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Of chickens, trees and fruit
Taking a break from the community gardens, apiaries and urban farms that increasingly dot the North Shore landscape, local greenthumbs gathered for the annual Table Matters event late last month.
Held at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre, Table Matters is a discussion focused on the growing world of urban agriculture in the area. To a nearly full house of politicians, municipal staff and residents, presenters with a range of backgrounds and interests briefly introduced the various agriculture-related projects they were a part of.
Amongst them, Gord Trousdell, a teacher at West Vancouver secondary school, discussed his new urban agriculture class, Salvation Army chef Scott Rowe spoke of his culinary program that uses food provided by local grocers and Evonne Strohwald outlined the BugBlitz initiative — a day-long event where residents chip in to build gardens of various sizes at area homes.
After the initial presentations, attendees were free to speak to presenters to learn more about their enterprises. Andrew Copping and Tom Walker of the North Shore Fruit Tree Project, for instance, discussed their group’s concerns over the lack of fruit being harvested by volunteers this year.
The North Shore Fruit Tree Project picks fruit from trees in North and West Van, donating a portion of what they gather to food banks and other such services. About one-quarter to one-third of fruit picked from any given tree is reserved for tree owners.
This year, Walker said his group was able to harvest about 120 pounds of apples, 60 pounds of plums and expected to get 100 pounds of figs if “they don’t freeze before they ripen.”
Walker said there were many “idle hands” this season and he and Copping are hoping to partner with other groups to find new outlets for fruit collection to keep their volunteers busy.
He expressed an interest in establishing a community orchard, of which his group could be the stewards.
He also hoped to discover new ways of attacking a two-pronged problem: connecting with residents who have fruit-bearing trees and working to prevent others from being cut down. Worries over bears and the mess falling fruit can create have been popular reasons from residents for getting rid of their trees.
“This year we were faced with a very clear challenge. We had volunteers and not much fruit. We know there are fruits trees very locally,” said Walker.
A few tables over, a group dubbed the Hen Party spoke with a table of chicken enthusiasts about lobbying for backyard chickens in both the city and district of North Vancouver.
Lianne Shyry, who presented to the entire crowd prior to the more in-depth portion of the event, said Hen Party is planning on using the bylaws put in place last year in Vancouver as its template, with the addition of predator-related measures.
Attracting predators, said Shyry, is a worry for both North Van municipalities.
In Vancouver, a maximum of four hens, four months and older, are allowed to be kept by residents. The sale of any eggs, meat or manure is banned, as is backyard slaughtering. Roosters, as well, are prohibited. New Westminster, Surrey and Victoria also allow backyard chickens, all with similar restrictions.
Some of the benefits discussed by the group were the fresh eggs, manure for fertilizer and the soil-tilling chickens provide. They also make great pets, the group added.
“It’s about responsible ownership,” said Stephanie Imhoff, who grew up in the British Properties with chickens.
Imhoff said chicken owners must ensure coops are clean and covered. To prevent the chickens from flying, she added, owners must have the wings clipped.
West Vancouver’s Dave Shulz said he’s been in contact with the Vancouver Zoo about using tiger feces as a bear repellent and has been given the green light by the zoo to test the effects.
For more information, visit Imhoff’s blog at chickensinnorthvancouver.wordpress.com.