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LETTER: Proposed growing agritourism bill opens up potential uses

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If passed, this legislation will remove barriers to investment and ensure uniformity among Ontario's agritourism operators, says the president of the Wellington Federation of Agriculture.

GuelphToday received the following letter from Barclay Nap regarding Agritourism opportunities on farms in Ontario

Matthew Rae – MPP for Perth-Wellington recently introduced the Growing Agritourism Act, 2024

If passed, this legislation will reduce barriers to investment, provide uniformity among agritourism operators in Ontario, and ensure that participants are aware of the risks associated with agricultural activity.

Since the new law was introduced, questions have been asked by the general public in the agricultural community: “What does this mean?” and “What exactly is agrotourism?”
So what is agritourism? The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), currently being updated and called the Provincial Planning Statement (PPS), provides guidance on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development. As an important component of Ontario's policy-driven planning system, this Policy Statement sets the policy foundation for regulating the development and use of land. It also supports the province's goal of improving the quality of life for all Ontarians.

From the PPS, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) developed a publication entitled Guidelines for Permissible Uses in Ontario's Best Agricultural Areas, a tool to assist municipalities, decision makers, farmers and others in interpreting the guidelines of the province's policy statement on permitted uses in the best agricultural areas.

The Directive describes in detail what diversified uses on farms are. Diversified uses on farms should be related to, support or be able to co-exist with agriculture without conflict. Diversified uses on farms should allow farmers to diversify and complement their agricultural income and enable value-added and agrotourism uses in prime agricultural areas.

Agrotourism is a form of multiple use on a farm and is defined as “a limited area use that promotes enjoyment, education or activities related to the agricultural operation.” The main activity on the property must be agricultural use.

Examples of agritourism could include (but are not limited to): a farm vacation suite, bed and breakfast, hayrides, petting zoo, farm-themed playground, horseback riding, corn maze, seasonal events, horseback events, wine tasting, retreats, zip lines)

The Wellington Federation of Agriculture (WFA), representing over 1,500 farms in Wellington County, emphasizes the central role of agriculture in our local economy. Agriculture is the backbone of our region's economic vitality and supports numerous families in our community. The ability for farms to diversify their operations is critical to their financial resilience. The recently passed Growing Agri-tourism Act provides some support to farms to mitigate the risks associated with agri-tourism through liability protection.

To learn more about farming in Ontario, visit Farm and Food Care at www.farmfoodcareon.org. The website offers virtual farm tours at www.FarmFood360.ca. To learn more about food and farming in Ontario, check out the publication “The Real Dirt on Farming,” which answers questions about current societal, climate and health issues affecting agriculture. www.RealDirtonFarming.ca

If you are interested in the work of the WFA, please visit our website at www.wfofa.on.ca.

Barclay Nap, President of the Wellington Federation of Agriculture