COLUMN: Healthy farming solution takes times

Saturday Beat

More than anybody, people who grow food know it takes time to cultivate land so that its soil is rich and nutritious, capable of growing crops not only this growing season but for many more to come.

Care must be taken to nurture the land to provide the best possible food, working with patience and optimism to ensure the proper variables – sunlight, rain, warmth – converge to give each fruit, vegetable or herb the right taste and texture.

It doesn’t happen overnight.

Farmers know that, which is why I find it interesting that urban agriculture advocates in Lantzville are pressuring council to slam a bylaw through allowing urban farming districtwide without first understanding why agriculture was taken out of urban areas in the first place.

They seem to want it now and don’t care about the consequences.

It’s, well, unfarmerlike.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people growing their own food. I’m well aware of a potential food crisis should delivery of food from the big corporations somehow fail us, either through natural disaster or other shortages.

I also get that growing food locally brings people together, provides more nutritious food and allows the growers to make a few bucks on the side.

I tried to grow a tomato plant on my back deck last summer. I gave it so much attention the dog began to feel snubbed. In the end it was a withered, dying stump with tomatoes that looked more like rocks.

I have a lot of respect for farmers. But agriculture ceased in densely populated areas for a reason, mostly because ingredients necessary to grow food (like manure) don’t jive with lots of humans.

In short, farming is as messy and smelly as it is rewarding.

Modern neighbourhoods are not messy and smelly, and over the decades bylaws in virtually every modern city around the world have strived to create highly populated areas that are as clean as can be.

Not everybody appreciates wafts of manure floating through their kitchen window (I would like to point out here I live beside two donkeys and several sheep and I love them all). It’s local government’s responsibility to ensure all residents’ needs and concerns are addressed.

There are things allowed in neighbourhoods not conducive to healthy living that one could argue are much worse than whatever farming could dish out. Pesticides are one example. And yes, we all burn fossil fuels and throw out our trash and emit all kinds of crap.

But clean well water is a legitimate concern in Lantzville.

Contaminants like E.coli could seep into the water system – we only need to look as far back as Walkerton in 2000 to know the consequences of that – putting pressure on the local water provider (government) to ensure it is safe.

It’s not as cut and dried as simply growing food. If it was, people would be farming on their little plots all over the world.

And maybe they’re beginning to. With modern concerns like climate change, food shortages and healthy eating growing daily, the return of community is more important than ever. I buy that.

But government doesn’t, and never will, move at the pace of instant gratification, just like human morals and ethics can’t keep pace with technology.

There’s a gap, but that gap is closing in Lantzville.

Council has provided a mechanism for residents to use land for other than what it was zoned for through temporary use permits, and a draft bylaw is underway to begin a “made in Lantzville” approach to urban farming.

It takes time.

So, like a farmer contemplating the growing season, he carefully examines information that has been collected over centuries to ensure he makes the right decisions because there are people relying on him.

Lantzville council’s position is no different.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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