The Fernie Food Action Strategy (FFAS) has submitted its final recommendations to the City of Fernie, following community engagement and research on the state of the Elk Valley’s local food ecosystem.
In a report delivered to council, the FFAS recommended that the municipality encourage residents to grow food rather than lawns, allow backyard chickens city-wide, encourage rainwater collection and use, and support local commercial agriculture.
Each recommendation was backed with rationale explaining how it could help locals with food security, similar jurisdictions around B.C. with comparable policies, and ways forward for the City of Fernie should it opt to work through the recommendations.
Project co-coordinator, Gaëtane Carignan said that through community engagement, one of the most interesting pieces of feedback was that a third of respondents had listed barriers around allowing hens within most of Fernie as an issue.
“They said that if they had the opportunity, they would have hens.”
A little over ten years ago, the City of Fernie voted against allowing hens (though it’s permitted in West Fernie), but FFAS reported that COVID-19 had changed a lot about how people thought about food security. The current Mayor and Council welcomed the work done by the FFAS, but have not yet made any indications on actions they might take.
Carignan also said that feedback had shown that behaviour had changed since the pandemic began, with many respondents shifting to buying staple foods in bulk.
“We really want to work with council, but we understand the municipality has a lot going on,” said Carignan, adding that there were hopes that food security was recognised as a long-term issue that wouldn’t be going away anytime soon.
“The pandemic is just one crisis, but we know that with climate change there’s going to be more instability – there’s going to be more unexpected things that come.
“It’s probably unwise to depend too much on external ecosystems such as California, such as Mexico – even the Lower Mainland, when there’s an opportunity to produce even more of our own food here and support producers here. We’re helping ourselves become more resilient.”
Moving forward the FFAS will look for ways to work with the City of Fernie to hopefully move forward with the four recommendations made – each of which would require bylaw reviews to find and remove barriers.
The full FFAS report on food security – which details the recommendations and ways that they could be implemented – is available on the Community Energy Association website at communityenergy.ca/projects/foodaction.
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