Year in Review

October: Sun shines on Just A Farmer

Malachi Symonds, owner of Just A Farmer, has had a sunny conclusion to his rift with the Government
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A dispute over a chicken coop made headlines after a farmer was warned by the Government that his lease would be terminated. 

Malachi Symonds had leased and cleared a government-owned plot of land across the road from the Devonshire Post Office, but two years into the five-year agreement, a conflict emerged between himself and the Department of Planning over “unauthorised structures” on the field. 

While Mr Symonds maintained that the chicken coop and roadside stalls were temporary structures, the department said they broke the terms of the lease. 

Mr Symonds was told that his failure retroactively to apply for approval meant his lease would end on November 30. 

However, he insisted that the chickens were an essential link in the sustainable farming at the site, by eating agricultural waste and producing manure fertiliser. 

“My dream was to have a chicken coop at the back and a sales area like a little barn, all made of wood, nothing concrete, with wood chips on the ground,” he told The Royal Gazette. 

“It would be like going back in time to the old days, and I could invite other new businesses to come and sell at the stall. The idea is to promote Bermuda business, healthy living, healthy foods.” 

The Ministry of Public Works said that it had attempted to work with Mr Symonds and the decision to terminate the lease was made reluctantly. 

The ministry said: “Both the ministry and the Department of Planning expressed a willingness to collaborate with him, provided he submitted a retroactive planning application to rectify the situation. 

“Mr Symonds was duly informed of the requirement in May 2022 and was granted an additional six months to apply. 

“Regrettably, he refused to follow through with the necessary submission or provide the requested documentation to the planning department.” 

Mr Symonds urged the public to reach out to their Members of Parliament, and the story spread quickly on social media. 

A week later, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, announced that he had met with Mr Symonds and that a “positive resolution” had been found. 

Ministry officials were said to be helping Mr Symonds to prepare and submit a completed retroactive application. 

Colonel Burch added: “It has always been our intention to avoid terminating Mr Symonds’s lease, and I firmly believe in supporting opportunities for local farmers. 

“While I regret that our ministry has had to take this course of action, I am very pleased that it has led to a positive resolution.” 

Mr Symonds thanked the public for their “almost unbelievable” support during the conflict. 

“Everybody thinks of Bermuda as being a divided place,” he said. “I saw everybody come out, whether Black or White, Bermudian or non-Bermudian, to say they were happy to talk to their MPs and move this forward. 

“If Bermuda continues on this path, I think we can do a lot more as a community to help take this island forward.” 

In the neighbouring parish, voters had their voices heard in a by-election to fill the Smith’s South seat left vacant by the retirement of Cole Simons, the Leader of the Opposition. 

The One Bermuda Alliance retained the seat, one of just six held by the party in the House of Assembly, after Ben Smith defeated Progressive Labour Party candidate Mischa Fubler. 

Mr Smith captured 457 votes to 167 for Mr Fubler out of a total vote count of 624. 

In the wake of his victory, Mr Smith thanked his wife and supporters, adding: “Today is a message and I hope that everybody is listening to that message.” 

The month also continued the trend of heavy rainfall in 2023, with 12.23 inches of rainfall over the course of the month, making it the wettest October since 1988 and the third wettest on record. 

While the total rainfall for the month fell short of the 1967 record of 14.55in, October 13 proved to be the fifth-wettest day on record, with 5.51in of rain recorded. 

The worst of the downpour occurred during the morning rush hour and about the same time as high tide, factors that combined to cause challenges for motorists who faced flooded roads in several low-lying areas. 

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