Popular Langley harvest and Christmas festivals may be shut down due to land use dispute

The founders of Darvonda Nurseries in Langley say they may not be able to run the popular Glow Langley Christmas and Harvest events due to land use issues — but the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) says all the nursery has to do is apply for a non-farm use permit.

Founder Tamara Jansen says the Christmas festival has been operating since 2017, with the Harvest festival starting last year. Jansen says they first heard of the ALC concerns following the Harvest festival and have been told they no longer qualify to operate under the provincial legislation.

“The ALC has told us we do not qualify for agri-tourism and we have to apply for non-farm use if we want to do this again,” Jansen said. “At the time we have Glow we have less production going on. Why would you not use the space?

“Our son took over and he wants to use the farm creatively.”

The Harvest Glow includes a corn maze and a pumpkin patch. The Christmas Glow has a light garden, a vendor market, a magic castle playground and live entertainment.

“We have looked into our options with or lawyers to see how we can tackle this, because we don’t believe we should apply for non-farm use when we are farming,” Jansen said.

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“We are inviting the neighbours in to check us out. Over 200,000 people were able to come in to see what we grow and how we grow. It is absolutely ridiculous.”

The ALC says it received several complaints about the Glow festival last fall. There are specific rules that owners must follow under legislation when operating on the Agricultural Land Reserve.

ALC investigators visited the Harvest festival in November. The provincial regulation states that a “harvest festival” is an allowed agri-tourism activity, as long as the purpose of the event is to promote or market farm products produced on the farm.

“Based on my observation during my inspection I found it wasn’t their products being marketed, there were a lot of other products being marketed.” ALC investigator Katherine Cox said.

“I have directed the owners to submit for non-farm use permit, that is due April 5 and they should have time to do that and hold the event again this year.”

The ALC says Glow submitted a report at the end of January about their events. In the following review, the independent body did not find that Glow met agri-tourism requirements, arguing because the event was deemed a commercial activity that requires application and approval from the Agricultural Land Commission it must apply for the non-farm use permit.

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“The Compliance and Enforcement program has not denied permission for the Glow event, it only stated that the current event does not meet the legislated requirements,” Cox said. “If the owners choose to submit the application they will get a final decision from the commission.”

Jansen is still trying to sort out exactly what they did wrong, and has been told by the ALC that they will only get a full explanation if they apply for the permit.

B.C. Liberal MLA Ian Paton says this sort of bureaucracy hurts the creativity of farmers.

“You have to look at what is value added to help a farm family make a little extra money,” Paton said.

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