Farmers looking to diversify may see agri-tourism as a viable option but should be aware of gov’t regulations
By Kate Ayers
For some farmers, agri-tourism offers an opportunity to expand or specialize their operations to tap into new markets. However, before embarking on this journey, producers should ensure their properties are eligible for land use changes.
Specifically, landowners should check with their local municipalities to determine what uses are permitted on their farms, based on official plans and zoning bylaws, an OMAFRA article said.
Fortunately, farmers can access some resources to help them navigate this venture.
“OMAFRA’s Guidelines on Permitted Uses in Ontario’s Prime Agricultural Areas is available to help farmers interpret the policies in the provincial policy statement,” Bianca Jamieson, OMAFRA’s spokesperson, said to Farms.com in an email statement. Policies are similar in provincial plans such as A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and the Greenbelt Plan. The Provincial Policy Statement and these provincial plans provide direction on matters of provincial interest including the protection of prime agricultural areas.
OMAFRA’s guidelines “explain diversification opportunities and the criteria that need to be met for different categories of uses,” she said.
“Farmers should check with the municipal planning department to clarify land use planning requirements, for example, on the need for a zoning bylaw amendment,” Jamieson added.
“If new buildings or additions or modifications to buildings are anticipated, farmers should also check with the municipal building department on building code requirements.”
Overall, land policies in Ontario “permit a wide range of different uses and economic opportunities on farms within prime agricultural areas.”
Farmers should also consider tax implications that could result from land use changes.
“Since a change in land use can result in a change in tax assessment, it is crucial that farmers interested in undertaking agri-tourism or other ventures on their farm consult with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation,” Jamieson said.
For example, switching from an agricultural land use to a commercial or industrial business may result in a higher tax rate, she added.