Group plays ‘chicken’ with city council

Agriculture proponents in Campbell River want the city to allow hens in residential yards

A local agriculture  group has put a proposal in front of council to allow hens in backyards across the the city.

The group, spearheaded by former city councillor Morgan Ostler and food sovereignty activist Kira DeSorcey, also expected to present council with a petition bearing more than 720 signatures in support of keeping female chickens on residential properties.

Ostler says the practice ties into the city’s agriculture goals.

“The Sustainable Official Community Plan includes the keeping of poultry (and bees) in residential backyards,” Ostler says.

She also noted Campbell River relies heavily on imports to stock its food supply, but the city does have the ability to reverse that trend.

“Food grown close to home reduces our dependency on the delivery of food being trucked from great distances,” Ostler says. “The early steps in becoming food secure and less dependent on outside suppliers for our sustenance is reflected in the increasing number of residents who are raising fruits and vegetables.”

Ostler noted that raising chickens in backyards also helps to keep the soil free of slugs and destructive bugs, without having to use pesticides and insecticides.

Additionally, families who raise their own food are fostering awareness in their children.

“We need to learn where our food comes from and we need to provide this opportunity for our children,” DeSorcey says. “We are a food desert here in Campbell River. We need more people farming or growing their own food and to achieve this we need to remove some of the barriers. We need to allow options for individuals and families to seek cleaner food sources.”

Peter Woods, who served as chair of the city’s former Environmental Advisory Committee, agrees.

“Children discover a sense of responsibility in looking after a small flock,” he says. “They begin to understand the origins of food and how it’s important to recognize compassion and ethics around food consumption.”

For Woods, this is his second attempt at permitting backyard poultry.

In January 2010, the Environmental Advisory Committee brought a proposal to city hall but the council of the day refused the committee’s suggestion of an open house to gauge support for backyard chickens before the city’s Agriculture Plan was complete.

That plan was completed more than a year ago now and supports raising backyard poultry.

Ostler says because of that she doesn’t expect much opposition from council.

“We don’t expect there will be resistance, it’s all part of our Sustainable Official Community Plan. Why would we not be supported?” Ostler says. “We’re confident council will support it. It reflects what the community wants.”