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In an earlier post, I laid out my best understanding of Powell River’s somewhat complicated Animal Control Bylaw 1979, 2003. After some months of work behind the scenes, the City’s proposed amendments to this bylaw will be presented for a first reading this Thursday at the meeting of the Committee of the Whole. These amendments come in the wake of the successful ‘Hens in the Hood’ youth employment project back in late 2010, which constructed a number of test sites within city limits and monitored them for problems with odour, pests, noise, and predators. At the same time, the youth in the project conducted a survey among Powell River residents which indicated strong support for increased freedom to raise hens in the city:
- food sustainability was important to 98.8% of respondents;
- 98.4% believed that it is important for City Hall to support local food practices; and
- 96.7% believed that people should be able to raise hens within the municipality.
In the context of the City’s own Sustainability Charter and ever-increasing public awareness of the need to promote local production of and access to healthy food, it’s a bit disappointing to see that the amendments as proposed actually appear to go backwards.
In order to best understand the situation, it might be good to review the earlier post, and especially to pay attention to the zoning map: specifically zone RA1 (which is restricted to parts of Wildwood) and zones R1 and R2 (scattered throughout Cranberry and Westview). It appears that the bylaw amendments will not affect agricultural zones A1 and A2
As I understand them, here are some of the main changes that this bylaw amendment would introduce if passed by Council as is:
- The current bylaw excludes animals other than dogs or cats from all zones except RA1, A1, and A2. The amendments would permit up to four hens on parcels of land zoned R1 or R2, provided that the lot area is 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or more.
RESULT: City staff, in their report to Council, admit that “By limiting hens to half acre lots, very few R1 or R2 properties in the City would even qualify as candidate sites.” None of the test sites from the Hens in the Hood project would qualify under this new regime.
- The current bylaw refers to “poultry” when setting out limits on numbers of animals that may be kept on parcels of land zoned RA1, A1, or A2. The amendments continue to permit “hens and other poultry” for zones A1 and A2, but hens only in zone RA1. In the City’s staff report it is noted that “The keeping of other poultry such as water fowl and turkeys is not recommended as these birds require different shelter, water, and care arrangements as well as additional space.”
RESULT: Anyone currently raising ducks, turkeys, or other fowl on a parcel of land zoned RA1 will be in violation of the new bylaw.
- The current bylaw permits up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits on a parcel of land zoned Ra1, A1, or A2 having an area of 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or less; and up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits on a parcel of land zoned RA1, A1, or A2 having an area greater than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres). The amendments allow a maximum of 10 rabbits in an area zoned RA1 provided that the lot area is 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or more. From the staff report: “Staff do not recommend expanding the keeping of rabbits as these animals multiply at exponential rates
if released or escaped from pens.”
RESULT: No change with respect to raising hens in zones RA1, A1, or A2. But the number of legally permissible rabbits is significantly reduced.
- The amendments state that “All owners of lands accommodating hens must be registered as regards this activity with the City in the form and manner prescribed by the Animal Control Officer.”
The upshot is that things remain pretty much unchanged for agricultural parcels zoned A1 or A2; it will become much more restricted in zone RA1; and there will be relatively no change in any other area of Powell River.
What has happened is that the City has had input from a number of organizations and individuals who see only the potential downside of making it easier to raise hens and other small animals in the City: the Conservation Officer, Bylaw Enforcement, the Human Society, and the local SPCA office. The City has not had any organized pressure from groups or individuals interested in making it easier to raise small livestock. There are serious challenges involved, especially the threat from predators, and some kind of city-wide plan will be required in order to address these challenges. Advocating for a more liberal bylaw regime, and helping the City deal with the potential negative consequences, is something that an existing organization might take on; for example, the Powell River Farmers’ Institute. Or citizens who are genuinely concerned could form an organization to carry out this advocacy work.
The Oil Drum is one of the best internet sources for information about peak oil and resource depletion in general, as well as some of the very creative ways that people are planning to cope in a world with declining sources of fossil fuels.
Some of the posts on the Oil Drum are very complex and detailed and may contain too much math and too many graphs for the average reader. (Although the quality of information and discussion that you will find at TOD is as high as anywhere I know of on the internet.) Recognizing this, back in December the editors of the site started up a new department of The Oil Drum, which they called The Oil Drum: Campfire. Here is some of what they said about this new forum:
We intend this forum to be akin to a summer night sitting around a campfire, dreaming, hoping, and tossing around ideas that might bring about positive change. The types of discussions we would like to foster are where there are no right or wrong answers, just shared experiences, advice and wisdom. Topics will relate to wide boundary issues surrounding energy descent, including local food production, small scale energy production, experiments in living with less, or just general information and ideas to be shared with the online community.
On May 20, 2009, Jason Bradford published a Campfire post titled “Ecological Economics and the Food System“, which looks hard at the fossil-fuel consumption of the present system of industrial agriculture. There are some very interesting statistics on the relative levels of carbon-dioxide emission stemming from various food sources (meat, fruits/vegetables, chicken/fish/eggs, etc.) and lots of information about how the various parts of the industrial food system contribute to energy consumption. Here are some of Bradford’s conclusions:
The bottom line is that every measure must be taken to rapidly eliminate fossil fuel consumption and dependency in every component of our lives. The key word is “rapidly.” Don’t passively assume inexpensive alternative energy substitutes will arrive to replace fossil fuels-we may have waited too long to respond to have a smooth transition. Therefore, focus most attention on reducing energy demand rather than substituting a new energy supply. And finally, in the context of ecological economics, fossil fuel depletion and climate change, ask whether what you do in your life, vocation, hobbies, and habits, contributes to the long-term function (or dysfunction) of society.
Here are some of the things we should be doing, or agitating for in our food system, according to “Energy Use in the U.S. Food System: a summary of existing research and analysis”, a paper by John Hendrickson cited by Bradford:
It appears that some of the greatest saving can be realized by:
- reduced use of petroleum-based fertilizers and fuel on farms,
- a decline in the consumption of highly processed foods, meat, and sugar,
- a reduction in excessive and energy intensive packaging,
- more efficient practices by consumers in shopping and cooking at home,
- and a shift toward the production of some foods (such as fruits and vegetables) closer to their point of consumption.
All of this meshes nicely with many efforts underway on the Upper Sunshine Coast. The eat-local movement; workshops on growing, preserving, and preparing healthy local food; preservation of our lands in the Agricultural Land Reserve; Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) and other small-scale urban farming projects such as the various community gardens; the Open Air Market and other markets to give small producers a place to sell their goods — these are all beginning steps towards a local food economy which serves the needs of local producers and consumers and also helps us move towards a radically lower regional carbon footprint.
Bradford moves on to a discussion of Brookside Farm, a one-acre farm in Willits, California, which functions as a working farm with a fifteen-share CSA and strong connections to a local elementary school and the wider community. Here are some of the ways that Brookside confronts the challenge of reducing fossil-fuel inputs and overall energy consumption, conveniently broken down into the various areas in which energy consumption occurs “from farm to fork”:
|Type of Work||Common Fossil-Fuel Inputs||Alternatives Implemented|
|Soil cultivation||Gasoline or diesel powered rototiller or small tractor||Low-wheel cultivator, broadfork, adze or grub hoe, rake and human labor|
|Soil fertility||In-organic or imported organic fertilizer||Growing of highly productive, nitrogen and biomass crop (banner fava beans), making aerobic compost piles sufficient to build soil carbon and nitrogen fertility, re-introducing micro-nutrients by importing locally generated food waste and processing in a worm bin, and application of compost teas for microbiology enhancement.|
|Pest and weed management||Herbicide and pesticide applications, flame weeder, tractor cultivation||Companion planting, crop rotation, crop diversity and spatial heterogeneity, beneficial predator attraction through landscape plantings, emphasis on soil and plant health, and manual removal with efficient human-scaled tools|
|Seed sourcing||Bulk ordering of a few varieties through centralized seed development and distribution outlets||Sourcing seeds from local supplier, developing a seed saving and local production and distribution plan using open pollinated varieties|
|Food distribution||Produce trucks, refrigeration, long-distance transport, eating out of season||Produce only sold locally, direct from farm or hauled to local restaurants or grocers using bicycles or electric vehicles, produce grown with year-round consumption in mind with farm delivering large quantities of food in winter months|
|Storage and processing at production end||Preparation of food for long distance transport, storage and retailing requiring energy intensive cooling, drying, food grade wax and packaging||Passive evaporative cooling, solar dehydrating, root cellaring and re-usable storage baskets and bags|
|Home and institutional storage and cooking||Natural gas, propane or electric fired stoves and ovens, electric freezers and refrigerators||Solar ovens, promotion of eating fresh and seasonal foods, home-scale evaporative cooling for summer preservation and “root cellaring” techniques for winter storage|
There’s more to the article, including a slightly cheeky demonstration that Americans could spare some of their average daily viewing time of four hours and thirty-five minutes (!) to tend a productive home garden and become more self-reliant. Go read the whole thing.
Sandra sent me a link to this recent article from The Tyee which discusses a cooperative grain CSA project being started in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island:
Hand over $65, and McLeod and Walker will lease you a 200-square-foot slice of Makaria Farm, their 10-acre organic spread near the town of Duncan, in the fertile Cowichan Valley. They’ll also give you a grain seed of your choice, seminars with guest experts, and basic infrastructure support, including irrigation and tools.
The idea is that they take you through the growing season with support, workshops, help you harvest and thresh your grain, and then you get to keep the grain you grew in your own plot during the season.
There is so much interest in growing grains: last year we grew out some of Dolores de la Torre’s kamut in the demonstration garden at the Community Resource Centre in Powell River, and it was beautiful and delicious (I ate some right out off the tops as it was drying, still in the ground). And grain advocate Chris Hergesheimer visited the Open Air Market during the summer to talk about growing wheat, kamut, and other grains. He also handed out free samples of various types of grains for people to try.
Here is a fun fact about how little space is needed to get started:
Quoting tables provided in Gene Logsdon’s book, Small Scale Grain Raising, McLeod explains that 1,100 square feet — a 10 foot by 109 foot plantation — could produce about 60 pounds of wheat.
“You can probably get about two loaves of bread per pound,” he says, “so that would be up to 120 loaves of bread per harvest.”
That’s two loaves per week for a year. Out of what might presently be a lawn.
And while we’re on the subject of grains, here is a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative being started in Vancouver:
Urban Grains is a community supported agriculture program based in Vancouver, B.C. Currently in the early stages of development, we hope to be the first ever CSA to provide local B.C. grain to people living in the Vancouver area. Our first year of operation (2008/2009) will be a pilot project, aimed at increasing the viability of grain farming for B.C.’s producers, while also broadening the options for local eating in our region.
Although we are not yet soliciting members, we encourage everyone interested in the program to join our mailing list. Not only will we keep you updated on the project’s development, but you’ll also be given priority when we begin the membership registration process. Keep in mind that, while no commitment is necessary, spots are limited, so we highly recommend that you sign up early.
If you follow the link above, you can sign up for their newsletter. Here is the latest one:
Much has happened since our last newsletter in January – we’ve moved in leaps and bounds, in fact. As many of you know, in December we held a meeting with a small group of farmers who are growing grain in the Delta region, primarily either as a cover crop or wildlife set-aside. Although the meeting was quite encouraging from the point of grain availability (there is no question, these farmers have grain for sale), we were confronted with two key hurdles: 1) our original vision of a CSA model, similar to the one in Creston and Nelson, would not work in Delta. It became clear that if we were to base the program in Delta, we would be forced to adopt a more conventional distributor role requiring significant start-up capital and a less direct consumer/producer connection; 2) the region was lacking the necessary infrastructure. Before grain can be milled, it has to be cleaned, and we were unable to find any individual or business nearby with the capacity to clean for human consumption.
Unsure where next to turn, we were contacted by a part-time farmer living in Agassiz, who is keen to become involved in the project. Jim Grieshaber-Otto, together with Diane Exley and their two children, manage a community-minded family farm that has been growing small amounts of grain for several decades. About 100 acres in size, Cedar Isle Farm partners with a neighbouring dairy farm to produce silage and hay (for both cows and horses), and pastures Angus beef cattle, layer hens, and free-range broiler chickens. The farm grows a few acres of grain each year – mostly oats and wheat – which is either used as animal feed or sold to friends and neighbors. This year the farm has three acres of fall-sown winter wheat and one acre of triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), and will soon be planting two acres of hard red spring (bread) wheat, for harvest this autumn. Jim estimates that, given a decent growing season and harvest conditions, they will have enough grain both for the CSA and for their own on-farm and local use. Although not certified, the farm has long operated under organic principles and is in the process of seeking certification.
Despite there still being some questions about infrastructure, our partnership with Cedar Isle Farm places us in a relatively strong position. The farm has a well-maintained 1958 combine (pictured in the attachment) and a functional, heritage (circa 1901!) fanning mill for cleaning grain. While the current cleaner should work in a pinch, we’re trying to track down a better piece of equipment, possibly paying for its purchase through funds raised in the first year of the CSA. We have spoken with the people at Anita’s Organic Grain and Flour Mill (http://www.anitasorganicmill.com/) in nearby Chilliwack, and they appear willing to custom mill the relatively small quantity of grain we would need. We have also identified a small-carbon-footprint transportation and distribution option; an Agassiz-based delivery truck operator has agreed to add wheat and flour to his regular delivery trips into the Vancouver area.
That’s all to report for now. While we do have some other exciting plans to announce, they are all rather tentative, so you’ll have to wait until the next newsletter. We hope to be visiting Cedar Isle Farm sometime in March to check on the progress of the grain, and then determine the logistical details (price, size per membership, delivery schedule, etc.) for the CSA program. At that point, if all goes well, we will start accepting memberships.
Thanks for your interest and support. Stay tuned!
Martin & Ayla at Urban Grains
All these little tentative projects give me hope that we’re working on lots of possible solutions to the big food security problems we’re facing. I’d love to see some kind of cooperative grain project get started around here. Anyone interested??
February 2009 plan for turning a lawn in Powell River, BC to a veggie garden, using the “lasagna” method. I used seaweed from down the street, and cardboard boxes from up the street, along with some straw and compost in the backyard. Visit this link for a long-range look at what a lasagna garden looks like over time: http://www.witsendbb.com/lasagna1.html And see here too: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1999-04-01/Lasagna-Gardening.aspx
From pro basketball to urban farming… only in America!
One of Wisconsin’s few African-American farmers, Allen, a former professional basketball player in the ABA, founded Growing Power in 1993 in Milwaukee to help teach inner-city kids about the origins of their food. It has expanded to include satellite-training sites in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Mississippi.
The group’s high-quality produce and grass-fed meats are sold through farmer’s markets that target inner city neighborhoods in Chicago and Milwaukee, where access to fresh food is often difficult and expensive.
Here’s the link to the Growing Power website.
The New York Times this week has a story about Greensgrow Farms in North Philadelphia, producing hydroponically-grown greens and also connecting urban consumers with regional producers of meats, cheeses, and other vegetables. I’m intrigued by the financial information that the article contains:
The farm earned about $10,000 on revenue of $450,000 in 2007, and hopes to make a profit of 5 percent on $650,000 in revenue in this, its 10th year, so it can open another operation elsewhere in Philadelphia.
Although no one at Greensgrow is getting rich from the operation – after 10 years’ work, Ms. Corboy is making an annual salary of $65,000 – there is a sense that their time has come.
This is all on one acre of land. And I really like the idea of combining the working farm with other operations, such as honeybees and seedlings.