Nearly 600 residents participated in LUSH Valley’s consultation on the topic of allowing beekeeping, keeping hens, and yard-gate sales in residential neighbourhoods in the City of Courtenay, and they have a lot to say!

LUSH Valley will be hosting a presentation on the findings on Wednesday May 10 at 12:15pm in the Courtenay Library. Doors open at noon and the research team will be available to answer questions until 1pm.

Consultation on the urban agriculture ideas took place from late February through to late March and included a public forum, two neighbourhood meetings and an on-line survey. The food security group recently presented their findings to Courtenay Council.

“We’d like to extend gratitude do all those who took the time to tell us what they thought on this topic,” states Jessica Hawkins, executive director with LUSH Valley. “Growing more food in urban areas is an idea that is gaining traction in so many communities across BC and North America in general. We thought it was a good time to test the waters in our own back yard.”

The results shows that overall there is strong support for allowing beekeeping, yard gate sales and even hens, although Council isn’t so sure about allowing these feathered friends into residential neighbourhoods.

“Council indicated that there may be some opportunity to consider beekeeping and yard gate sales, but that they didn’t feel that hens were appropriate, citing concerns over abandonment of hens and the perception that they may attract pests and predators,” continues Hawkins. “We anticipated these concerns and will be continuing to monitor other communities who are allowing this activity so we can provide information on this topic in the future.”

A number of other communities across the province permit one or all three activities in residential neighbourhoods subject to conditions being met. Cumberland, Kamloops, North Vancouver and Burnaby permit beekeeping. Cumberland, Campbell River, Kamloops, Revelstoke, Victoria and Vancouver permit keeping hens. Victoria provides clear guidance on yard-gate sales from a business development perspective, an activity that is also permitted in a number of communities such as Kelowna and Cumberland. In Courtenay, yard gate sales and keeping hens is not permitted in residential areas and beekeeping is not clearly regulated.

As for next steps, LUSH Valley will continue to sift through the findings of the research and consider approaching the City about a pilot project to explore implementing some of the urban agriculture activities at a small scale. Exploring partnership opportunities with North Island College will also be pursued. In this project, NIC students assisted in researching the topic and formulating questions for the on-line survey.

Support for the work comes from the BC Healthy Communities “Plan H” program, which encourages collaboration between organizations to improve healthy lifestyles and quality of life in the built environment. The City of Courtenay successfully obtained a $5,000 grant to support the inquiry, initially proposed by LUSH Valley who has been working for over 15 years to increase awareness about the value of local food security, including the importance of urban agriculture.

Lush Valley