COLUMN: Perspective missing in land use policy

For the first time this year, the lawn tractor was rescued from its forlorn repose to actually cut the grass, though for the most part the lawn didn’t need it. Gone, at least for this year, were the smug emails to friends in the Cariboo gloating over the fact that I was mowing my lawn on the first of March while theirs remained a wishful expanse buried beneath a meter of snow. Here it is nearly the middle of April and even the trees remain bare.

For the first time this year, the lawn tractor was rescued from its forlorn repose to actually cut the grass, though for the most part the lawn didn’t need it. Gone, at least for this year, were the smug emails to friends in the Cariboo gloating over the fact that I was mowing my lawn on the first of March while theirs remained a wishful expanse buried beneath a meter of snow. Here it is nearly the middle of April and even the trees remain bare.

If there is a redeeming factor in monotonously running a lawn mower back and forth it is that it permits the mind to wander, to ruminate over world issues, or closer to home, the proposal by Metro Vancouver politicians to curb the establishment of mega-homes on agricultural land.

Seems they are aghast that people build big houses, site them where they want, and even have the audacity to add a swimming pool and/or tennis court.

Apparently in the minds of certain civic politicians it is wrong for people to enjoy or use their own land, and to strengthen their argument, they suggest that these homes and pools make it difficult for future farmers to operate equipment and grow crops.

I wonder, have they ever visited a farm that actually uses the soil? Didn’t they notice the large footprint left by barns, equipment sheds and the manure pit?

And if they are so worried about arable farmland being covered by a single house, why did they permit literally thousands of acres of productive cropland to be cleared of topsoil and covered by vast swaths of greenhouses?

Not that there is anything wrong with greenhouses, though let’s face it, they do not need to be located on soil that is suited to growing crops.

Greenhouses would be best sited on mined-out gravel pits, or other non-arable land. The food they produce is excellent, is needed, and contributes greatly to our total agricultural output, but they don’t use an ounce of the soil that is, or was, beneath them. Nor too do chicken barns or other ‘industrialized’ agricultural enterprises.

Even blueberry farms don’t need to be on prime soil … the bush after all is native to mountain locations where the soil base is marginal at best. In addition, in growing blueberries the soil needs to be soured, thus most farmers load vast quantities of sawdust onto the land requiring significant remediation before anything else could be grown on it.

And what about using large blocks of prime farmland to grow turf for urban lawns? How does that contribute to food production?

So if it is acceptable to cover, in many cases in its entirety, a parcel of farmland with structures that do not use any of the soil’s agricultural potential, why is it wrong to have a large home on a piece of land? The majority of the property is still bare and potentially arable.

If the parcel size is too small to be a ‘viable’ farm, who is to blame for that? Probably the same politicians who are now bitching about it, and permitted the subdivision in the first place.

I support the preservation of farmland, and will argue vehemently against carving it up for residential subdivisions, but to arbitrarily decide what people should or should not do on their land is wrong.

If society collapses, and we revert to the days of subsistence living where every scrap of land is needed for survival food production, then the big houses will be torn down, the greenhouses will disappear because there isn’t the gas to heat them and the electricity to light them, and the politicians (or dictators) who survive will find something else that is “in everyone’s best interests.”

In the meantime, leave us be, whether we live in tiny shacks or mega-houses – they are our homes and they are ours.

 

markrushton@abbynews.com