn’t do well, but maybe this year :-)

    Wanted to share this with you in case you haven’t seen it – also want to encourage you. I haven’t lived here long but it’s a shock to me how little is grown here.

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/03/08/could-you-grow-food-like-this-family.aspx

  17. Alexander Goldenberg says:

    I rise to express my highest respect to the people who lovely work on their land and grow the ecological clean food for the people has this unique possibility – to buy and to eat organic food.
    Please note! Most of the World does not have this privilege.
    Millions die yearly from the bad, poisoned food…
    Lantzville is a beautiful VILLAGE on a sea shore… The land is rich here and the Land is waiting for the good, handy people who want and like to work on it. God bless Dirk and Nicole!

  18. Peggy Friesen says:

    Vancouver Island represents a specific desired way of living for many as they chose to live here to get away from the urban busyness of the world and live a more wholesome life. Our island could be a role model for other communities to bring back a healthy and soul replenishing existence that represents community values of the way we used to live. Having an acreage used to mean growing produce or raising animals for food…..now it seems to mean for many, massive lawns and all that goes with it. I say that growing produce is not only good for us but for the environment….. the joy of watching things grow that we can eat is immense. To be able to go to a local market once a week is a amazing – where we buy fresh, healthy and non toxic produce, meet and visit with community and save money. There is nothing even remotely wrong with the idea of growing local produce for the purpose of feeding our communities and it’s time that we either get rid of those in power who are against this concept or force them to change. Our municiple, provincial and federal governments work for us, we don’t work for them….we have to stand up for what we believe in and help those who have the courage to do so!

  19. Bloomingreverend says:

    Thank you for this article. I installed a large vegetable garden on my front lawn four days ago. I live in an Ontario suburb and today a town representative came by to tell me that I would have to move or remove them, because an unnamed neighbour has complained. I am scared to death but am holding my ground. Reading your story I am inspired and full of admiration. You have great courage.

  20. Amanda says:

    Is there any sort of petition to sign to support Nichole and Dirk Shaw?

  21. Renee Lavigne says:

    We are homeowners in Central Ontario and we have a 2.99 acre property with a large barn (which formerly housed horses), zoned Residential. We built a pen with the intention of raising a pig for our own consumption but one of the neighbours complained and called the municipality, after my husband spoke to all of them about it.

    I have a hard time believing that I am not permitted to raise livestock on this scale so that I may feed my family, despite the zoning, and considering that the animal will not be leaving the barn in her short life. Have you any suggestions? I have been having a very difficult time trying to navigate the web and I am hopeful that you may know of a national board or some such that can give me advice in this regard.

    I scanned your blog above, well done.

    Many thanks in advance, and happy Canada Day!

    Sincerely,
    Renee Lavigne

  22. Chronicler says:

    I would just like to shower you in support of this movement. I think it’s atrocious that the city has decided growing vegetables are a bad thing, and very disgusting that they have followed it through to this extent. They should be ashamed of themselves.

    I’d like to suggest to you to get a hold of the Mayor of West Vancouver in your fight, Pam Goldsmith-Jones ( http://westvancouver.ca/Level3.aspx?id=704 ), as she is extremely active in this green co-existing lifestyle of incorporating nature with humans.

    I have written a short article on your issue here ( http://chroniclesoftimes.com/content/regional-district-nanaimo-dislikes-gardens ) which will hopefully get you some more exposure in your fight.

    I wish you luck, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like more help.

    Cheers.

  23. Urbanfoodguy says:

    So sorry to hear you have to suffer through this insanity. I live in NYC and we can grow whatever in any number of community garden plots all over town, people are even foraging food in city parks! So it’s really mind boggling that in rural Lantzville the mayor is giving you such grief. It’s true insanity and not just a little bit crazy making.

    I write a food blog and just did a post on your struggles:
    urbanfoodguy.blogspot.com/2011/07/jail-time-for-gardening-on-your-own.html

    Encouraging my readers to write or call the Mayors office in solidarity with your cause. If you set up a legal fund please let me know and I will blog about it. I’m sure there are lots of people who would do whatever they could to help out, I sure would.

    Best of luck and thank you for standing up for people who like to garden and eat what they grow! You are a force of good and your work is much appreciated!

  24. Blueeyes54 says:

    I find this rather hypocritical of Vancouver island. Butchart Gardens is an old granite quarry and gravel pit, and yet people travel from all over the world to see it. So if they are worried about a gravely tract of land being converted for vegies, maybe they should shut down Butchart Gardens, or allow tourism to the farm. Seems like folks are driving by anyway from all over the world, thanks to FB support.

  25. Michael s says:

    I purchased a place in northern California and although it is said to be zoned AG, my place is the only one with non landscaping plants in the front, although I hide as much as possible with grape vines. One comment came from a landscape professional who said “I wouldn’t grow a vegetable garden in your front yard!

    Since I have done this, others have also with large plots of corn ect. The local town recently passed a new variance which makes it legal to have a small number of chickens. I spoke with a rancher whose only comment was “I wouldn’t grow this or that here because it’s more efficient to grow it elsewhere ” . More efficient from whose viewpoint I ask! Does your local area realize produce all the way from California couldn’t possibly taste that good? Most of it is picked before it is mature. Tomatoes picked green for instance will not compare to your vine ripened tomatoes. Good luck!

  26. Ivor Thomas says:

    Reading this tale made me physically queasy and mad as hell. The stupidity of these kind of officials is matched only by their pettiness. Here in so-called ‘green’ Portland, OR, I am zoning prohibited from installing solar electric panels in my neighborhood even while incredibly generous financial incentives exist! Cultural insanity and cognitive disconnects are rampant and I have little hope for our future in spite of the good intentions of so many inspirational people like yourselves.

  27. s lawrence says:

    This is not only about growing our own food – it is a political football.
    In Central Saanich, our pro-development councillors appear vehemently opposed to reading anything about ecosystems, local food growing and environmental issues. The legal challenges are side-stepped by council’s interpreting our OCP and RGS outside the spirit of our laws.
    I’d say gather together, get some legal advice, and fight this mindset that cannot fathom soil for anything other than golf courses and pavement!

  28. Interesting tale.

    I commend these two people on their stance, and wish them all the best in their mission.

    These questions are directed to Nicole and Dirk.

    I wanted to ask whether or not the underlying factor in the RDN’s & Lantzvilles refusal to amend the bylaw pertaining to this matter is due to them not having a framework in place to apply a taxable levy on the items you sell?

    Do you pay tax on the profit from your produce? If you do then surely that could not be the bottom line.

    Your neighbour/s perhaps? Are they related to someone in the RDN/Council?

    Surely you have raised this with your local supermarket/grocer? Are they the opposition? Are you taking money out of their hands?

    Issues like the ones I have raised are usually the factors when people get sand in their collective vagina’s over such a trivial matter.

    All the best from the other end of the planet. Good luck.

    BRL

  29. Hello Dirk and Nicole,

    I myself am a organic gardener and can relate to your problem. I’m a world sovereign and have revoked consent to let statutory regulations affect my behavior. This is a human rights issue. You are harming no one; in fact your actions are a benefit to the community by supplying healthy food. You are not breaking the law, this is purely a statutory regulation designed by jealous people to steal your freedom. I hope my affidavit will inspire you a bit http://www.cyborgshaman.com

    Marius-Tecumseh von Lohmann

  30. Claudia says:

    Evidently “no good deed goes unpunished.”
    Lantzvillians need to do a serious reality check. Vancouver Island (like the island I live on) undoubtedly imports most foods for its local population. There are serious risks with assuming this situation will continue without interruption…… Small agriculturalists are in fact our most valuable citizens.

  31. Zadabee says:

    I don’t understand how growing food is not compatible with residential zoning? Ones lawn can be a garden…how is that an intrusion of anything? Green grass….heck, that is for animal grazing…what is the difference if one grows greenery for human grazing. How utterly ridiculous! Leaves me thinking there is more to the story! Someone important wants the land or has a grudge! PLUS, if it is for home based business, this is a home based business! Damn!

  32. Dear Nicole and Dirk

    Your strength in a philosophy of natural living, respect for our environment, and dedication to increasing awareness and change for the benefit of all is much admired.

    I am glad to see there are people like you doing good work.

    Until not long ago, it was the normalcy to have a vegetable garden around the house from which a family would supply part of their yearly foods. The concept of cosmetic lawns and sterile gardens are the aberration to un-normalcy and have come along with countless other dis-connects from the very nature and environment that we living organisms come from, live, and are one with.

    Laws are made by humans to serve us and our life in community for the better, so it ought be an easy thing for humans to change a law, too, as soon as it is recognized to be of dis-service to us.

    I certainly would much prefer to see, smell, and have to walk around a dozen compost piles on the street I live on than having to be cautious to avoid “Caution – Pesticide Use”- lawns and; I’d rather view ‘unkempt’ patches of kale, tomatoes, parsley, and cabbages outside my windows and in my neighbors’ yards than to see fences, brickwalls, and children’s playgrounds made of concrete and steel.

    With all my encouragement and unceasing hope to your efforts I wish you the best. Should we (my partner and I) have spare days on a future visit to the West, we would love to see your organic home-grown farm, as we are much interested in a similar lifestyle, hopefully soon, in our own future.

    thank you very much
    peter vernon quenter

  33. Helene Osborne-Marshall says:

    In the UK and Europe we have the mighty Human Rights Act to protect us from such invasions of freedom; some of the citations are particularly appropriate to your situation, check it out:
    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/governmentcitizensandrights/yourrightsandresponsibilities/dg_4002951

    For some years now in Britain we have been urged as a nation to turn our gardens into wildlife havens with some production of food. Recognition of the importance of both food security and habitat preservation exists at all levels from government to broadcasters to the nation’s people, but then it is only a generation or two since we suffered food rationing. Being an island nation has it’s dangers if you are not self sufficient, which your representatives should realise. So, it is not uncommon to see raised beds in a suburban front garden here in spite of existant bylaws against such things (which have been left on the statute books to protect against unsightly dumping and attraction of vermin). I can’t believe how opposite the thinking is in your local ‘officials’.

    Good luck to you, you have our support and I hope that the mindlessness and lack of humanity that has infected the people acting against your wholesome venture, will soon be cured!

    Helene Marshall
    Fellow resident, Planet Earth.

  34. loki says:

    This is ridiculous. Vegetable gardens need not be ‘allowed’ or a law passed to allow them, any laws not allowing them should simply be removed as silly!

  35. iamme says:

    google or youtube your vancouver neighbor robert menard and educate yo sellf’s. if it were me here in sunny florida. i would simply send a brief noterized affidavit via certified mail, stating “dear mr brian brack i would be very happy to comply with your letter dated whatever, however first i need you to supply me with a certified copy of the authority that provides you a corporate office holder to demand anything from a private living man. or a certified copy of a bonafide contract that i have with the corporation doing business as the provence of vancover. please reply within 21 days in affidavit form, signed under the laws of purgury. if you do not reply within the allotted time i will assume you are attempting to defraud me in some way using the mail to do so.
    thats the general idea, counter claim them using adminastrative proceedure. never never argue or remain silent. always say yesssur boss, upon proof of authority. the only authority they have is that you give them. study to show yourself approved, then help your neighbors pull their heads out of the dirt. happy trails and god grant you wisdome and knowledge.

    i am me

  36. Heidi Beck says:

    Hi, I am from the States and may become a frequent visitor to the island. Growing your own food is essential in these times.I’ll share this information with others. Carry on! Heidi Beck P.S. You aren’t the Dirk who hung out with Jack Wells years ago, tree planting etc.?

  37. I think it’s horrifying and disgusting what you two have been put through.

    But I would suggest: it’s not about aesthetics, or appropriate land usage, or healthy food, or the dangers of GMO, or the nuisance of pests, or waves of the future, or any of that. It’s about two things:

    * petty jealousy
    * power

    This is what western civilization has been reduced to: You are productive, happy, and free. Your neighbors resent the crap out out of you, because of it. So, the solution is to find someone with a gun, and threaten you with it until you submit.

    These are sad times, indeed.

  38. Aprille says:

    I agree with your definition of Urban farming, and that we need more farms or more people growing crops. We are already living in an unstable environment. What’s there for the next generations to come? Hopefully things will get settled and that the efforts of people like you would not be put to waste.

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Synergy Magazine: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada