Before moving to Lake Country and purchasing Frank’s Orchard, California residents Jamie and Glenn Rose did plenty of research on what it would take to make for a successful farm operation.
In their native California, farm operations were able to add value to their business in a variety of ways, including the ability to host events like weddings on their land.
“Where I come from, if you own a farm it’s cool and it’s hip and trendy,” said Jamie last week at her operation, now called Rose Family Orchard and where her and her family have been trained by Walter Frank, who owned the farm since 1959.
“They don’t have as many regulations there. They have a lot of agri-tourism things that go hand-in-hand with farming,” she said. “When we moved from California my goal was to have an agri-tourism operation where I could have weddings and events.”
The Rose Family Orchard produces apples, cherries, plums, peaches and grapes on 10.4 acres of land. There is a small pond on the property the couple plans to fix up and create a spot for weddings. Since buying the property, they have added a commercial kitchen to make specialty items and turned a storage shed into a store-front where they sell fruit and other things, like chocolate covered cherries.
“You have to diversify,” she said. “On what I make on fruit alone I wouldn’t survive with the property prices the way they are and with the fruit commodity prices the way they are. It’s not sustainable. But there are ways to make money if you are creative.”
Farmers have already been getting creative with concerts and different events being held on a regular basis at wineries and in orchards. But the regulations for events was clarified somewhat in a provincial government announcement last week. The government said it was a move that will help farmers increase income.
Previously farmers would have had to go through a municipality as well as the Agriculture Land Commission to get approval to host a non-farm event on land within the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR).
“A high proportion of the land base in Lake Country (44 per cent) is in the ALR,” said Lake Country director of planning Mark Koch. “It’s always that balance to protect farm land for the future and also encourage the local economy and provide amenities and reasons for people to spend money in the community. I think this change is pretty positive knowing that it doesn’t allow for permanent structures.”
Lake County has had it’s issues with non-farm use of agriculture land in the past, and failed in a court bid to shut down a radio controlled remote control flying club, which still operates on Lodge Road, leasing farm land for its club use.
“As long as it doesn’t affect the neighbours or the agriculture, I think it’s a better use of agriculture land than certainly a flying club,” said Lake Country Mayor James Baker. “‘We do get calls from people about the concerts in orchards because it keeps the neighbours up. I think 10 events in a year on an orchard should reduce conflict with neighbours.”
Farms that want to host weddings or other events can now move forward with the events if they follow the regulations. According to government, land owners will not need a permit from the 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 is on the farm (no road parking) and the parking area is not permanent or interferes with the farm’s agricultural productivity
• The number of guests at any event no more than 150
• The number of events is 10 or less in a calendar year
“I am very happy with the new regulations for the most part,” said Jamie Rose. “I think it’s a win for farmers and a good way to bridge the gap in allowing some freedom but not too much freedom, which is important.”
Rose does say there needs to be more clarification in the regulations and she added she has already had interest from numerous community groups to have events in her orchard including a church group, women’s networking group and she also has a waiting list for weddings, despite the fact her land won’t be ready to host an event for another year.
“If I get three months of weekend events in a year, that’s more than the 10 you’re allowed,” he said. “I would like to have more. What if I have someone who wants to host a birthday party? It’s all going to be beneficial to the community. People will have to stay in hotels and they’re going to go to the wineries.”