The province’s Agricultural Land Commission is drawing fire for its decision to reject a request by Rusted Rake Farm of Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island to operate its on-farm restaurant.
The decision, handed down September 5, also nixed the farm’s plans for a microbrewery until it is producing enough grain to support its planned production.
The restaurant seats 100 indoors while an outdoor picnic area accommodates about 40. It operates six days a week from 8 am to 5 pm, and claims to use more than half the farm’s production. The farm produces vegetables and fruit, and has a small amount of livestock.
It wasn’t enough for the ALC.
“There is not a sufficient amount of agriculture to support a restaurant of the Eatery’s size and scale given the number of seats and its hours of operation,” its decision says. “As such, the Panel finds that the farm has become ancillary to the Eatery, rather than vice versa.”
A similar argument applied to the brewery. Provincial regulations stipulate that enough farm product must be produced to meet production requirements before a brewery is developed. However, Rusted Rake had acquired equipment sufficient to produce 14,500 litres of beer a year with just 4,000 pounds of wheat in hand. An order for additional equipment to expand production is in place, with the aim of producing 12.5 tons of barley a year to support production of 40,000 litres annually.
Once again, land commissioners were unimpressed.
“Farming must come first,” they write. “In the case of the application, the applicants are requesting to operate a brewery in advance of reaching the threshold of primary farm product production.”
Moreover, the operation lacked local government approval.
However, supporters quickly took to social media to vent frustration with the land commission’s decision, including Opposition agriculture critic Ian Paton.
“Its hard to protect farmland when the NDP keep killing opportunities for farmers in BC to think outside the box in order to remain viable,” he wrote on Facebook.
A petition seeking the repeal of changes passed under Bill 52 last fall and Bill 15 this spring has been set up at Change.org. It had received more than 2,400 signatures as of September 10. A public consultation by the province last year on ways to revitalize the ALC and the Agricultural Land Reserve drew just 2,600 responses.