Farm weddings get thumbs-up

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Delta: Fancy getting married on a farm? Well, you’ll now be able to do so.

The British Columbia government has brought clarity to permitted

agri-tourism activities and has established new opportunities around events,

such as weddings in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), to help farmers

grow their incomes and help British Columbians share the growing passion for

local foods and farming.

The Ministry of Agriculture has developed a regulation that establishes that

ALR land owners will not need a permit from the Agricultural Land Commission

(ALC) to host specific activities like commercial weddings, concerts or non-

agriculture related festivals, providing that:

* The farm is classified as having farm status under the Assessment Act;

* No new, permanent structures are being built;

* All parking must be on the farm (no road parking) but the parking area

must not be permanent nor interfere with the farm’s agricultural

productivity;

* The number of guests at any event is 150 or less; and

* The number of events is 10 or less in a calendar year.

An application to the ALC is required if any of the above conditions are not

met. For example, a farm that wishes to hold a wedding with 200 guests, or

hosts the 11th wedding on their farm in a calendar year will need to apply

to the ALC.

In addition, regardless of whether an application to the ALC is

required, farmers must also continue to meet all relevant local government

requirements, such as event hosting, liquor licenses, and fire code

requirements.

The restrictions in the regulation do not apply to wineries, meaderies and

cideries, as many are established providers of these services and already

have infrastructure, licensing and procedures in place. These facilities can

continue to operate as they have been without requiring an application to

the ALC.

In addition, irrespective of the above criteria, no application to the ALC

is required for a farmer hosting weddings for family members or friends at no

charge. If farmers are receiving a payment for hosting the wedding of a

family member or friend, an application to the ALC is required if any of the

above conditions are not met.

Local governments cannot prohibit weddings from taking place on land in the

ALR, but can require the farmers to apply for a permit which could specify

conditions related to amplified sound, parking, fireworks or other

disturbances.

The policy of not requiring permits for activities described in the ALC’s

Policy on Agri-tourism Activities has also been formalized into the

regulation. Activities that do not require an application to the ALC

include:

* Farm tours and farm demonstrations

* Hay, tractor and sleigh rides

* Corn mazes, pumpkin patch tours and related activities

* Seasonal promotional events (e.g., harvest and Christmas fairs and

activities)

* Special promotional events (e.g., private or public special occasion

events for the promotion of farm products)

The regulation is in effect immediately. The clarity regarding agri-tourism

and new opportunities related to events were established through discussions

with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, the British Columbia

Agriculture Council, the Agriculture Land Commission, and the British

Columbia Young Farmers Association in February 2016.