Opinion: B.C.’s agri-tourism industry – and your summer fun – are under attack

The summer months are usually filled with community events and activities that liven up our neighbourhoods and allow local residents and visitors to experience the best that B.C. has to offer. Quite often, it’s in the form of the delicious agri-foods that are produced on farms across our great province.

We all know that farming is not an easy way to make a living. Farmers often have to get creative, especially in parts of the province where the climate and geography make for fewer growing months. They are often looking for alternative ways to showcase their goods.

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Some might set up a restaurant or bakery on their farm to sell dishes made with the products they grow. Others might set up a seasonal event or holiday festival where their products are consumed or sold as part of the festivities.

Unfortunately, John Horgan and the NDP’s ideological bent makes it difficult for them to resist making life more difficult for these business owners— and for the rest of us, who just want to enjoy some local foods and beverages in a special setting.

The Agricultural Land Commission’s interpretation of provincial rules has become so stringent that farmers and festival organizers are being forced to cancel these types of activities which build community and help keep these farms viable.

The latest to be cancelled is the popular B.C. Hop Fest in Abbotsford. Here’s a festival that helps raise the profile of B.C.’s hop farmers, connects them with brewers and promotes their product. But the ALC is now cracking down on the size of this seasonal event, as well as the fact the festival doesn’t sell hops directly to attendees.

We also saw the Glow Christmas festival move out of Darvonda Gardens in Langley and into two new locations in Abbotsford and Vancouver, after the ALC ruled the event isn’t a permitted farm use. Having to apply for “non-farm use” would have meant additional paperwork and a $1,500 expense for farmers, which is the last thing they need as they cope with the NDP’s triple-whammy: an increased minimum wage, a hike to the carbon tax and a new employer health tax.

Meanwhile on Vancouver Island, we also have Bird’s Eye Cove Farm in the Cowichan Valley being forced to cancel its summer Market/Pizza family farm evenings as the ALC regards these as “seasonal events” even though their own farm-raised meats are used in the goods served. In Nanoose Bay, Rusted Rake Farm’s on-site eatery is being threatened by government regulations that don’t allow restaurants on the Agricultural Land Reserve unless they are connected to a brewery or winery.

The business of farming is being stifled because we have an activist minister of agriculture, Lana Popham, who insists on protecting the land but not the farmer. As a third-generation dairy farmer myself, I fully understand the importance of maintaining the integrity of the land, but I also know that without the farmer, there is no farm.

Government should be supporting farmers’ efforts to keep their operations viable and successful, rather than regulating their activities into oblivion and potentially putting them out of business.

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© Delta Optimist

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