What does it mean to be a Land of Plenty?
I love going for a drive along West Saanich Road through Central Saanich. The scenic drive where I can pick up fruit, vegetables, flowers and eggs from honesty stalls along the road, where I occasionally get stopped behind a slow moving truck or tractor, where I can pull over and look at farm animals with my daughter and enjoy the simplicity, quiet and serenity.
Last year on one such trip I stopped in at Woodwynn Farms. They had a farm market running and we played with some piglets and bought produce grown by men who were formerly homeless and who are now housed and learning about farming. We heard about the vision for the farm and were encouraged and inspired. But then we heard about the issues with rezoning, with neighbours and Central Saanich council denying farm worker housing on one per cent of the 193 acre farm.
Central Saanich’s motto is the Land of Plenty, but yet the community has little low income housing, no food banks and few service agencies. I find this fascinating. I’m not sure about you, but to me it’s disturbing. How can a community call itself the land of plenty, but not offer adequate support, care or help to those in need?
As I took a further look into this idyllic setting that is billed as a farming community, I realized that outside of Michells and Sluggets, some daffodils and a few wineries, this community does very little to feed people. This land of plenty is really not that plentiful, at least in terms of food.
I then realized behind many of these lovely honesty road stands were giant houses on the water or large acreages that sold a small amount of produce as a tax break or to give account to the Agriculture Land Commission for having a mansion on ALR land. So, I stand up and ask, what does it mean to be a land of plenty?
Central Saanich denies farm worker housing to Vantreights and to Woodwynn – people who want to farm the land – but yet allows 22,000 square foot homes to be built on ALR land for a single family and gives tax breaks to the wealthy for their roadside farm stands for the six dozen eggs they sell a week. Perhaps the land of plenty is really about the people who have plenty and keeping out those who have not.
“In true community we will not choose our companions. For our choices are so often limited by self-serving motives. …
“Instead our companions will be given to us by grace.
“Often they will be persons who will upset our settled view of self and the world.
“In fact, we might define true community as that place
“Where the person you least want to live with lives. …” – Parker Palmer, 1977, as quoted in Practicing Peace: A Devotional Walk Through the Quaker Tradition
Perhaps, Central Saanich council, you can re-look at your community plan, look and see if it is true community you are trying to build because a true community includes all people.
Kathleen Busch is the director of community development at Woodwynn Farms.