Mark Rushton’s column regarding weddings on farmland comes from the heart. This is a common response. However, when you think about the rationale to support this emotional response, it is clear why weddings have never been a permitted use on farmland.
Permitting non-farm businesses on farmland is not the way to support agriculture. If a retail store in a commercial centre needed to expand revenue, it would not (and could not) start a side business on the premise. Farm businesses grow and develop by improving efficiency, adding value to products and innovation – not by starting a side business.
If a wedding is not held on farmland it will be held in a facility that is designed for and permits weddings and pays much higher property tax than farmland. I am a farmer who sells direct from the farm. I don’t want to be competing with local businesses that pay substantially less property tax than I do. It is wrong to allow farmers to compete with businesses in the urban centre who pay much higher property tax than they do.
Sevenoaks Shopping Centre has much different stores today than when it opened. Farming also has a changing landscape. Unsuccessful farms give way to new successful ones.
Allowing non-farm businesses – whether weddings or parking large trucks or auto repair businesses – on farmland only delays making that land available to new farmers and ultimately slows economic development in the community.
Agriculture has a large place in our hearts – as it should. For agriculture to prosper, we must focus on the ALR as the zone for agriculture production, not non-farm businesses.