Petition for Homefulness

woodwynnshedThere is a civil suit against Woodwynn and I’m hoping people will sign the petition to stop this action.

If Woodwynn lost, the impact would be devastating to many people who have worked very hard.

The arguments against the farm relate to the agricultural land reserve rules – the farm wants to house more people (participants in the program) than would normally be allowed and it would amount to a small part (less than 1%) of the farm being used in a way that wasn’t in the ALR rules. The municipality *could* apply to have the rules modified for a special purpose like this – because the farm really is doing good work with the homeless. But instead, the municipality has decided to take it to court and losing the case would mean the farm would have to shut down.

In its five years of operation, no resident on the farm has ever caused a disturbance. The only police files relate to people from outside who came and trespassed and even vandalized the farm.

You don’t have to be a local in Central Saanich to sign the petition. There are regional, national and even international implications for the treatment model used on this farm.

I guess that’s all. Hopefully it helps you to understand why I am lobbying for this.

Here’e the link to the petition.

10 Responses to Petition for Homefulness

  1. clovertaco says:

    Hi. I can appreciate how this would seem unfair. Yet, as a resident of Central Saanich – where this is happening – I see more than the story Woodwyn wants to show. There are so many farmers in the area who have been around for decads who have farmed the land without these “special” considerations. The development plans for the farm includes not only accommodations (that would make sense). The issue is the movie theatre, grocery store and other “common areas” being requested. No other farmer has the ability to change ALR land for these purposes. Why Woodwyn? They have been bullying the town ever since they arrived all in the name of “homelessness”. It’s like developers using “affordable housing” to get councils to agree to smaller and smaller lots. I agree with what the farm is doing 100%. I do not agree with how they are doing it. Regardless of how much of the ALR land is being changed (less than 1%) that has HUGE implications in our municipality and sets a dangerous precedent. I hope those that sign do so as fully informed citizens. Talk to a local resident. We’re reasonable people. We’re not evil villains who want to ruin peoples lives. It’s the opposite that is true. We are good people looking out for future generations and our local farmers.

    • derykhouston says:

      I appreciate what “clovertaco” has said, but I also feel that there should be room for new ideas and new thinking to solve some of todays problems.
      I heard a farmer from across the water in the United States the other day on the radio talking excitedly about how they were changing farming in his region and including entertainment and new products like honey from far off states etc.
      People were flocking to his farm from all over the map to experience what he had to offer.
      Does it really make sense for a farm to simply keep doing the same thing it has been doing for the last hundred years ?
      For example: Would it not be better to have a two hundred acre farm produce food crops for people instead of simply hay for horses? It will grow more crops than ever before on this farm.
      And if it can also help those people who are willing to work hard, gain self respect and dignity, how can that be a bad thing?
      Farms around the world are changing and exploring creative new ways to make sure there is good wholesome food available for future generations.

      I can’t speak for Woodwynn Farms, but I know from direct experience that they perform miracles.
      The farm is full of love and compassion and everyone involved there is as pure as you will hope to find anwhere on this blue dot floating in space.
      For the past twenty or more years I have been involved in peace issues. (The NFB of Canada produced a documentary on my work for peace. )
      I believe that the best way to solve this problem is to get people to sit down and talk. Find out what they need.
      It should be noted that local governments have the power to apply to the ALR for this type of thing.

      I hope that people will support Woodwynn Farms in this petition to stop the legal action against the farm by Central Saanich.

      • clovertaco says:

        I don’t doubt there is compassion and love at Woodwynn but there has been none of that directed to the community and council. Leblanc’s approach has been very exclusive – like Bush’s “if you are not with us, then you are against us” approach. I don’t know of a time that Woodwynn came to council or the community to see what the options where for the property. Likely would have been a smart move BEFORE they purchased it don’t you think? Like any homeowner needs to do before they purchase property. Central Saanich is a long time farming community. Why didn’t LeBlanc leverage that knowledge by working with local farms and farmers?

        Again, I think the concept is wonderful. If Leblanc and the farm had approached the residents of the community and tried to be inclusive at any point I would feel much more compelled to support him. But he did not. Woodwynn’s approach has always been to state what they wanted and when they didn’t get it, state loudly that those against it are standing against helping the homeless. That has divided the community and that is why council is taking a stand which I fully support.

        I find it interesting that most of the support for the farm is from outside of our area. I don’t know one resident who supports Woodwynn. I know may farmers here who feel like Woodwynn is slapping them in the face by doing. I can understand how it would seem unfair for those who drive through our rural area and see his farm and wonder why? There is so much more to what Leblanc is stating that is the reason why council has taken a stand.

        On another note, the farm should have actually been given back to the Aboriginal community who lived on the land originally. That would have been the right thing to do but that’s a whole other story.

  2. Deryk jumped in! Not a lot for me to add, but I do want to say that I understand why the community has concerns about setting a precedent. Central Saanich is beautiful and special and that’s why I love spending time at Woodwynn. I too want to see it preserved. I think there’s good people on both sides of this discussion but I’m not sure that all the facts are available to everyone. From what I understand, the council could not make accommodations to ALR/usage of land on any particular farm without involving the community. What I’d hope to see would be for the council to at least try to see how a middle ground could be found before resorting to legal action that would shut down the farm completely. I don’t see how a process like that (if it were followed) would set a precedent that would lead to other farms being broken into small lots etc. What I imagine would happen is that some level of accommodation could be found for this very special case (which is definitely not like “low-cost housing to create profit for developers”).

    • clovertaco says:

      Council has told Leblanc what can and cannot be done based on bylaws and planning in the area. Leblanc has not tried to work with current farmers and residents – why not? I find that so odd considering what they are doing on the farm.

      What I find most frustrating as a resident and the reason I’m not supportive of Leblanc is his approach. He has never been inclusive to our community which is why the majority of his support comes from people who do not live in the area. From an outside perspective – I can see how this would seem unfair for so many reasons. We support the concept. We do not support how he is approaching things. The precedent he would set does not only apply to how ALR land is used. It would also set a precedent for bullying a community and council to bend to a landowners will.

      I don’t doubt that he would need more housing on the property to work and farm the land. But, why a movie theatre? The farmer down the road from my house has adapted to modern farming issues and now has an agreement with a local bakery to supply all their wheat. I can walk down the road and purchase a 5 kg bag of locally grown wheat – how fantastic! There are so many farmers in the area that allow a u-pick or supply local restaurants. Oldfield Road is a spectacular example of farming and tourism. People come from all over to get fresh tomato’s from Sun Wing, free range chickens from Dan’s Farm or fresh berries from the many stands. Not one community hall, not one movie theatre.

      I hope the action against Woodwynn makes Leblanc finally realize how his approach has isolated Woodwynn and perhaps he will take a more inclusive approach.

      I’m glad you find Central Saanich so beautiful – if you haven’t driven down Oldfield and tried SunWing – you gotta go! There is also Marsh farm on Wallace that’s a u-pick veggie place that is incredible value 🙂

      • derykhouston says:

        Hi Linda (Clovertaco)
        I think Richard LeBlanc would be the best person to answer some of your questions. I can’t speak for the farm.
        I would love you to take the time to visit Woodwynn Farms and ask to have a tour. Richard is a very approachable man and I think he would be glad to explain his side of the story from his perspective.
        I would like him to also hear your story and your thoughts.
        I still stand by him and the farm completely because he is trying to create something to help people.
        The farm will always remain a farm and in fact will produce more food crops for people than every before. That seems like a good thing to me.
        I have been to “Sunwing” and think it’s great.
        Elizabeth and I would also be happy to meet with you sometime and share why we support this idea in every way.
        Thank you.
        Deryk Houston and Elizabeth Wellburn
        250 598 9908

  3. Oh and I forgot to mention, like Deryk, I cannot speak for the farm. My role has been to volunteer there (have done so for about a year) and I love what I see.

  4. My hope is that real, factual information will prevail here. My concern is that rumours and unjustified fears are clouding people’s perspectives of Woodwynn Farms.

    Unlike Clovertaco, I *do* personally know people in Central Saanich who support Woodwynn. Lots of them! We have met them when they come out to the farm to buy hay or just visit. We have talked to them in the coffee shop/bakery where the local flour is used to bake bread and buns (b.t.w. Screaming Bird is one of our favourite places for amazing soup!)

    And we’ve had conversations with local business people who feel threatened because they want to help Woodwynn but fear retribution (yes, retribution) from folks in Central Saanich. Perhaps that is why the local supporters are reluctant to sign a petition or raise their heads on this issue.

    Clovertaco speaks of Richard Leblanc being closed to community input, but I know that at Woodwynn’s recent open house, he held open sessions and everyone was welcome to hear the story of the farm and ask questions.

    As for the movie theatre proposal that Clovertaco mentions – I’ve never heard anything about plans for such a thing but I do know that at 5:30 a.m. the farm participants meet in one of the barns for yoga and they have a small TV to play the yoga video that guides them in their practice. That barn is also used for daily meetings, which I often attend. On occasion at these meetings, someone will highlight one of the farm’s values by playing an inspiring video clip (I’ve seen TED talks there) on that same TV. So perhaps there is a ‘media room’ vision of some sort for the farm – but I would guess it’s nothing that would be a blight on the community.

    I’ll also mention that although I love yoga, I’ve never made it to the farm for the 5:30 a.m. practice but I was there once around 6:30 as the participants were leaving yoga and it was a wonderful treat to hear one of the fellows emerge from the barn saying how happy he was that he could now, for the first time, stand on one leg. It was something he hadn’t been able to do in years but on that day, free of his substance abuse problems and given meaningful farm work that showed him he was valuable, a balance had returned to his life.

    Once again I’ll say I cannot speak for the farm but I have been very close to it, several days each week, for the past year. And I hope more people in Central Saanich will come to see it as I see it.

  5. clovertaco says:

    I hope the same really!

    As for visiting the farm. I’ll consider it and I thank you for the invitation. I think it’s great that there are open houses but that is not what I mean by engaging the community.

    I emailed Richard directly when I first heard about the developments he was trying to put through and he referred me to this link: It includes many “common areas” that seem harmless except for the fact that it’s on ALR land and it would undermine other farmers in the area. Some of these requests include:

    1. Buildings for offices (several of these)
    2. Public relations and conference room building
    3. Museum Gallery + more offices
    4. Cafe
    5. Outdoor multipurpose area for performances
    6. Restaurant (building A2)
    7. Indoor market
    8. Food processing and retail produce building

    Have these plans changed? Is Woodwynn working with council to amend the plans at any point like many other developers have done in order to meet bylaws in the area in order to develop?

    There are third generation farmers in the area that can’t even get permits to have seasonal tenters on their land. If Richard was being inclusive AND this was really in the best interest of farming in the area he would team up with local farmers.

    Another example of how Woodwynn is not being inclusive is that they underprice their hay prices. This sounds like no big deal right? The issue is that there are farms in the area that have been farming for generations and hay has always been a fairly steady price and an important revenue source for them. Woodwynn is not only undercutting them and all the other farmers, they are selling hay at sub par quality because of their farming methods. This just came up from a conversation I had today at a kids birthday party when I asked a friend who happens to also farm in the area what her thoughts were on Woodwynn. She also mentioned the Island Vegetable cooperative in Central Saanich and how Woodwynn is not involved with them? Why not? If Woodwynn is so concerned about farming the land for food vs hay this is a pretty critical step. It’s these type of things that make me really scratch my head at how Woodwynn claims they are being singled out but yet they make minimal (if any) attempt (besides open houses) to actually be part of the community.

    The people who don’t feel like they can speak up should most definitely email council? That is a great way to voice their support while not feeling intimidated although I haven’t run into the situation at any friendly neighbourhood conversations I have had on my evening walks. I talk to members of our council and it seems like the overwhelming support is for the preservation of the ALR which is in line with what I have heard. Again, why would Woodwynn purchase the land when their plans were so vastly different than what the local OCP and bylaws afforded?

    There needs to be a more common ground approach than the one that Woodwynn is currently taking. This all or nothing in the name of homelessness is – again – similar to how developers claim “affordable housing” when subdividing lots into smaller and smaller parcels and then sell them off for market value.

    In this article, LeBlanc claims that council does it’s business “behind the closed doors of in camera meetings”. There are community meetings for any bylaw change that are 100% open door. Even when it’s standing room only in the room, they bring out monitors so that those standing in the halls can be included. There is also a claim of harassment. I find it odd, the city is really just doing it’s job. My in-laws have 9 acres just up the road and they got “shut down” for having an extra stove on the property. It’s not personal. Our neighbours got “shut down” when they were putting in a secondary suite. Again, nothing personal for Woodwynn.

    Thanks for the discussion! I’ll keep an eye on the WoodWynn website 🙂

    • derykhouston says:

      Thanks for taking the time with your very thorough breakdown of points regarding Woodwynn Farms. I am not speakingfor Woodwynn but I certainly have thoughts about this that i think might be helpful.
      I do get the feeling that you might be hard to win over and I say that because of the way you make your points.
      For example: On the one hand you say that Woodwynn is “undercutting” the price of it’s hay compared to other farmers in the area, but then you go on to say that the hay is “not the best quality”.
      If it is not as good a quality as you say, then doesn’t it make sense that it would be a lower price?
      Woodwynn Farms is an organic farm and does not use artificial fertilizers. (Even the Buchart Gardens had to be patient when it made a transition from artificial fertilizers.)
      I could give you a similar counter argument for your other points as well.
      I believe that all your concerns could be met if you talked to the farm directly.
      As an outside observer, I made the effort to contact Central Saanich council members in order to ask questions regarding the farm. Only a few bothered to get back to me.
      One council member told me in no uncertain words that Woodwynn Farms is not welcome in the community and they would do everything they could to shut it down.
      I found that astonishing and that is why I am asking people to keep an open mind to what is going on here.
      I fully support Woodwynn Farms. I hope other people do also.

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