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Candidate Questions 6: What are your views on Rossland's food security?

NOTE: This article has been modified to include a response from Jill Spearn.

Some see the West Kootenay as choosing an increasingly 'hundred mile' approach in the future while others suspect such a "lifestyle" may soon be forced upon us. In either event, how prospective councillors view food security is an important question. Hence today's question: The OCP suggests we increase the availability of local foods and recommends the city set aside land to grow food. Currently, Rossland's available land is underutilized for food production. How will you try to improve our community's food security?

KATHY MOORE: The current council set aside the land for the community garden and gave permission for the farmer’s market to take place downtown. This is a good start. I think the work Rossland REAL Food is doing is excellent. They offer garden tours, chicken coop crawls and hands-on workshops helping people become more self sufficient. The city owns various parcels of land around town and some of these could be made available for farming if the demand is there. At the moment it appears that the community garden and people’s own home gardens are meeting the need.

JILL SPEARN: Food security is a critical part of sustainability and I applaud the REAL foodies folks, the farmer's market and the backyard chicken brigade. Rosslanders are embracing the opportunities to learn about everything from seed storage and sharing, backyard visits and the 100 mile concept. The new zoning bylaw rather than taking away from the land base due to its increased density in the downtown core, actually leaves more land base and less sprawl, thereby contributing to more available space for growing gardens. Whether it's a few raised boxes or a full garden plot the rural nature of our community lends itself to gardening. Effective water saving measures as in rain barrels or other means of collecting and or reusing water will benefit gardeners and should be encouraged. More education around these measures is recommended. Less lawn and more gardens would be wonderful.  The future of RSS and the inquiry based learning model could create some awesome learning opportunities for students. The OCP suggests integenerational learning and I envision seniors and the young interacting in the community gardens or personal gardens, learning and teaching one another, then into the kitchen at RSS to preserve and cook, keeping our young and elders healthy and happy.

DAVID KLEIN: This is a very important issue for me so I will be a willing participant in the decision making processes with individuals/companies that would like to grow food in Rossland for Rosslanders. There are many more options to explore here so I would be willing to discus/brainstorm it with council/residents that have ideas on how the community can be more self-sufficient when it comes to food. The farmers market and community garden are a great start.

JODY BLOMME: The aspect of this issue that falls under the responsibilities of City Council would be to enable agricultural use in zoning bylaws.  I bought my acreage in part because of the appeal of the agricultural uses the zoning allowed for and when the new zoning bylaw threatened to take these allowed uses away, I was quite worried and, truth be told, ‘up in arms’.  Much to my relief, Council was very understanding and graciously allowed me to keep the zoning for which I had originally purchased.  On a case by case basis such as this, Council can encourage food production for those individuals who would like to do so.

LAURIE CHARLTON: There is little land in the City that is suitable for growing food on a large scale.  It is my understanding that the soils in Happy Valley are mostly glacial till and unsuitable for growing much more than grass.  The productive lands that were the Chinese Gardens have now been paved over by the Redstone development.  Rural lands at higher elevations experience growing seasons that are too short to be useful.  

However, there are many homeowners in Rossland that are growing their own food in backyard gardens.  More homeowners should be encouraged to grow their own food in this way.  Unfortunately, the City has implemented policies that counteract any encouragement that might be given.  The City is implementing changes to the zoning bylaw that decrease lot sizes and setbacks that reduce the land that might be available for gardens.  The City has also mandated the installation of water meters and implemented increasing block rates for the water used.  Increased water consumption in the summer to support gardens will result in increased utility bills.  

The City could implement a water bill credit system for those homeowners who can demonstrate they have productive backyard vegetable gardens.  The zoning bylaw could be structured to provide sufficient lot sizes to allow for reasonably sized backyard gardens.

SHARON WIEDER: Continue working with groups like the community garden.  Rossland has a great history of food production – Chinese gardens example- that needs to be revisited.  Turn lawns into veggie gardens! Work with regional & provincial bodies to rework legislation so that producers can more easily and affordably produce food locally.  Current rules on food safety are out of line with reality.  More people get sick eating food from big commercial producers than from their local producers.

KATHY WALLACE: The grassroots efforts in the community, noteably Rossland Real Foods and the Market, are providing the impetus and I support their efforts. The solo community garden is a start in potential neighbourhood gardens throughout the community and backyard chickens are allowed. It’s a good beginning.

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