Backyard hens part of food security strategy for Fernie
By Erin Knutson
Backyard hens were the focus of a food sustainability presentation and to bring forward a new resolution by the Wildsight Elk Valley branch to the City of Fernie at their committee-of-the-whole meeting Dec. 20.
“The Fernie Food Action Strategy seeks solutions to remove barriers to local food production and to provide solutions-focused recommendations for local government. They want to move toward a more resilient community-level local food system,” said Community Program Coordinator Dawn Deydey from Wildsight Elk Valley.
The Community Energy Association, Wildsight, and the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia collaborated with the city to develop the initiative locally.
They engaged the community through online surveys and stakeholder sessions to improve and guide the direction of Fernie’s food system resiliency and climate adaptation policies to build a more food secure community.
Part of the strategy was the allowance of backyard chickens across the city.
West Fernie has already approved backyard chickens, demonstrating that the practice can succeed in a wildlife corridor provided residents are responsible and follow guidelines outlined in the bylaws to ensure the chickens’ presence remains wildlife-resistance, according to Deydey.
Municipalities across the province are quickly adopting permissive chicken bylaws, allowing residents to cultivate hens on their property, encouraging urban agriculture in designated areas as a way to improve food security.
“Over 25 municipalities currently permit backyard hens, including West Fernie, and there is a strong desire from many Fernie residents to have backyard hens,” said Deydey.
According to Deydey’s report, the pandemic and climate issues have pronounced vulnerabilities in our food supply system, mainly imported food.
Part of Fernie’s Food Action Strategy is to identify risks associated with food supply and to work with key stakeholders to create a plan to ensure its solidity in the future.
“The city has the opportunity to better align with the goals of the Official Community Plan (OCP) by removing barriers to food production and giving the West Fernie poultry experience to more of its residents. This is something our community engagement demonstrates a large number of residents desire,” said Deydey.
Mayor Ange Qualizza supported the resolution and asked that the appropriate bylaw be brought back later to council via staff report.
“I look forward to a report on the steps to move us forward toward allowing backyard hens in the community, and I want to move this to staff to get their take on it. You’ve done a great job, and you’ve demonstrated that it’s possible to have safe backyard hens in a bear community,” said Qualizza.