Pushing wheelbarrows full of mulch to bed down gardens for the winter on Nanaimo’s historic Five Acre Farm on Friday reconnects Wayne Addison Morgan to his hardworking ancestors like nothing else can.
“It’s born in my blood. My grandpas worked in the coal mines shovelling coal for 10 cents an hour. Blasting, drilling,” said Morgan, a volunteer for Nanaimo Foodshare.
So the Nanaimo resident now volunteers faithfully every Friday on the Five Acre Farm that offers food, farming and school programs to the community. The plot is one of the very last of its kind, from when coal was king.
In the 1800’s, benevolent company manager Samuel Robins developed and sold “five acre farms” to his miners to help them be self-sufficient and ride out downturns in the industry.
“Yeah, and it would have been a fully functioning farm for feast or famine for these workers,” said Nanaimo Foodshare’s Jennie Wharton.
The city purchased the farm to save it from development in 2019, and the five acres have remained rooted growing food and its wetlands protected. But in the midst of a housing crisis, Nanaimo is now considering the historic farm’s future, and residents are being offered five options for possible development of the farm to balance need for parks, housing and food growing potential.
“There’s a two-acre option being developed, and the other two are one-acre options, and then there’s no development at all as a fifth option,” said Wharton.
Wharton says she embraces development of one acre, if it saves the rest of the property.
“It’s much better than an actual developer purchasing it and ruining the whole thing,” she said.
But Jen Cody – who, with her late husband, originally helped save the farm – wants it to remain entirely protected.
“The community strongly supports this property continuing to be a farm as a five acre property. This is the last five acre property in the city that has this tie to food and food protection and one of the few green spaces in this part of the city that is being so heavily developed,” said Cody, a board member of Nanaimo’s Growing Opportunities Farm Cooperative.
The City of Nanaimo is accepting community input on the five options for the farm until Friday, Nov. 3, and over 400 responses had already come in by Oct. 27, as the future of an iconic piece of Nanaimo is about to be decided.