Backyard food production discussed in 100 Mile

Public wanted to hear about beekeeping and keeping chickens in their backyards.

Carole Rooney

100 Mile Free Press

About 20 people turned out to a public hearing in 100 Mile House on May 20 to discuss proposed bylaw changes to allow backyard beekeeping and chickens, with certain restrictions, in single- or two-family residential zones.

It was one of three hearings held in Cariboo municipalities by the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) to gain resident input on allowing these hobby farming activities.

Several members of the 100 Mile House Beekeepers Support Group attended, including Denese Hark, and her husband, Roger Meeks, to participate in the discussions.

Hark says CRD development services manager Karen Moores made a PowerPoint presentation on the proposed bylaw amendments, which have been underway in draft form since June 2013.

Feedback sought on backyard bees centred on whether electric fencing should be required to deter attracting bears to the honey in the hives, the beekeeper explains.

The comments she and Meeks made reflected their opposition to that regulation, as they are in favour of leaving it to homeowners to control hive access. Hark notes this might be accomplished with guard dogs, other fencing, or by locating them on roofs or in a building.

“We have an electric fence around our yard – but we don’t feel it should be mandatory.

“Beekeepers will do whatever they have to to protect their bees…. They are part of your family, you don’t want to lose them, [and] it is a fair chunk of change that you have invested in those bees. It is not a cheap hobby to get into.”

Hark and Meeks had lobbied for two years to have beekeeping allowed in residential zones, after they discovered their beehives at Horse Lake were illegal under a CRD bylaw for their zoning.

Meanwhile, they had became underground “rogue beekeepers,” since they knew it fell under complaint-driven bylaw enforcement, and their neighbours were comfortable with having hives in the vicinity.

Several restrictions in the proposed bylaw include limits on the number of colonies, and a requirement for resident beekeepers to register with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agriculture Apiculture Program.

No other key beekeeping points were brought out for much discussion, Hark says.

“I think it was just a matter of a formality in discussing the electric fencing.

“But, they don’t make you electric fence your fruit trees, your garbage cans or your livestock, so why insist that you have to do your honeybees?”

She is aware of only two municipalities in the province, Williams Lake and Fernie, which currently require this type of enclosure.

Hark adds about half of the people who turned out to the hearing were there to talk about bylaws allowing backyard chickens.

She says those discussions primarily involved whether to allow roosters, but also examined adding meat birds and home-based meat sales. Egg sales will be allowed under the amended bylaw proposal, Hark explains.

The input from the public hearings is expected to be discussed at the next CRD board meeting.