Editorial: Chickening out of local food production

The RDEK board of directors opted not to support backyard chickens for residents with parcels of land less than one acre in Areas F and G.

What a disappointment that the Regional District of East Kootenay board of directors opted not to support backyard chickens for residents with parcels of land less than one acre in Areas F and G. While the results of RDEK’s public consultation clearly pointed to a majority in support of a backyard chicken amendment for both areas, it was still voted down.

To anyone who knows the area, that public consultation on backyard agriculture for Regional District of East Kootenay Areas F and G was lumped together, thus presenting any feedback received as one and the same for these two extremely distinct regions of the Columbia Valley, is a head shaker. While Area F is home to some large and extremely successful ranches, it is also home to the largest concentration of timeshares and second homeowners in the valley, which translates into, by definition, a type of resident that is not year-round, which precludes them from operating their own sustainable urban homestead.

Area G, on the other hand, is home to many more full-time residents, locals who are more inclined to care about local food security and be interested in backyard farming as a result. And a green light on chicken keeping would have definitely found support in those pockets of Area F with a rural flavour.

One could argue that backyard chickens and beekeeping are already permitted on parcels of land larger than one acre, but excluding property owners whose land literally doesn’t measure up seemingly contradicts key elements of the RDEK’s Agricultural Plan, particularly in the areas of “contributing to food safety and security by ensuring more equitable access to nutritious foods”; and “increasing the region’s capacity to produce more local food”.

But as public interest for free range, local and organic continues to surge, with even more urban areas like Invermere and now Kamloops permitting chickens in residential areas in response to this growing demand, the RDEK will likely be revisiting this issue again in the future, with a different outcome.

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