Here are my answers to a list of questions received from the Central Okanagan Food Policy Council, a group that I have been involved with for a number of years.
1. What do you think are the top priorities to ensure a food secure community?
Availability of local food – whether it’s grown by a local farmer, in a community garden or in your own back yard. The city can support this by creating policies that protect agricultural land, providing land for community gardens, and making sure by-laws don’t prohibit people’s own food production. The newly updated OCP highlights these important issues and I commit to following though with them. Availability of healthy food for our vulnerable citizens. I support the community organizations that have taken on this important role.
2. What are some ways you will support local farmers?
One way to support local farmers is to make sure our by-laws don’t create unintended difficulties. For example, appropriate buffers need to be in place to reduce urban/rural conflicts. Another way is to allow reasonable agri-tourism activities that keep a farmer farming but allow some extra income to subsidize the farmer – otherwise most go off farm to work. A third way is through the Economic Development Office which provides assistance in navigating the immigrant farm workers program and other provincial government programs. Adhering to the urban growth boundary is a fourth way – this relieves land price pressure on farmland by protecting it from development.
3. What are your plans for a permanent farmers market, which is easily accessible by transit, pedestrian, and vehicular traffic.
City staff are already in discussion with a property owner who would like to build a permanent, year-round farmers market. I support this project. It is close to transit and near the geographic centre of the city. Once the project is improved, I will support pedestrian improvements off-site to make it more accessible.
4. Would you change the regulations surrounding chickens and bees in urban areas?
I’m on record as supporting an amendment to city by-laws to allow the keeping of chickens in urban areas. This has worked well in many other urban communities, such as Victoria. Over 100 people have written to the city on the issue of urben hens, and 68% of those were in favor. This by-law amendment has also been supported by the Central Okanagan Food Policy Council, which represents a diverse group of residents and community groups. I would be willing to look at an amendment to the bee-keeping by-law if there was similar support.
5. How are you going to increase the number of community gardens and farm-to-school programs?
I am committed to continuing the city’s partnership with the Central Okanagan Community Garden Society to provide land for community gardens in all sectors of our city. I also support the continued funding for a staff person for the Society at the Regional District level. In addition, I am willing to consider community gardens as an amenity for bonusing for new multi-family development.
Thank you for the questions! If you would like to speak to me about these or other issues, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 250-717-6359. Sincerely, Michele Rule