Like most urban areas, Greater Victoria imports a great deal of its food. Given our climate and large amounts of greenspace in the yards of nearly every house, it doesn’t have to be that way. Oak Bay has been taking some positive steps in the past, including allowing small plot intensive agriculture (something even the Times Colonist argued for) after Paula Sobie and Martin Scaia ran afoul of the old rules, and also allowing honey bees on smaller plots.
While this recent progress is good, more needs to happen. We need to take a look at allowing chickens (without roosters), much as Saanich allows. We need to restore the tax break that places with farm status used to enjoy, to help promote agriculture. We also need to follow Victoria’s lead and allow farming as an acceptable home occupation.
We also need to be promoting gardening to younger people. Vancouver’s Lord Roberts School has had a garden for over 22 years. If you catch them young, the love will stay with them for their entire life, as I can personally attest to. Beyond the young, gardening is often used as therapy and experience for those with disabilites, such as the Local Yokels which I visited today, or addictions, with the proposed farm in Saanich.
With all this locally grown food, places are needed to sell it so that locals can enjoy it. After much wrangling, Oak Bay finally has one pocket market, in Estevan Village near my house. I know from speaking with Food Roots, who run the current market, that they would love to expand into other parts of Oak Bay and the current council has cautiously endorsed the idea.
However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Oak Bay is still an urban place and thus we need to recognize that certain farming activities are not welcome here, including large animals, roosters and pesticides. But we can do a great deal to encourage small plots, market gardens and school gardens that could become an integral, exciting part of a future greener, more self-sufficient Oak Bay.