It’s Got to Be A Win Win for Local Food Production and Municipal By-Laws

I love the sounds of the farm in the morning: the roosters crowing, the horses nickering for their food, and the sheep baa-ing as soon as they hear humans up and around. I love the crispness of the air, the crunch of the frosty grass under my boots, the buckets clanging as we prepare their food, and the wild birds coming to life with the rise of the fiery sun over the horizon .

I know to some people hearing these sounds at the ungodly hour (a matter of opinion as that is indeed when I feel closest to God and purpose) of 5:30am is not desirable.

Not my neighbors thank goodness. No, we are all happily entrenched here in rural Sou’west Nova Scotia in growing our own food whether it be with backyard chickens or gardens, farming or fishing, which comes with its own unique smells, providing food and income from our tiny island.

Or are we ?

It only takes one person or group to decide their needs or rights trump others and this balance between land and community stewardship, freedom to produce our own food, production of local food and government overreach on your own land for it all to go sideways. Municipal by laws are put in place to protect the balance, a series of checks governed by those elected to represent all interests, not let the powerful create laws which benefit them solely and to protect the vulnerable.

Cottage laws and farm gate rules are supposed to protect the small producer and offer financially viability for feeding the community but often they are cumbersome and outdated.

Urbanization, aggressive zoning to benefit developers, and the great 2020 migration of urban dwellers flooding rural areas has seen a sharp uptake in complaints and by law changes in this province which has clashed with farms and homesteads. It has sparked a series of sweeping by-law changes by municipal governments, ours included.

Frankly you aren’t going to please everyone. But no matter where you live or who you are in Nova Scotia, you have a right and a need to be fed.

At the core of that statement is this: local food production must be held sacred.

Jeremy Clarkson in his hit Amazon series “Clarkson’s Farm “ recently brought awareness to the plight of farmers and government overreach. A hot topic is his denied application to his municipal government for diversifying a small parcel of his farmland to protect and rejuvenate the majority of it. His land. Employing local farmers. Bringing tourists in. Why such resistance? Someone on that council got a bee in their bonnet. Unfortunately, that’s what happens.

I have seen the good the bad and the ugly over many years of being raised on a farm, working on farms, and visiting many farms and homesteads with 4H. I’ve also seen the good, the bad, and the dysfunction of working governments. I know our local councilors have a thankless job for the most part.

However, It’s never easy to see people struggling to feed others and drowning in regulation.

It is after all, land you own and pay taxes on.

During World War 2, Britain was facing major food shortages as they imported two thirds of their food and were dealing with blockades. The government put into practice the “frontline of freedom” in the British countryside. They demanded farmers put into food production every spare piece of land they could. Ditches, lawns-no part of your land was spared the scrutiny of local farm agents as they struggled to feed the nation.

I always have a few questions when I watch episodes of BBC’S Wartime Farm and imagine it taking place today :

Can we imagine our worst case food scarcity scenario happening here? (This isn’t that hard to imagine unfortunately for us on an island, or Nova Scotia should something happen to the Cobequid pass.)

When a country is suddenly in need of massive local food production has the foundation been well laid for this to happen? (Hmmm , where did we see that recently ?? ) Or will it be a call to arms of the resentful, and the tired ?

How we support people producing food is a baseline for our how resilient our communities will be in these uncertain times. It doesn’t always have to be with money. Although last time I checked I couldn’t buy new seeds or livestock with buttons.

It can be with a kind word, encouragement, speaking and listening to your farming and homesteading community, not assuming things are the way you alone see them, not letting petty personal complaints take away from the big picture, and recognition of the value food producers bring.

From the community homesteader’s 1/2 acre front yard garden with ducks for eggs and meat, to the family dairy operation in Manitoba, to celebrity Clarkson’s badger problem, all I know is this: it all starts with a need to grow food and to feed people.

What could be simpler than that?

Love Jenn xx

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