Lantzville’s Compassion Farm Continues to Be Harassed

Photo © Kim Goldberg

May 13, 2014 UPDATE: Compassion Farm has now been sold, and the farm’s longtime owners Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw are moving to the Coombs/Errington area a few kilometers further north on Vancouver Island where they plan to search for another acreage they can buy and farm organically. The couple say they were worn out by the lengthy zoning battle with local authorities.

Read the Nanaimo Daily News story on the sale of Compassion Farm here.

Read a 2013 Globe & Mail article on their battle here.

To ready the property for sale, since no future owner was likely to be able to use the property as an organic farm due to bylaws prohibiting urban farming, the couple ultimately had to remove their healthy, uncontaminated food crops (they were producing 7,200 kilograms of organic food annually) and convert the productive acreage to lawn.

Nicole Shaw & Dirk Becker at their popular Compassion Farm booth at Bowen Road Farmers Market - a sight that won't be seen again anytime soon until the couple finds a new property to organically farm. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

Nicole Shaw & Dirk Becker at their popular Compassion Farm booth at Bowen Road Farmers Market – a sight that won’t be seen again anytime soon until the couple finds a new property to organically farm. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

Original Posting May 1, 2012:

This is the latest update on the ongoing multi-year harassment by local government of an organic farm in Lantzville, BC on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. Compassion Farm grows healthy, uncontaminated food for hundreds of families in the mid-Island region, including my own.

Media release from Compassion Farm:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, April 30, 2012, Lantzville, British Columbia

Last week Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw of Compassion Farm in Lantzville, founders of the Bowen Road Farmers Market, received another letter from the District of Lantzville (D.O.L.).

This letter states they are contravening the DOL small business bylaw by selling rain barrels.

In January of this year, Becker and Shaw met with the new mayor and signed an agreement to discontinue the importation of any manure onto their property. They were given to understand that this agreement would appease council and were told it would appease their neighbor, Jim Brash, whose campaigning against their use of horse manure is on-going.

This April they were informed that council wants to ‘reinspect’ their property. Ensuing communication revealed that Council is unwilling to disclose what they are looking for. Therefore, Becker and Shaw responded that they see no point in yet another inspection since nothing of significance has changed since the last inspections–by various levels of government: Regional District of Nanaimo Bylaw Enforcement, the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Further, no manure has been brought to the property in question since the above-mentioned agreement was signed.

On April 24th they received a letter informing them that council has a problem with their rain barrels.

In the same week, a friend who has donated grass clippings for 10 years shared a letter received from the RDN, threatening legal action if he continues to bring grass clippings to Compassion Farm.

“There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight,” says Becker. “The District of Lantzvile has moved the goal posts several times. Urban Farming is a global movement and is moving past being ‘allowed’ or ‘permitted’ to being supported, encouraged and protected”.

Contact: Dirk Becker, 250-390-5199

Also see:

Previous Chronology beginning 19 months ago
• September, 2010, a letter instructing Becker and Shaw  to “remove the piles of soil from the property”.
• a second letter arrived by courier on November 2nd, 2010, telling them “to cease all agricultural activity”. This letter stated that they were in contravention of the zoning bylaw and that home based businesses must be carried out within the dwelling unit or accessory building.
• DOL hired a lawyer and threatened the aspiring farmers with legal action.
• Supporters of the couple wrote several hundred letters, filled a petition with over 5,000 signatures and raised over $5,000.00 toward their legal bills.
• Becker and Shaw were banned from Lantzville’s 2011 annual family fair “Minetown Day” (having been the only agricultural booth over the last number of years).
• Becker and Shaw attended many public meetings in their attempts to resolve the issue.
• In the 2011 civic election Lantzville voter turnout jumped from from 22% to 44% and the mayor and the two councilors who were the most vocal against Becker/Shaw lost the election.
Salient points
• There are about 100 horses in Lantzville.
• for years D.O.L. workers delivered grass clippings from all of Lantzville’s parks to Compassion Farm.
• for several years, the Regional District of Nanaimo had Becker give rain barrel/water conservation workshops in the mid island area.
• the combined pressures of urbanization and industrial farming for export have squeezed local farmers to the point that more and more are giving up.
• Urban agriculture is recognised by the UNO as a growing necessity.
• 96% of Vancouver Island food is imported
• Less than 3% of land on Vancouver Island is arable

About Kim Goldberg

Kim Goldberg is a poet, journalist and the author of 8 books of poetry and nonfiction. Latest titles: DEVOLUTION (poems of ecopocalypse), UNDETECTABLE (her Hep C journey in haibun), RED ZONE (poems of homelessness) and RIDE BACKWARDS ON DRAGON: a poet's journey through Liuhebafa. She lives in Nanaimo, BC. Contact:
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