The owner of a new flower cart was given 30 days to shut down but many are coming to her aid as Saanich’s farm stand saga takes a new turn.
Colleen O’Farrell is a Saanich-based florist whose business, Foxglove Flowers, has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As weddings and events were cancelled, flowers have been piling up in her workspace and she’s losing income. In an effort to repurpose the blooms and bring in income for her family, O’Farrell created a flower cart outside her home on Heath Drive.
She’s been operating since mid-March, enjoying the interactions with neighbours while maintaining a safe distance. However, on April 22, in response to a complaint, a Saanich bylaw officer came knocking and gave her 30 days’ notice to shut down.
Saanich has a bylaw banning roadside farm stands on private property but O’Farrell argues that in a time of such uncertainty, it’s important to adapt and support local businesses.
The stand had become a destination in the neighbourhood and O’Farrell explained that not only is it a safe way to shop, but a way to bring “beauty and light into the lives of many with ‘floral hugs’ that can be shared, while real ones cannot.”
She expected to have to close her shop entirely during the pandemic, so the farm stand has saved her business.
“I think it is time for this bylaw to change for the better, allowing small businesses to pivot and flourish in our challenging economy,” she wrote in a Change.org petition created on April 24.
By April 25, O’Farrell had collected 700 signatures – surpassing the initial goal of 500 – and had increased her goal to 1,000 signatures. By Monday, more than 1,700 people had signed.
O’Farrell is not alone in her battle. Aside from the petition, she has the support of Saanich resident Katherine Little, owner of the Little Stand where she sold jam until she too was shut down by bylaw officers after a neighbour complained. Little has been fighting to change the bylaw since 2018.
O’Farrell reached out to Little for advice and, as it turns out, the pair knew each other already; Little has been ordering flowers from O’Farrell for seven years and even got her wedding flowers from her five years ago.
“Council should be patting us on the back” for finding an innovative way to keep local businesses afloat, providing residents with goods outside the grocery stores and brightening people’s days, Little said.
Little knows that officially changing the bylaw would take a long time but is hopeful council will recognize that “these are unprecedented times and local businesses will get people through.”