Halifax Media Co-op

News from Nova Scotia's Grassroots

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!
Advertisement

No Farms No Food: Battle Over Rezoning Application in Kings County Goes Provincial

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
No Farms No Food: Battle Over Rezoning Application in Kings County Goes Provincial

On February 1, 2011, the Kings County Council voted to approve a rezoning application for 382 acres of land in the hamlet of Greenwich. The land, which is zoned as agricultural, may now be available for development, pending approval from the province. The decision to approve the application for rezoning, which passed at council by a narrow vote of 6-5, has pitted neighbour against neighbour, and arguments both for and against the rezoning application have become heated and emotional.

The collective known as No Farms No Food is the driving force arguing against the approval. Members of No Farms No Food describe themselves as "farmers, tourism and business operators, wildlife enthusiasts, teachers, health care professionals, lawyers, and individuals from every walk of life." What they share is that they call the Annapolis Valley (in which Kings County is located) “home” and are committed to its long term sustainability.

At the centre of their debate against the approval for rezoning, indeed against rezoning agricultural land in general, is the issue of Nova Scotia's ability to be food sustainable. The Agricultual Land Review (ALR), a comprehensive study which was commissioned by the Nova Scotia Ministry of Agriculture in the fall of 2009, noted that "Provincial action to preserve and protect agricultural land should be enacted as soon as possible."

The ALR also came to the conclusion that Nova Scotia is at least 53,000 hectares of agricultural land short of being food self-sufficient. While available to the public, The ALR has been lying fallow at the Provincial Government level since July of 2010.

"What we're hoping is that the government would finish with the Agricultural Land Review,” says Dr. Marilyn Cameron. Cameron is a long-time member of 'No Farms No Food' and an activist on several agriculture-related fronts. “[The review] was based on public consultation and people said 'save the farmland first.' Then we need to save farmers. But the majority of people wanted to save farmland. We are seeing it being eroded at a really rapid rate.”

Cameron believes that the issue, in so much as it can be reduced to the 380-acre parcel in Greenwich, is that the current owners, and farmers, do not want to farm anymore.

"If you're looking at somebody who lives in Greenwich, who doesn't want to farm anymore, nobody's telling them that they can't sell their farm, and their farmland, and their equipment, and their knowledge, to another farmer," says Cameron. "But what's going on in Greenwich is that they're not offering the property for sale, and they're not interested in selling it as farmland. Period.”

“Some of these guys have kids. Some of these guys have sons. And they're still not offering it as farmland to anybody. That's what's going on here. We may have farmers who want to farm, but these guys don't care that there might be somebody who would want to farm their land. And that is what is upsetting to me, as a resident of Greenwich village, that these guys don't care about the next generation,” she continues.

The ALR, in essence, advocates a 'back to the drawing board' approach as far as rezoning agricultural land for development goes. The ALR recommends that the province "should enact legislation to remove the responsibility for the conservation and/or preservation of agricultural land from any municipality without a municipal plan, or with a municipal plan that does not address the conservation of agricultural lands within the entirety of its jurisdiction."

If the province were to enact this recommendation, or at least take the recommendation into consideration when deciding whether or not to approve the application for rezoning the Greenwich land, then it might side in favour of No Farms No Food. Towards this goal, No Farms No Food has been collecting signatures at all of the HRM's farmers' markets over the past three weeks, and will be holding a rally at 11 am, this Saturday, February 26, at the Halifax Seaport Market.

Patricia Bishop, of TapRoot Farms, an organic farm in Kings County, was also a member of the council that drafted the ALR. Bishop sees the issue as being far more large-scale than 380 acres in Greenwich, even though the Greenwich parcel may well act as a tipping point for the Province's hand in the matter.

 “The provincial government needs to take a more active role in this,” says Bishop. “For me, I think that the provincial government is responsible for the safety and the sustainability of the future. If we can't depend on our leaders to make those tough decisions, then we're in really big trouble. And I would say that we are in really big trouble. Because at the very base of everything else, of our whole entire existence, we need land on which to grow food. Period. And if we believe that we're going to be able to get it from somewhere else all the time, then I think that we're positioning ourselves for a great disaster in the future.”

Carey Jernigan, of the Food Action Committee - Ecology Action Centre, agrees.

“I think that there's an incredible amount of both violence and environmental destruction that happens when we rely on food that's grown in other parts of the world.” says Jernigan. “In so much as we are able in any part of the world to grow things locally, that's a good idea, in terms of people being able to make a living, and feeling good with one another in communities, and also in terms of international justice.”

At the centre of the decision to go ahead with the approval for the rezoning application is King's County Councillor Chris Parker. Parker sees the issue from a self-described "common sense" perspective, and blames the No Farms No Food coalition for rendering the rezoning application into emotional terms, where fact is of secondary importance.

“The thing is [No Farms No Food] don't have to tell the truth,” says Parker. “You have to get [the public] emotionally involved. So, most people are not going to read documents. And that's what I had to gauge when I was a councillor listening to public hearings...I would have more respect for people, period, if they read the documents and came up with a different conclusion than me. Okay, I can handle that.”

“But if you didn't read the documents, and what you are relying on is a small group of people who had a special interest in trying to get you to vote or speak so that they could benefit, I've got a problem with that. The public basically was duped, and me as a councillor, I had to look through all that and more, let's just put it that way.”

Parker alleges that several key members of No Farms No Food are land owners near New Minas, and that rather than being interested in halting the development of agricultural land in general, they are simply protesting the development in Greenwich because it would lead investment away from their own financial stakes.

Parker also takes issue with the fact that No Farms No Food claim, on their website, that Kings County Council voted to 'pave 380 acres of Agricultural Land'.

“It's 209 acres, really.” says Parker. “There's a whole bunch of land that's called 'Ravines,' so you can't farm or develop on that at all, so you have to take that out. You've got to take out 'Open Space.' You have to take out the commercially-zoned land that they have right now. And you have to take out the land that has houses on it right now. So when you take out all that, basically that leaves you with 209 acres. Of that 209 acres, 76 of that is Class 2 soils, which we say they can farm on, they can't develop on.”

And Parker stresses that there is a key difference between Council's approval of the application to rezone, and 'as-of-right' rezoning.

“The only thing that we have allowed these people to do, if this gets passed by the province, is to make a future application, and it has to be a detailed application," says Parker. "[At that time] the public then gets back involved, council gets back involved, it goes through first, second readings, it goes through a public advisory committee. So it doesn't give them 'as-a-right' development.”

The issue is certainly complicated, and involves key 'hot-topics' such as peak oil, food sustainability, and food security. In an effort to help sift through the information, and assist the public in making an educated decision on the matter, Robert Trenholm, one of the organizers of the February 26 rally, has put together an impressive line-up of speakers.

“Some of the people lined up would be Lil MacPherson from The Wooden Monkey, Marla MacLeod on behalf of the Ecology Action Centre, Patricia Bishop from TapRoot Farms, Tom Cosman, co-owner of Cosman and Whidden Honey, and Dr. Jenny Moon, an MD who specializes in holistic medicine,” says Trenholm.

The No Farms No Food rally takes place this Saturday, February 26, at 11am, at the Seaport Farmer's Market. The rally will also feature music and other activities, as well as all the great vendors and ambiance that create the excitement of any Saturday at the market.  

 


Socialize:
Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.
1522 words

Comments

Councillor Parker's statement

Councillor Parker's statement that the farmland lost is 209 acres is a lie. Below is a quote from the Agricultural Impact Assessment prepared for the county by Morton Horticultural Associates. 

 

"If all of the Elderkin et al. A1 lands were removed from agriculture, including the farm markets

and processing facilities (C13 Zone), the agriculture industry would lose the future production

opportunity from 302.6 acres of Class 2, 3 and active 4 land." 

I have an idea:   Why don't

I have an idea:
 

Why don't we just put a national moratorium on rezoning of farm land.  When/if farmers want to sell their land, the government would be required to purchase it from them and add it to a national farmland collective.

Once enough farmland has been "collectivized", the federal government could start a program where young people who are interested in farming, but are not financially able to do so are given the opportunity to farm the federal farmland under the program.

Oh wait, that's not very neoliberal or capitalist, is it?

*sigh*... if only I hadn't gone to university then I'd be able to have $150,000 of farm debt instead of $40,000 of student debt, and then I'd be getting somewhere!

Check out our blog

...You might just learn something.

Miles, I cannot believe you quote Marilyn Cameron - nothing subverts the persuasiveness of your position quicker than quoting MC. What you should do is step up an online debate between her and...well, any thinking person - you can include us in that lot if you wish. We would love to expose her and the rest of those jokers for the anti-choice radicals they really are. It's quite scary, actually. 

www.valleyfamilyfarms.com

I figured you

I figured you valleyfamilyfarm blogger(s?) would find this eventually. I have read your blog, and truth be told I really enjoyed it. It is very informative, but also a bit nasty and petty, if you ask me. On the other hand, I am not in Greenwich, and from an outsiders perspective who simply had a chance to talk to a few people, things have gotten pretty nasty on both sides, I'd say.

I have no problem quoting Marilyn Cameron, personally, because I don't really think that this article takes any one position to subvert in the first place. Or are you speaking in the general? As in 'Nothing subverts the persuasiveness of ANY position quicker than...'

If you happen to have a problem with her, I don't really know what that might be. If you want to shed light on what that problem is, moreso than you have here, which isn't really at all aside from casting a lure into the waters and waiting for me to say "what do you mean, and why not?", feel free. I sense this is just what you're waiting for, and I'm kind of excited to hear what you have to say. In a weird way, I feel strangely validated that you've cast your eye on lil' old me.

Just remember, the point of this article was objectivity. If you want to correct me, fine. But don't think that I'm taking any sides here. If it gets personal and rude, I'm out.

Waiting with bated breath. 

Now valley farm blogger

Now valley farm blogger resorts to the character assassination of a respected citizen as his argument to allow the destruction of Greenwich's agricultural land resource that has fed farm families and our communities for 330 years.

Let me tell you about what I know about the remarkable person he slanders. Dr. Marilyn Cameron is a veterinarian by profession, a great gardener by avocation,  a great mother by nature. She is the winner of the N.S. Environmental Network "Eco hero of the year award" two years running for her volunteer work on bio-solids and agricultural land preservation. She is brave and persevering. In all my life I have never met anyone who worked so hard for selfless causes as Marilyn.

But then what do I know? I am just an actual farmer who actually lives in Greenwich or as the blogger characterizes me, one of "the rest of those jokers... the anti-choice radicals."

So if Mr. Blogger wants to argue for the destruction of our farmlands, let us hear reason not slander. Let him answer why our Province should let the 4 current tenants get rich by destroying the productive agricultural value of these farmlands which are sustainable for all future generations?

Tom Cosman, bee farmer

 

  

You can catch more flies with honey...or so we hear.

Tom, 

We will assume you are speaking euphemistically when you talk about "character assassination" and "slander". We haven't once made a false claim about the two-time NSEN "Eco-Hero of the Year" Award Winner, or attacked her character in any way. We would happily allow or pets to be cared for by Dr. Cameron; we have no reason to believe that she would be anything other than capable at her profession. That being said, she is not an expert on these issues (land-use) - that judgement is clear, Tom. Or do you disagree? 

Let's agree that "jokers" and "radicals" are as hyperbolic as "4 current tenants get rich by destroying the productive agricultural value of these farmlands which are sustainable for all future generations?"

You should visit our blog and read some of the articles and you will quickly see that we are putting forth very reasonable and sound arguments, based on empirical evidence, and moral principles. We've extended our hand several times to No Farms No Food to debate these issues, but of course, they declined. (And, Tom, it's not slander/defamation/etc to question whether someone who represents themself as an expert is, actually, an expert - or to point out why, in fact, they are not at all an expert. It's closer to fun than slander.)

Just so we're clear, there is nothing "selfless" about the cause she is currently peddling.

Kind regards,

Valley Family Farms Blog Team

www.valleyfamilyfarms.com 

Mr. Blogger talks, talks,

Mr. Blogger talks, talks, talks but doesn't answer the question asked:

"Why should our Province permit the 4 current tenants to get rich by destroying the productive agricultural value of these farmlands which are sustainable for all future generations?" 

Mr. Blogger says my question is hyperbolic. Not at all.

"Get rich"...the 4 farms are worth a few million dollars as going agricultural concerns. Re-zoned they will likely be worth 10 times that amount.

That  "these farmlands are sustainable for all future generations," that's just a fact.  

Tom Cosman

 

You can add your name to over 3000 others on our petition calling for better Protection of Nova Scotia's Agricultural Land at:

 
More information on preserving Nova Scotia's agricultural land at  www.nofarmsnofood.ca

 

Tom, It's critical to

Tom,

It's critical to understand the position of your opponent prior to making value judgements on their arguments. That's why  we've spent so much time reading the offerings of No Farms No Food, all of the documents available on the application (these can be viewed through the Kings County website), and a detailed analysis of the "Preservation of Agricultural Land in Nova Scotia", the report prepared by the Nova Scotia Agricultural Land Review Committee. We felt it necessary to inform ourselves on your side's position prior to engaging in any sort of debate in the public domain. You would have been well served to take a similar approach with the Valley Family Farms Blog - that way you would have avoided suggesting that we regularly evade the questions in favour of...talk.

No matter, we'll address your question anyway.

"Why should our Province permit the 4 current tenants to get rich by destroying the productive agricultural value of these farmlands which are sustainable for all future generations?"  

Well, as we stated earlier, the Province doesn't have a say in the issue - it's the Municipal Government that is the relevant body, as per the Municipal Government Act (MGA). The MGA is the guide which dictates jurisdiction and the Provincial Government is naturally reluctant to get into the business of the municipality. Just to preempt your argument here, the Statement of Provincial Interest's will not be used to supersede the MGA, it's not meant to; it's merely a set of abstract notions that the government feels should be taken into consideration during future policy decisions. But, really, all that is beside the point. 

The real issue is, by what right does the Province, or your collective, have claim to the assets of these farmer's? You suggest they are 'tenants', as was referenced in the ALR; this is wholly incorrect. Just because property rights are not enshrined in the Charter as they are in the US Constitution, (as was the rationale in the ALR), DOES NOT mean that Canadian property owners are "privileged tenants", the rights of whom can be violated by the whims of a boisterous activist coalition. We don't need those rights to be enshrined, simply the threat of possible, if not imminent, enshrinement, serves to keep those who would violate property rights at bay. Do you really feel like a tenant, Tom?

Agricultural land isn't productive on it's own; although it is a valuable resource, if it lies fallow it gives way to trees and forest. It is the intervention of human ingenuity, on the part of the farmer, that gives rise to is productive potential. Humans are the most important resource. (See: Julian Simon)

As for the sustainability claim - we've answered this fallacy before on our blog, but it goes a little something like this: given a long enough time horizon any and all preservation measures are inadequate. Put simply, in 3 billion years, say, will we have enough farmland to sate the needs of the masses? The answer, given today's level of productivity, is obviously, no. So, it's clear that it isn't sustainable for ALL future generation, just for the one's many years into the future. Meaning that you are applying some discount rate to future human lives (in other words, the lives of humans 3 billion years from now are less valuable to you than those in the near future) - what is the discount rate you are using? And, why is that particular rate appropriate? (You might not have thought it through with that perspective, but that doesn't mean that that's not what your argument implies.)

So, having answered your question, please answer ours: "by what right does your collective have claim to the assets of these farmer's?" 

Yours in theory,

The Valley Family Farms Blog Team

 

Miles,  The first part of our

Miles, 

The first part of our comment was not directed at you, rather it was intended for the two individuals - or should I say, the two components of the collective - that commented above. 

We didn't intend to imply that your (very well written) article was for one side or the other, we just always get a good laugh when people quote MC so heavily. Gord Delaney from the Chronicle Herald practically gets her to write the articles for him. She trots out her "Dr." credientials (she is a Vet, by the way) and people act is if she is some sort of authority on the issues - which, after having read our blog you understand, she is clearly not.

As for being "nasty and petty" - you're right; we have been a little nasty with some of our comments, articles, etc. When we started this, we simply wanted to provide a voice for the farmer's who, by any measure, were being attacked outright by this anti-choice cartel. We tried, as is evidenced by the early posts in our blog, to explicate the arguments and avoid ad hominem attacks and such. Unfortunately, we didn't get any traction that way. We continued to illuminate the issues and invited the 'other side' to contribute to our enterprise, without much effectiveness - so we decided to take the 'kid gloves' off and all of a sudden we were getting close to 100 hits a day! (Note: it's not the hits that we care about necessarily, it's the eyeballs reading the arguments.) Let's face it, Miles, we were A*#es - although, we must admit, they made it easy, what with their refusal to listen to sound reasoning or available empirical evidence.  

We were never able to directly engage anyone from the group, which was disappointing; however, our main objective was to provide the Councillors with coherent and cogent arguments to defend their position to accept the application against any of the BS the other side was putting forth.

Now, the only issue I have with your article, Miles, is that you don't point out how fundamentally anti-democratic, anti-choice No Farms No Food is. We have a democratic process in place - an unfavourable decision is made and they deny the legitimacy of the process they were appealing to. Now, if you've read our blog you know that the Provincial Government has no say in this matter as per the M.G.A., regardless of what people will say about Provincial Interests, etc. What do you think will happen when the Provinical Gov't doesn't get involved...here's our predicition: Marilyn Cameron, et al. will say "the Federal Government has to step in here and solve this now." One gets the impression she will petition the queen failing a federal intervention. 

Anyways, keep up the good work, Miles! 

 

Kind regards,

The Valley Family Farms Blog Team

Who are you?

One thing I am interested in here, is who exactly is the Valley Family Farms Blogger? In one of your posts on another website you did introduce yourself by name. I tried to find you to include your original perspective in this article, but could not find a listed phone number.

So please, for the sake of interest, who are you? I know that you claim there are several of you writing your blog, but behind the colloquial "we", I discern one individuals' writing. If I had to guess I'd say a late-thirties male, but I'm no Sherlock Holmes.

Tell us here at the Media Coop a little about yourself...

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, aka

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, aka Miles, 

There are several reasons for using the 'Valley Family Farms Blog Team' moniker; I think you would find the rationale interesting, but that's for another time. 

You are correct, there are several posts where I identify, well, me, the writer of the posts - Andrew Buist. As for your guess, I am late-twenties (regardless of what my hairline suggests) and I am responsible for writing the posts attributed to The Valley Family Farms Blog Team.

What else would you like to know?

 

Kind regards,

Andrew Buist

aka Mr. Blogger 

 

Re: Valley Family Farms Blog

That anybody could take the Valley Family Farms blog seriously boggles my mind. In all of one post it suggested that peak oil is a "mercantilist fallacy" and that the starting point for Agricultural Land Review Committee should have been “Do we need to protect agricultural land?” 'Cos you know, world trade as it now exists will go on forever, and "So what?" if we have a service economy of call-centres and shitty retail outlets.

Ugh.

To the ValleyFamilyFarms Blogger

Andrew,

I'm interested in your motivation in keeping the ValleyFamilyFarms blog. I mean, there are motivations going on all over this issue. Some on the surface appear to be something, and then with a little digging turn into being linked to something else entirely. And some appear to be simply what they are.

Yours, however, escapes me for the moment. The way I see it, you are either a die-hard defender of development, with all the philosophical baggage that this entails (which is not to say that all positions don't come with their own baggage), or, you have some personal interest in this development.

I mean, let's face it. You have spent quite a bit of time creating and maintaining a website, and seeking out any and all articles related to the proposed development in Greenwich, and then getting in the virtual ring with any and all comers. Rare is the individual who devotes themselves to a cause simply for the moral position they see being affronted. I'm not saying that you aren't such an individual. But I would say rarer still is the individual who devotes themselves to a pro-development cause, simply for the moral position they see being affronted. Or perhaps land owners rights is the cause you are championing here? I'm not sure.

So when you ask what else I'd like to know, I'd like to know how it is that you came to be involved in this issue, and why have you chosen to devote what must surely be days of your life, by now, defending the rights of the Greenwich farmers to apply to rezone their land?

Awaiting your reply,

 

Miles  

I'll see your "Ugh" and raise you a "What?"

Brad,

It is nothing short of a testament to the advancement of technology that your stunted intellect was even able to turn on the computer to make that...contribution. You have erased the mystery as to why your particular mind could be boggled - I'm sure you experience that feeling often. 

The only evidence you even hint at in your comment is your (apparently clairvoyant) knowledge of how world trade will progress in the future. And, let's just for the sake of reason, point out that we are not arguing that global trade "as it now exists will go on forever"...our arguments don't rest on hypothetical notions of how the future will unfold, we base our judgments on economic theory, empirical evidence and the principles of logic.

If your comments, in any way, accurately reflect your intelligence (and thus your ability to contribute to those brave enough to employ you) then you should count yourself lucky to be hired by a call-center or any retail outlet you condemn as "shitty"...

 

 

 

Miles, We made our

Miles,

We made our motivations for creating (and maintaining) the blog explicit in several posts (See: 'Full Disclosure' and 'A Response to NF2's Update (Sept 19th)'). In addition to the motivations described in those articles, I became involved with the issue simply because I detested the unconsidered rhetoric being leveled against the farmers. 

We aren't a pro-development group; we value the fundamental rights of individuals and that is the principle we have been defending and will continue to do so. For instance, Tom Cosman (see above) owns a bee farm in Greenwich and there have been some suggestions that new bylaws may disallow such a farm in the area. If that threat comes to fruition, we will be the first to defend his rights - with equal vigour - to continue cultivating bees and organizing his assets in such a way as to maximize their value - - even though it is clear he doesn't like us or what we have to say. 

As for the time it has taken to produce and maintain the blog - as well as debating the issues in the comments section of several articles (this one and The Coast) - it hasn't been anywhere near as time consuming as you presume. The articles and comments rarely take more than 30 minutes to write, so several hours is a more appropriate estimation of the time we have allocated to the project. (Although, I must admit, I blushed a little to think that you assumed we've spent "days" devoted to the endeavour.)

It would be interesting to create some sort of environment where both sides could openly debate the issues - with the NF2-ilk posting arguments and reacting to ours in a forum that provides more fluidity. Of course we would need a neutral third-party to moderate. Any ideas?   

All the best,

Andrew 

Advertisement

User login


Google+
Subscribe to the Dominion $25/year

The Media Co-op's flagship publication features in-depth reporting, original art, and the best grassroots news from across Canada and beyond. Sign up now!