Sunday, February 27, 2011

Agricultural Land Commission - Proposed Application to Include the "Spetifore" Land into the ALR by Delta

So what's exciting about this? Plenty!! The Spetifore Farm application was a watershed test for the relatively new Agricultural Land Commission back in the late 1970's-early 1980's. At the time that this farmland case was debated, protested and the land ultimately removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve, I was pursuing an Agriculture degree at UBC and all the Aggies of that era are well aware of the importance of this news.  Now the property is known as "The Southlands".  It is encouraging to see the importance of farmland recognized by local governments, and more importantly, by their constituents.

Agricultural Land Commission

News - Feb 24, 2011

The Corporation of Delta resolved, that an application pursuant to Section 17(1)(b) of the Agricultural Land Commission Act (to include land in the Agricultural Land Reserve) be prepared for those lands in Tsawwassen zoned as Agricultural and within Metro Vancouver’s Green Zone, but not currently in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and referred to a Public Hearing on March 1, 2011. The Commission understands that the lands in question are legally described as:
  1. North Half of the North West Quarter Section 2, Township 5, Except: Firstly: Part Subdivided by Plan 51815; Secondly: Part of Statutory Right of Way Plan BCP16605; New Westminster District
  2. South Half of the North West Quarter Section 2, Township 5, Except: Firstly: Part Subdivided by Plan 35478; Secondly: Part of Statutory Right of Way Plan BCP16605; New Westminster District
  3. North East Quarter Section 2, Township 5, Except: Firstly: Part Dedicated Road on Plan 77324 and Secondly: Part Dedicated Road on Plan 77326 Thirdly: Parcel 1 (Reference Plan LMP23515), New Westminster District (Civic Address: 581 Boundary Bay Road)
  4. Parcel A (T80286E) North West Quarter Section 1, Township 5, Except: Parcel 1 (Reference plan LMP23514), New Westminster District (Civic Address: 500 Boundary Bay Road)
  5. North 5.123 Chains of the West Half of the South West Quarter Section 2, Township 5, Except: West Half Chain, New Westminster District
  6. Lot 101, Section 2, Township 5, New Westminster District, Plan LMP295 (Civic Address: 300 Copsefield Drive)
  7. East Half of the South West Quarter Section 2, Township 5, New Westminster District
  8. The North and West Portions of the South East Quarter of Section 2, Township 5, as shown on Absolute Fees Parcel Book 5-149-523 “A”, New Westminster District, Except: Part Dedicated Road on Plan 77326 (Civic Address: 301 Boundary Bay Road)
  9. West 46.50 Chains District Lot 30, Group 2, Except: Firstly: Part Subdivided by Plan 2616; Secondly: Parcel “A” (Reference Plan 14733) and Road; Thirdly: Part Subdivided by Plan 33612; Fourthly: Part Subdivided by Plan 34591; New Westminster District (Civic Address: 6400 – 3rd Avenue)

Due to the public interest that has been expressed to date, the Commission believes it is appropriate to provide the public with access to the historical file information from the 1979 exclusion application that involved a number of the above noted properties – File #91(a)-O-79-09724 (Commonly referred to as the “Spetifore Application”). Please note that this information has been provided for information purposes only and is not intended to express or imply any position whatsoever regarding the application that the Corporation of Delta is preparing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Scientist Letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack Possibly a Fraud? No, not a fraud and now USDA admits to receiving it | Cooking Up a Story

Scientist Letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack Possibly a Fraud | Cooking Up a Story

Generally "Cooking up a Story" has good information. Unfortunately, a previous posting they made was based on a letter that appears to be a fraud.  Now, a bit over a week later, the USDA is now acknowledging that they did receive the letter from Dr. Huber.  Here is a link to an interview with Dr. Huber, explaining his research and his concerns.
 I am always reading whatever I can on GMOs in order to get to the truth of it all, and as complete an understanding as I can have. I have read Dr. Huber's papers before and as a critic of the herbicide Roundup, I was not surprised that the letter was from him.  He raises interesting points that the use of Roundup may alter mineral availability, the presence of fungii, and other alterations to the soil.  When you consider that Roundup is non specific in that it kills growing plants, the massive die-off would result in alterations to soil organisms.  This particular letter raises the possibility of a new fungus that has become a problem because of the use of Roundup.  Others who work in the field question Dr. Huber's claims because they have not been presented in an academic setting or in a peer reviewed journal, and their own research does not agree.
Here is my amended posting  :

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Article deleted as of Feb 25 because of fraudulent information - NEW INFO - Not fraudulent, USDA has letter: "Leading Plant Scientist Sounds Alarm—USDA GM Alfalfa Decision Under Possible Review | Cooking Up a Story"

Scientist Letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack Possibly a Fraud | Cooking Up a Story  Feb 25 - I deleted the "Cooking up a Story" article that indicated that a leading plant scientist was revealing new information about gmo's - because (as the link above discusses) the letter sent to the USDA seemed to be fraudulent, but now USDA admits to having letter and will respond to scientist directly.  Perhaps the whole thing is a HUGE misunderstanding, was never claimed to be fraudulent, ....I really don't know.   I know that the recent USDA GM Alfalfa decision has opponents of genetic engineering up in arms, but it is always disappointing to see it when opposing sides of the debate go to the extent of spreading lies and misinformation.  Or maybe someone just jumped to the wrong conclusion.  I have been following agricultural issues and trends for thirty years now, and read everything I can on GMOs and talk to scientists, farmers, policy makers to understand all points in the debate.  It's hard to get to the truth of the matter when misrepresentations are made, or suspicion is in the air .
    I had the good fortune to hear Canadian MP Alex Atamanenko speak at our BC Sheep Federation AGM this year, and talk to him personally about his efforts to address some issues concerning the introduction of GMO foods into the marketplace with his member's bill C-474 (recently defeated).  Some scientists see great potential for the technology, some see a host of undetermined consequences.  Same with farmers.
     At this time of year, I like to feed alfalfa to the ewes, along with some locally grown barley, our own grass hay, and whatever stockpiled grass we have.  Alfalfa is high in calcium, vitamin A, and protein.  The sheep love it, and the baby lambs nibble at the alfalfa leaves and it gives them a good start.  We can't easily grow alfalfa here - it likes a sandy soil, deep because of the deep roots, and a dry climate for the alfalfa to cure.  We could try, but it is one of the few inputs I buy for the farm.  The alfalfa that comes to our area is grown in the interior of BC, in Alberta, or in Washington State.  Sometimes when you buy from a feed store you might not be sure of the source, but it is generally from one of those three areas.

With the US decision to allow Roundup-Ready Alfalfa to be deregulated, thus allowing it to be grown anywhere in the US, we have to consider the impact on our farm and others in BC who use alfalfa.  Will the alfalfa from Washington be RR-Alfalfa? What do alfalfa producers in BC think?  I asked a friend who grows alfalfa in the interior what she thought.

She said "I don't know much about the GMO alfalfa, just that we haven't planted any of  it. 
We go out of our way to purchase very winter hardy and disease resistant varieties AND a selection of them so as not to have a monoculture. We also sow a good percentage of orchard grass with it. So far, we have only needed to seed all our fields once - reseeding needs to start now on our first field we seeded/ re did  in 2003.
I like the multi branching alfalfa's, they hold their softness longer if we have to wait for weather to cut. They don't go 'hard', they tend to just keep on growing with new young branches."
I downloaded the USDA decision document, but haven't slogged through it yet. I think that the decision was partly based on the use of Roundup  to establish a pure stand of alfalfa around the time of planting - the field will produce for several years without the need of Roundup before replanting is needed.  The Roundup would keep weeds down as the small plants became established.  
I also think that the decision was also based on the "Genie being let out of the bottle".  A legal paper I just read stated that some GM contaminants are now expected in non-GM products, so there would be a much more complicated issue as to who is to blame, in the case of contamination.  This has also been verified by several farm publications, and is a reasonable expectation of anything introduced to the environment that has the ability to persist for any length of time.  Organic foods can't use the claim "pesticide free", but they can say "pesticides not used", because of the long time use of pesticides, some of which have persisted and spread int he environment.
So far the biggest problem we have had with alfalfa is a star thistle contamination of some Washington alfalfa a few years ago, which irritated the sheep's mouths. 
Now I don't have to just think about where my food comes from, I have to think about where my sheep's food comes from - and what the long term consequences may be.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wolf-dog Hybrid Killing Spree Ends on Salt Spring Island

     A long-time sheep producer on Salt Spring Island has reported that a wolf-dog killed 16 lambs on his farm over two evenings, before the animal was shot and identified around Feb 18th. The owner of the wolf-dog has not come forward. This was at the same time as a report of another wolf-dog killing pets and deer on Bowen Island. The animal was sighted and identified, and the Bowen Island Municipality has hired a professional trapper. Conservation officers do not deal with wolf-dogs, because they are not considered wildlife. Bowen Island does not allow the discharge of firearms, and although there have been several sightings this has made it difficult to make the killings stop. Bowen Municipality has recently posted a notice asking for the public's assistance in the location of the owner of the wolf-dog hybrid at large on the island. Because the animal has killed pets in front of people, and shows no fear of humans, the public are reminded that if they encounter the hybrid they should remain calm, back away slowly, don't run, and take refuge in a safe location. The public are also instructed that they “may wish to take further precautions by not letting small children or pets outdoors unattended”.Bowen Island Municipality Website - Wolf-Dog Notice to Public
      Just before the reported wolf-dog on Salt Spring I received an email from a sheep producer on one of the smaller islands. They reported a wolf had been on Moresby Island, just off of Pender Island where I live. It was seen and heard by the family that live there. It had been on Sidney Island, Gooch Island, then Moresby. As of Feb 11, the howling had stopped and they were alerting me that the wolf may be headed to Pender Island. I sent an email out to some sheep producers, but then heard of the killing of sheep on Salt Spring. There was the possibility of the same wolf doing the killing, but by the end of the week it ended up being identified as a wolf-dog on Salt Spring. I don't know if the dog that recently killed sheep on Pender over several weeks was also a wolf-dog, or what became of the reported Moresby Island wolf.
The last time a real wolf had terrorized an island, killing pets and livestock, it was a few years ago on Saturna Island. For several weeks this went on, before the wolf was spotted and killed on Samuel Island. It was identified as a Vancouver Island wolf.
      It is rare to have a wolf arrive on a relatively predator free island and set up shop, so to speak. The plentiful deer are very attractive to them, but their brazen lifestyle make them a target for man. Or is it rare? Years ago, Vancouver Island had many wolves. From the 1920's to 1950 the wolves were almost completely eradicated, even considered by some to be locally extinct. From 1950-1970 wolf sightings were very rare and deer populations increased. After 1970 numbers increased again, but this time the wolves were predominantly from the mainland, leap-frogging through the network of islands to the north end of Vancouver Island. From there they migrated toward the south end. Wolves were sighted swimming to the smaller islands. In the 1980's, wolves overran Vancouver Island and several attacks resulted in a provincial plan to significantly reduce wolf numbers, primarily to increase deer numbers for hunters.
Recent genetic evidence has verified this migration pattern, and has also shown that a small amount of dog genes are in some wolves sampled on Vancouver Island.. Not a lot, but enough to indicate either natural mating, or reintroduction of wolf-dogs that have been specifically bred by man.
At any rate, the popular trend of owning a wolf-dog as a pet has video of wolf dog on salt spring jan 31st Pups are available for sale by breeders, and for those who are too hard to handle, there are wolf-dog sanctuaries and some of these will offer wolf-dogs for adoption or “rescue”. The SPCA will not put wolf-dog hybrids up for adoption and if such animals are surrendered to SPCA shelters they will be euthanized. In a position statement, the SPCA are opposed to keeping, breeding, and importing of wolf-dog hybrids. According to the SPCA, “the animals are difficult to train or contain, and they show a high incidence of both predatory and idiopathic aggression towards other animals and humans. Any wolf-dogs already kept as pets should be muzzled, spayed or neutered, contained within secure runs, and vaccinated.”
    In December, a Kamloops judge found the owners of a wolf-dog hybrid liable for damages after it attacked a woman. The judge ruled that wild traits of the wolf-dog override, and they are not harmless by nature but are animals of wild nature. It is not known if the wolf-dog attacks on the islands are from at-large pets, or from wolf-dogs dropped off onto the islands because they are too hard to handle, and their owners thought they could “fend for themselves”.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Global food supply threat from overfishing, study finds

 We have heard about peak oil, and I have recently reading about peak soil, but now we have to worry about peak fish.  I have been hearing this already for over ten years by my husband, who remembers the fishing to be way more plentiful around the Gulf Islands.  The report below came out in an Australian paper today, and cites research done at the University of British Columbia.

Global food supply threat from overfishing, study finds

Food supply threat from overfishing, study finds

Kerry Sheridan
February 20, 2011
WASHINGTON: Fewer big predatory fish are swimming in the oceans because of overfishing, leaving smaller species to thrive and double in force over the past 100 years, scientists say.
Big fish such as cod, tuna, and grouper have declined worldwide by two-thirds while numbers of anchovies, sardines and capelin have surged in their absence, University of British Columbia researchers said.
People around the world are fishing more and coming up with the same or fewer numbers in their catch, indicating that humans may have reached the limit of the oceans' capacity to provide food.
''Overfishing has absolutely had a 'when cats are away, the mice will play' effect on our oceans,'' said Villy Christensen, a professor in the university's fisheries centre.
''By removing the large, predatory species from the ocean, small forage fish have been left to thrive.''
The researchers found 54 per cent of the decline in the predatory fish population had taken place over the past 40 years.
The researchers said despite the spike in small fish populations, the total supply of fish was not increasing to meet human demand.
''We may in fact have hit peak fish at the same time we are hitting peak oil,'' said Reg Watson, a scientist at the university.
Seafood makes up a large part of the global human diet, according to research fellow Siwa Msangi of the International Food Policy Research Institute, who said the rise in demand was largely being driven by China.
Jacqueline Alder from the United Nations Environment Program suggested the world needed a swift cut in the numbers of fishing boats and fishing days.
''If we can do this immediately, we will see a decline in fish catches. However, that will give an opportunity for the fish stocks to rebuild and expand their populations.''
Agence France-Presse

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wanderlust and Words: Morning Bay Winery, Pender Island, British Columbia

Wanderlust and Words: Morning Bay Winery, Pender Island, British Columbia

Click on the link above to read a lovely story about our own Keith and Barb and their Morning Bay Winery, all the way from Penny McKinlay, a writer in Saskatchewan who profiled them on her blog  Wanderlust and Words

Morning Bay Winery, Pender Island, British Columbia

“For total enjoyment, you need to know the story – the people, the land, the process.”

Starting over
It was 2000, the start of a new century, and Keith Watt had just turned 50. He had been a journalist, primarily for CBC Radio, for 25 years. “I realized that I had just enough time to try another career,” says Keith. “I have never regretted it for an instant.”

Keith and his wife, Barbara Reid, settled on the 25 acres of oceanfront property they owned on Pender Island , just off the coast of Vancouver Island. As Keith looked across the water one day, he saw the sun glinting off rows of newly-trellised grapes. And he realized that grapes were one of the few crops that would thrive on the steep, rocky slopes of his property.

The best of both worlds
Construction of the terraced vineyards on the south-facing slope of Mount Menzies on North Pender Island and the planting of 5000 grapevines began in 2001. Five years later, Morning Bay Winery harvested its first estate-grown wines. They celebrated their fifth anniversary in July 2010.

The cool, reasonably dry climate on Pender Island provides an 8-month growing season. But it lacks the heat of the Okanagan Valley. Keith has chosen to expand his wine-making options by shipping grapes grown in the Okanagan. Morning Bay Winery works closely with a small group of farmers to ensure that the grapes are harvested at the best possible moment. They are then shipped to the Pender Island winery to be turned into wine.

“Pender Island is an awesome place to make wine,” says Keith, “as it never gets very hot.” The winery is dug into the north side of the hill and the temperature is kept at a constant 12 degrees all year round.

Morning Bay has released over 40 wines in the past five years, and they are still honing their final list. Keith laughs and says he’s never met a wine that he didn’t want to make. “But each wine costs money,” he says. “You have to narrow your list and go with the winners.”

Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc. currently distributes five Morning Bay wines – Merlot, Merlot Reserve, Syrah, Chiaretto and Bianco. In future, Cava Secreta, Saskatoon, will also carry the Pinot Noir.

Old world wines
Keith prides himself on making old world wines that pair with good food and a healthy lifestyle. Old world wines are dry, higher acid and lower alcohol and residual sugar.

I’ve now tried three Morning Bay wines and my favourite is Bianco, a blend of white varietals grown on Pender Island. It reminds me of pink grapefruit – an initial pucker and then a hint of sweetness.

“We weren’t growing enough of any one variety, so we tried combining and blending the grapes,” Keith says. “We felt the blend had a lot going for it. It was multi-dimensional.”

Integrity and sweat
Buying wine from a small Canadian winery may not appear to be the obvious choice because of its higher price. Keith offers three compelling arguments in favour of buying his wine.

First of all, Chilean field workers receive $15 a day; Canadian field workers receive $15 an hour.

Secondly, “with Chilean wines, you’re getting a mass-produced product,” Keith explains. “It’s like trying to steer a super tanker. You’ve got to go the way the wine wants to go. We make it by the barrel.”

Finally, there is more to wine than just the taste. “For total enjoyment,” Keith says, “You need to know the story – the people, the land, the process.”

Morning Bay wines are seasoned with salty ocean breezes, bottled by the winemaker, and the labels display the work of Pender Island artists.

Guerilla marketing
With a limited budget, Keith relies on guerrilla marketing techniques, hosting home wine parties and events.

Winestock is a one-day indie rock festival held on the Labour Day weekend. Up to 300 people camp in the vineyard. “It’s where backyard party meets rock festival,” Keith says. “The musicians play till 10:30 and then move on to the back porch.”

“We’re building our winery one customer at a time,” says Keith. “I spend more time pouring wine than making it.”

Keith is pleased to be represented by Doug Reichel, a small-scale agent who shares his interests in wine education. “Good agencies are hard to find,” Keith says. “We’re so small; the large companies don’t spend any time with us.”

Proudly Canadian
Keith Watt and Doug Reichel had just returned from a wine education event in Prince Albert and were still glowing. “We paired BC wine with Saskatchewan food,” exclaims Doug. “It was awesome. Chef Kevin Dahlsjo is amazing. You could count on one hand the ingredients that weren’t local.”

At 26, Chef Kevin represented northern Saskatchewan in the 2010 Saskatchewan Gold Medal Plates. His restaurant, TWO by Dahlsjo, serves meals at lunchtime, and he caters private functions. He is cooking with the inmates at the Prince Albert penitentiary, and they baked the bread and banana loaf that were served at the Morning Bay event.

Note: The artwork on the Morning Bay labels is by Pender Island artists: Diane Kremmer and Susan Taylor.- by Penny McKinley, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

On bullshit and section 5 of the Food and Drugs Act (the Canadian one)*** | barfblog

On bullshit and section 5 of the Food and Drugs Act (the Canadian one)*** | barfblog
Ron Doering, the first president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency  writes about food silliness in his regular column for Food in Canada.  Click on the link to read it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Plants cloned for the first time as seeds | Management content from Western Farm Press

Plants cloned for the first time as seeds | Management content from Western Farm Press

Investing in farmland? Is it in your portfolio? One part of farmlandgrabbing.

Video on investing in farmland

"Agcapita is a Calgary based, agriculture private equity firm that allows investors to cost effectively allocate a portion of their portfolios to Canadian farmland via its professionally managed Agcapita Farmland Investment Partnership without the need to take on the complex responsibilities of ownership themselves. Agcapita Farmland Investment Partnership is the third in a family of private equity funds which has grown to over $100 million in assets under management."

Equity firms like this are buying up farmland to lease to farmers, using a pool of investor money.
Then we have competing interests on the opposite end of the spectrum buying up land to ensure it is farmed ecologically.
Then we have developers of industrial, residential and commercial properties who buy up farmland, don't farm it, then apply to have it removed from the agricultural land reserve for development. In areas without farmland zoning, it may just be let go.

Then there are people who move to the country, buy up farms, put on big houses and call them estates.

Then there are farmers.  With all that competition for land, is it any wonder that prices of farmland have escalated? 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Lantzville Couple’s Fight for the Right to Grow Food « Synergy Magazine / The Magazine for Mindful Living / Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

A Lantzville Couple’s Fight for the Right to Grow Food « Synergy Magazine / The Magazine for Mindful Living / Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

By Dirk and Nicole Becker

“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, Billy Binns, 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 at the end of 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 colunists 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.
Shaw TV Interview with Dirk Becker, Nicole Shaw and Mayor Colin Haime (5 min):

Contact info:
District of Lantzville Councilor’s phone numbers and email addresses:
Mayor Colin Haime said this email should also be used:
Regional District of Nanaimo Board of Directors phone numbers, mailing and email addresses:

A Calgary man in court over his right to have chickens:
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…–the-real-dirt-city-squashes-front-yard-veggie-plot
Bylaw enforcement uses conservation officer who uses police in going overboard:
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…
North Vancouver Mayor declares war on lawns:
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.
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.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Utah's Ancient Fremont - National Geographic Magazine

Utah's Ancient Fremont - National Geographic Magazine

  "And the great irony is that it was protected by a single private owner, not by all the laws that we've passed to preserve our cultural heritage."
Kevin Jones, Utah state archaeologist talking about Range Creek, the best protected area he had ever seen

I read this article in National Geographic about 5 years ago.  It comes back to haunt me every once in a while.  As I walk the farm and enjoy the peace here in the Gulf Islands, I wonder what will the future hold for this piece of land.  What will future generations do?  How do we protect it in perpetuity?  Some people in these parts donate or sell land to be used as parkland - to the government, to land conservancies.  My husband wants there to be some covenant that won't let the government have it, or the conservancy.  He wants it to just be farmed, to keep the ridges tree covered, and kept intact. It has been in his family since the 1880's so we hope the next generation will keep farming.   But how?
That's when I think about Waldo Wilcox.

From the National Geographic archives:

"Guardian of a Ghost World : For 50 years rancher Waldo Wilcox guarded a Utah canyon full of artifacts from the ancient Fremont culture. Now the secret's out.
By David Roberts

Waldo Wilcox stayed on his father's Utah homestead in Range Creek for 50 years, even as he married and had four kids, and during that half century, the man performed a truly extraordinary feat.
As soon as the Wilcoxes had moved to Range Creek in 1951, they built sturdy fences with locked gates at either end of their prime cattle-raising spread, which stretched 12 miles along a remote canyon floor. As a grown man, Waldo regularly patrolled his valley—with shotgun in hand, rumor has it—to keep out trespassers.
In 2001, at the age of 71, he sold his ranch to the Trust for Public Lands. Waldo's wife had never much liked her remote home, and he had seen no way to divide the ranch fairly among his grown children. With heavy heart, Waldo moved into a boxy little house in nearby Green River.
The next summer, archaeologists got their first look at Range Creek. They were overwhelmed by what they found: arrowheads, potsherds, beads, grinding stones, rock art, granaries on high ledges, and rings of stones, the remnants of buried pit houses—all this, the work of the Fremont, farmers and hunter-gatherers who had lived there a thousand years ago and more.
Unlike many ranchers in the American West, for whom collecting prehistoric treasure was a customary hobby, Waldo had left virtually every artifact undisturbed. "I won't lie to you," Waldo says. "I picked up arrowheads, 'cause if I didn't, somebody else would. But I never dug anything up. Maybe I'm superstitious, but I figured them Indians wanted the stuff left there." About human remains, the rancher was particularly circumspect: "I don't want some damned hippie digging up my body after I die."
Last year at a meeting in Salt Lake City, Kevin Jones, the official Utah state archaeologist, said Range Creek was the best protected area he'd ever seen. "And the great irony," he said, "is that it was protected by a single private owner, not by all the laws that we've passed to preserve our cultural heritage."
Because of the canyon's riches Range Creek was kept secret for three years after Waldo sold it. But when a local newspaper leaked the story in 2004, a nasty controversy erupted. Powerful lobbyists for sportsmen's groups that had helped raise the money to buy the ranch insisted the canyon, now owned by the state of Utah, remain open to big-game hunting and trout fishing. Some even recommended clearing piñon and juniper trees to improve the reserve for wildlife. Native Americans were furious that the archaeologists had been invited into Range Creek before they knew of it. In the end, a number of tribes claimed ancestral affiliation, sight unseen, with the canyon, and Native American spokesmen demanded they be consulted about its future.
As of 2006, the future of Range Creek is still up in the air.
From the start, the archaeologists enlisted Waldo as their guide to the often well-hidden Fremont sites. One spring day last year, as she walked the valley-bottom dirt road in Range Creek, team co-leader Renee Barlow, of the Utah Museum of Natural History, was bursting with pride: "So far we've found 280 sites, ranging from ruins and rock art panels to scatters of potsherds and toolmaking debris. Every one Waldo either told us about, or we found it on the way to a site he told us about. And we've only seen 15 percent of the canyon!"
"You ain't seen 5 percent, kiddo," Waldo rejoined.
Waldo's partnership with the researchers has a certain edge, for he takes a dim view of professional archaeology—and not without reason. Years ago, at a ruin a good thousand feet above the valley floor, Waldo had found an eroding Fremont skeleton sticking skull-first out of the earth. To protect it, he picked up a nearby metate—or "corn grinder," as he calls the stone basin the ancients used to pulverize their maize— and laid it over the skull.
Four years ago, Waldo directed a pair of archaeology students to the site. They came back from the all-day hike exhausted but exhilarated. "They told me, 'We've discovered that the Fremont buried their dead with corn grinders covering their heads,'" Waldo recounted. "I said, 'Yep, and I bet I can tell you right where that was, too.'"
Waldo gradually developed his own theories about the ancients who once thronged Range Creek. One evening, in the cinder-block house he had built for his family that now serves as the cluttered headquarters for the archaeologists, the rancher unfurled his ideas, based on the rock art and artifacts he had found.
"The first people in here wasn't but four foot tall," he said. "I call 'em the Little People. I think the Fremont come in and killed off the Little People. Then later the Utes come in and killed off the Fremont. Every place you find an arrowhead, there was a dead Indian."
Project leader Duncan Metcalfe, of the University of Utah, absorbed this narrative from an adjoining chair. He kept a straight face, but professional dismissal oozed from his pores. Metcalfe and the other archaeologists had found little evidence of any prehistoric inhabitants other than the Fremont. And no professional would give credence to Waldo's Little People.
Waldo perceived the dismissal. "I may not know what I'm talkin' about," he said later, "but hell, them archaeologists don't know either. They're just guessin'."
One of the first to guess was Noel Morss, an amateur archaeologist who named the Fremont in 1931, after digging sites in central Utah on the Fremont River. More than 70 years later, experts still struggle to come up with a list of distinctive cultural traits to differentiate the Fremont from their contemporaries to the south, the Anasazi. They know, for instance, that the Fremont created sophisticated rock art, leather moccasins rather than yucca sandals, and a particular kind of thin-walled gray pottery. These scholars believe that the Fremont homeland reached from Utah into Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado. Dwelling on the edge of the reliable growing season, where late-spring or early-fall frosts all too often ruined a whole year's crops, the Fremont never fully committed to a farming way of life. Many kept hunting and gathering as a fallback option, always ready to pack up and move on.
By a.d. 1350, the Fremont had largely disappeared from their homeland. No one knows what became of them. Perhaps some migrated east to the Great Plains and assimilated with nomads who hunted bison. Others may have been wiped out by the Ute, Shoshone, and Paiute, who might have surged into the Fremont heartland from the west as early as the 13th century. Perhaps many Fremont simply starved to death.
The most significant ruins in Range Creek are all high, inaccessible sites, many of them granaries. Greg Child, an expert mountaineer, Renee Barlow, and I worked our way into ones that even Waldo hadn't reached, becoming almost certainly the first visitors in at least 700 years.
That the Fremont stored their grain on such severe cliffside ledges made perfect sense to Waldo. "It's like why you put your money in a bank," he said. "If you only got a little bit of corn, and everybody's hungry, you hide it away where other folks can't steal it."
The most extraordinary of all the sites we explored—nicknamed Waldo's Catwalk by Renee—was 60 feet up an overhanging 150-foot cliff. When we arrived at the base of the cliff, Greg said softly, "My mind is blown." We could see the route some Fremont daredevil had used to reach a ledge with two granaries. The Fremont climber had leaned a 25-foot-tall Douglas fir trunk against the cliff to shinny up. From the tip of this makeshift ladder, he had "gone for it" (in climbing parlance), using hand- and footholds to launch his body over two outjuts of rock that blocked his way like roof cornices on a building. Midway through that desperate passage, he had hung on with one hand while with the other he had slammed a hefty stick into a crack, then trusted it with all his weight as he pulled himself up on it before continuing his climb.
Greg estimated the route would rate 5.11 for modern climbers, on soft, crumbly sandstone—near the limit even for today's best rock jocks using nylon ropes, sticky-soled shoes, and cams and nuts for protection. We were not about to tackle it. Instead, Greg got us into the site from the rim above by slotting spring-loaded cams into a crack, stitching a rappel tight to the overhang, then swinging sideways till he reached the ledge.
Some 50 years ago, Waldo had climbed to the base of this cliff, then stared up in wonder. But when I expressed astonishment at the Fremont acrobat, Waldo was less impressed. "Look at it this way," he said. "Them Indians did nothin' but climb every day. Maybe some of 'em fell off and died, but the ones that didn't got pretty darn good at it."
In the summer of 2005, the tension between Waldo and the scientists who had taken over his erstwhile paradise began to mount. During their four seasons in Range Creek, the teams had plotted the GPS coordinates of every site they'd found and recorded the location of every potsherd, arrowhead, and metate. But they were also gathering up artifacts to take to the Utah Museum of Natural History. Waldo was dismayed. "I think they should leave the stuff where it is," he said. "The canyon's the biggest and best museum the Indian stuff could ever be in."
Waldo has nursed a sense of doom about the canyon he loved. The cattle he ran kept the valley grazed, but today the grass stands thigh-high, creating a tinderbox. It infuriates Waldo that the archaeology team—more than half of whom smoke—won't institute a site-wide smoking ban.
"The whole place is gonna burn down," Waldo said. "Ten years from now, when the canyon's ruined. . . ."
One May evening, Waldo and I sat on the lawn in front of the cinder-block house. Far above us to the north, a butte where Waldo had discovered a ruin caught the orange glow of sunset. The old man seemed in a pensive mood. "What does it feel like to come back?" I asked.

Waldo paused. "It hurts," he finally said. "I should've had my ass kicked for sellin' it. There's only one Range Creek in the world, and I let it slip through my fingers."

But then a certain gleam lit his gaze. "There's one other place I know of with as much Indian stuff in it as you got here," he said. "And if they ruin Range Creek, that secret's goin' with me to the grave." - by David Roberts, National Geographic, August, 2006.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Alex on the Issues - Alex Atamanenko on Bill C 474

Alex on the Issues

The link above goes to the Deconstructing Dinner radio webcast discussing Bill C474.

Radio Show Deconstructing Dinner on Bill C-474

Web Link
Download Audio Link
Stream Audio Link
Deconstructing Dinner has long been at the forefront of covering anything and everything to do with the presence of genetically engineered (GE) foods.
The latest on the issue from Canada’s capital is Bill C-474 - a bill introduced by Member of Paliament Alex Atamanenko. The bill was debated in the House of Commons for one-hour on March 17 and is calling for a change in the way GE seeds are approved in Canada. Back in 2009, Canada’s primary market for flax - the European Union, blocked all shipments of Canadian flax after tests there discovered the presence of a GE flax that was once cultivated in Canada but de-registered in 2001. The proposed Bill C-474 was developed with the hope of preventing any future scenario like this unfolding again by requiring that all approvals of GE seeds go through an economic impact assessement in addition to the already-in-place health and environmental assessments. In other words, had such an assessment been in place in 1996 when the flax was first permitted, an economic impact assessment might have prevented the 2009 setback to Canada’s flax industry from ever happening. Proponents of the bill hope it will prevent the future release of GE alafala and wheat into Canadian soil.
On today’s episode we’ll listen to Members of Parliament debate the issue in the House of Commons. Deconstructing Dinner also followed up with Liberal MP Francis Valeriote who supports the bill being sent to committee, but nevertheless shared many critical remarks in the House that are requiring some… deconstructing.
Alex Atamanenko, member of parliament, BC Southern Interior, New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) (Castlegar, BC) - Atamanenko is the NDP’s Critic on Agriculture & Agri-Food and Food Security. He sits on the Standing Committee on Agriculture & Agri-Food.
Francis Valeriote, member of parliament, Guelph, Liberal Party of Canada (Guelph, ON) - Valeriote sits on the Standing Committee on Agriculture & Agri-Food.
David Anderson, member of parliament, Cypress-Hills Grassland, Conservative Party of Canada (Frontier, SK) - Anderson is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and to the Minister of Agriculture & Agri-Food for the Canadian Wheat Board.
Pierre Lemieux, member of parliament, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Conservative Party of Canada (Casselman, ON) - Lemieux is Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. He sits on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Larry Miller, member of parliament, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, Conservative Party of Canada (Wiarton, ON) - Miller is the Chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture & Agri-Food.
Jim Maloway, member of parliament, Elmwood Transcona, New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) (Winnipeg, MB)
Web Link:
Deconstructing Dinner is a syndicated weekly one-hour radio show and podcast produced in Nelson, British Columbia at Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY. The show is heard weekly on 37 Canadian and 9 American radio stations.

On eco-architecture and urban farming: Are you kidding me with your f-ing farm skyscraper? | Grist

On eco-architecture and urban farming: Are you kidding me with your f-ing farm skyscraper? | Grist

Right on. A good read. All someone needs is to ask for someone with land to let them farm it, share the proceeds so everyone wins, and do the work instead of talking about it.  This is in contrast to the folks/developers who are planning to take good farmland and urbanize it at the edges with the farm in the middle, designed to be human-powered, solar-powered and all, when in fact they really plan to bring in Mexican labour and have their own food security assured - and find a way to develop perfectly good farmland at the same time.  I can imagine the prices of those houses. I heard one of the leaders of this movement say it will be the ultimate gated  community.  Glad to hear the Southlands in Delta, BC might not go this way after all, and may be returned to the ALR where it should be.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Excellent discussion on Genetic Engineering and agriculture by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak: The Food of the Future - Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak: The Food of the Future 
(click on the link for the seminar and discussion)

Two revolutions - Genetic Engineering and Organic Farming are often seen in opposition, but this couple are a marriage of the two disciplines, and also married to each other.
This seminar is presented by both Pamela And Raoul, she is a plant scientist, and he is an organic farmer.  They are both at the University of California at Davis.
Worth listening to, if you are interested in the current debate around GMO foods.

The book, Tomorrow's Table, is a must read.  It is co-authored by Pamela and Raoul.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Agricultural Estimates 2009 - Lana Popham, NDP MLA, asks the Minister of Agriculture about GMO seed research being done in BC.

Agricultural Estimates 2009 -Lana Popham asks the Minister of Agriculture about GMO seed research being done in BC.

2009 Legislative Session: First Session, 39th Parliament

"Hon. S. Thomson: The $4 million that the member opposite is referring to…. These are staff resources in our research innovation policy development branch. This covers industry specialists who work around the province supporting the industry in development initiatives. This is our policy development branch within the ministry that helps work on strategic policy in support of the industry.

L. Popham: Is there a way that the agriculture community has of applying for some of this money for innovation and research?

Hon. S. Thomson: There are research dollars available to industry through Growing Forward and through the Investment Agriculture Foundation and through the B.C. Innovation Council, which the province has invested in — not within this specific vote that you're referring to here. That's what the industry specialists and staff resources do, and that is assist industry in working with them to support their research needs through those programs.
There are resources in all of those agencies and programs available for that purpose. If there were any specific interests that you had to bring forward, then we could certainly have our industry specialists work on looking at where the most appropriate place to direct those research needs would be.

L. Popham: I'm wondering: in the research side of it, is there research being done right now on genetically modified seeds for British Columbia?
Hon. S. Thomson: Not by the province of British Columbia.

L. Popham: Are there any companies that this money is supporting that are doing that research?

Hon. S. Thomson: Not to the best of our knowledge.

L. Popham: I think it's quite critical that as a province we take a stand on genetically modified seed. I'm wondering if the province would be going in that direction.

Hon. S. Thomson: We have not contemplated a specific policy on that at this point, but I would be pleased to meet with the member opposite to discuss it and to hear her views on it.

L. Popham: Thank you. That sounds like a great offer. I would love to do that.

I can't wait to get back to the Legislature to continue this discussion......." 

I guess this was before the non-browning GMO apple developed in BC was announced.

Potential Impacts of Bill C-474 - Dave Sippell - President of Canadian Seed Trades Association

Part 2 - Alex Atamanenko - Does Canada Need Bill C-474

Part 1 - Alex Atamanenko - Does Canada Need Bill C-474

Canada is debating Bill C 474 - Regarding GMO seeds and their affect on our markets

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Natural Farming, beyond organic and beyond local

The happiest moments for my family occur when we encounter lots of wildlife in the middle of farm work. The field appears to be alive as if it is one organism in nature, and we’re delighted to find ourselves being part of it. “ - Arthur Kikuchi, Kenta Farm

Children planting at Kenta Farm
    Arthur Kikuchi is a Pender Island certified organic farmer who has taken organic farming to the next level, beyond organic, and beyond local. Natural farming, an organic style of farming that embraces the natural world, can be done by anyone who wants to do it. No fancy tractors, no large acreage is needed. The following is Arthur's view from Kenta Farm.
   “Kenta is a Japanese name meaning “a healthy child”. We call our garden “Kenta Farm”, wishing the well-being of our next generation to come. In the summer of 2000, I was driven by an impulse to start Natural Farming on Pender Island because we thought we would be able to raise our children with healthy minds as well as sound bodies through working with nature.
Big cedar at Kikuchi Memorial - Singing Frog Covenant
    Paying our respect to Mother Earth, we try to restore biological diversity of the agro-ecosystem as much as possible by applying zero-tillage, multiple inter-cropping system which enable non-crop species to coexist. Native plants or insects, for example, are considered by many conventional farmers to be “unwelcome guests” because they are just “weeds” or “pests” which disturb the growth of crops. However, there must be some significant reason why Mother Nature fosters various kinds of plant and animal species, giving them the means to proliferate in this world. Learning from the natural ecosystems we've found that so many kinds of plants and animals co-prospering on Earth indicate that billions of micro flora and fauna also cohabit the soil, playing the vital role of maintaining balance of the entire ecosystem. We believe diverse life forms can live in diverse ecosystems, and our culture can then become diverse and harmonious. Ultimately, respect for biological diversity will be deemed as essential as respect for the diversity of he human cultures. Natural Farming with diverse species will enable people to become aware that all people and species have an inherent value and equal right to live and blossom on Earth. Caring for the happiness and well-being of all forms of life on this planet is at the heart of our desire to practice Natural Farming.
    The happiest moments for my family occur when we encounter lots of wildlife in the middle of farm work. The field appears to be alive as if it is one organism in nature, and we’re delighted to find ourselves being part of it. Through Natural Farming, we'd like to keep pursuing the question: How do we ensure that we bequeath our beautiful planet to future generations.” - Arthur Kikuchi

   Arthur and his family recently purchased an undeveloped forested property on Hoosen Road and placed a conservation covenant on it in honour of his parents who have passed away. He was assisted with the help of the Islands Trust Fund, the Pender Islands Conservancy Association, and the Nancy Waxler Morrison Biodiversity Protection Fund. The property is known as the Kikuchi Memorial – Frog Song Forest Covenant. Arthur and his wife Sanae, and their children Kenta, Yoko, Shinta and Kota are regulars at the Pender Island Farmer's Market and they farm on a different property on Port Washington Road. I have been inspired and encouraged by his perspective on how we should farm with a minimum footprint and leave a lasting legacy for our children and future generations. Years ago I learned to “make peace with the weeds” and I am amazed at their tenacity. By allowing weeds to live with the grasses, our animals are healthier. The weeds have long tap roots, pulling up micronutrients to the plant, which is either eaten or allowed to die, releasing the nutrients to the soil. Weeds are also the first to arrive at newly disturbed and exposed soil, and their benefit is to quickly establish themselves, grow extensively and plunk down roots, so to speak. All of this has the effect of stabilizing the soil and preventing erosion. Over time the grasses will catch up to the weeds, but you have to be patient. I have wondered if my secret admiration for the weeds was unnatural, but evidently it is an important part of Natural Farming.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Food Security documentary at Victoria film festival Feb 5

Metro vs. mansions: Province asked to help curb sprawl on ALR land

Metro vs. mansions: Province asked to help curb sprawl on ALR land

The Islands Trust should take this one on.  There is a monster house being built on South Pender ALR (Agricultural land reserve) land currently.

However, a recent posting to a food listserv made the point that these large houses are only a symptom of the real problem,  and that one day multiple families may be living in these houses, or building big houses of their own.  The affordability of farm land, and the demand by those wanting estates, subdivisions, industrial parks or investments (or regional, national or recreational parks - and a new one called an agri-park!!) have driven up the price of farm land.  The rule of one house-one trailer seems limiting to those who think the solution is to put multiple people on the land (although I have heard some of these groups say that their true desire is to be on the land, not necessarily farming, so that could make them part of the problem, too).  The Ag Land Commission puts the limit on primarily because putting multiple houses on a farm takes away arable land from farming (footprint issue) and it also drives the price of the farm up for the next buyer.

I think such a complicated issue won't have a simple solution.

AgriDigest Online

AgriDigest Online click here

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kudos to Cargill for showing Oprah how meat is made | barfblog

Kudos to Cargill for showing Oprah how meat is made | barfblog
 This barfblog posting really gets to the core of the question "do you know where your food comes from?". is a food safety blog produced by Dr. Douglas Powell,  an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University.  On his site, Dr.Powell is described as "passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey."  I think that the reference to hockey is code for being a Canadian, and Dr. Powell peppers his blog with many Canadian references (often in a humorous way).
Beef and lamb chilling at Sunterra

Lamb processed on Saturna - inspector on left
     The "do you know where your food comes from" trend was initially exciting for me.  As a meat producer with an education in agriculture and nutrition, I enjoy explaining how we raise our animals and process them.  Recently I visited a lamb feedlot and Sunterra meats in Alberta on a tour with other sheep producers.  Sunterra is a federally inspected plant that processes beef and sheep. It was quite a contrast in scale in comparison to our local slaughter facility on Saturna Island where animals aren't on an assembly line.  Both are similar in other ways - with CFIA inspectors and attention to food safety and a quality product.  The big Cargill plant in the Oprah segment was on another scale - perhaps the largest plant in the world.  It had an animal handling facility based on the design of Temple Grandin, an animal scientist with expertise and special skills in animal handling and animal welfare.
Our lambs are raised and finished on grass
Lambs finished in Alberta feedlot on barley
     Many of our customers ask about how our lambs are raised. We raise and finish our lambs on grass.  We are not organic, because the mild climate increases the incidence of parasites that affect sheep, and they need to be monitored and treated as needed.  Even so, over the years our flock has been selected for the conditions they are living in and the amount of treatments they need have reduced significantly.  The lambs we saw in Alberta were finished in feedlots on locally grown barley.  The lambs are outside in pens, with guardian dogs because of the coyotes. The feed costs are lower in Alberta, and the lambs were in good health and condition.  The young man who ran the feedlot with his dad was very proud of his operation, which finished 4000 lambs at a time.  This was like the feedlot in the Oprah show in the link above - the beef were grain fed in a feedlot, and the animals were in good shape. It really comes down to what you are used to, and what works for your own situation as a livestock producer.   We don't have coyotes in the Gulf Islands, so can leave them outside on the grass all year.  Feedlots are just not seen here, mostly because of the cost of feed, but also because of our climate.  Anyone who feeds groups of livestock provide shelter because our wet climate + lots of animals = mud.   Most people are critical of feedlots because it appears cruel to contain animals in an environment that is not natural or stimulating.  However, if people are going to eat meat and have it priced the way they expect (cheap) this is how most of it is produced.  Livestock are only in the feedlots for short periods of time - not their entire lives - and it is in the feedlot owners best interests to take the best possible care of the animals.  The one we visited had a very good handling facility, where animals are weighed and treated if necessary.
      Sometimes it is apparent that the abundance of negative information gives people some equally negative and sometimes wrong ideas about agriculture.  Thirty years ago the only two books I found on agriculture in a mainstream bookstore were "Merchants of Grain" by Dan Morgan and Three Farms: Making Milk, Meat, and Money from the American Soil by Mark Kramer.  The first book described the seven  families and five companies that control the world's food supplies, and although the book first appeared in 1979 little has changed.  The second book addressed the technological changes that influence modern agriculture and the people who farm.  These themes and players are still written about, thirty odd years later.  Now there are many books about farming and food written by many "experts", and the negative messages often are directed at farmers themselves, and the media jumps in to any hot topic and for the moment, the hot topic is food.  So the way I see it, instead of "let's find out how farmers produce our food"  this movement is saying " let us warn you about what the farmers are doing to our food"!!!!!  Yikes!!!   Well, we are in the thick of lambing - 36 lambs so far - and as I make sure each lamb is with his mom, and his mom is getting her share of the food, I am reminded that we are looking at another 100 ewes yet to lamb.  I have to do this twice a day, seven days a week, rain or shine or snow, whether I am sick or not.  I have to fix fences, harvest the hay, truck it and stack it in the barn, truck in feed, truck the finished lambs to market, sometimes truck lambs to be slaughtered, pick up the packaged lamb and deliver it, and keep predators away.  I have to keep medicines on hand to treat animals when they need it.  And always, I have to just watch them - observe how they behave, what are they trying to tell me? There is more to farming than meets the eye, and that is all part of knowing where your food comes from.  I don't think most people want to know all the details.  They may consider the welfare of the animals, but most put price, quality and safety as a priority.  Animal welfare?  Standards of animal care are an ongoing topic of study and discussion by farmers, animal scientists and veterinarians. If only animals could talk!!
     In an ideal world, people would eat less meat and pay more for it.  It would be healthier for us, and farmers could keep fewer animals which would be better for them and the animals, also.