A Nanoose Bay couple has spent five years transforming a failed hay farm into this viable farm-to-table enterprise.

Now their dream has hit an obstacle.

The couple and their daughter live in a 600-square-foot cabin.

They’ve been planning on building a new one but earlier this year a new B.C. law, intended to protect agricultural land, blocked secondary homes unless the Agricultural Land Commission grants permission.

They felt blindsided by the change.

“That to me in not protecting the ALR land. That’s giving it and pushing it into a category of people can’t afford it because that second dwelling makes it affordable,” said Will Gemmell, owner of the Rusted Rake Farm.

They’re hoping to rent the cabin out if they got permission to build a new home, which would help fund the farm.

An organization representing farmers on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Gulf Islands said many BC farmers are in a similar dilemma.

“It no longer allows then for farming families to live together on the same piece of land and there’s a whole bunch of impacts that come out of that,” said Janet Thony, president of the District A Farmers Institute.

“Maybe they can only afford a nice property that they choose because both pots of money are going in. It creates elder care in place for ageing parents.”

On Monday, the Rusted Rake was closed to host a meeting of concerned farmers and politicians.

BC Liberals said there’s too much red tape.

“They’re not allowing young people to think outside the box to make a few dollars in a smaller scale way on their farms and they’re also taking away the rights of property owners to put secondary homes on the farms,” said Ian Payton, the BC Liberal agriculture critic.

“And the bills were pushed through without proper debate without proper consultation with farmers about their concerns of how the new legislation is putting barriers up for farmers,” said Michelle Stillwell, Liberal MLA for Parksville-Qualicum.

BC’s Agriculture Ministry said the Agricultural Land Commission has the “technical expertise to make decisions about secondary homes”.

It also said there was an extensive consultation process.

And the minister, Lana Popham, said she is willing to “change the old government’s rules around serving food to better support producers while ensuring the Agricultural Land Reserve is protected”.

Kendall Hanson