The owners of Fantasy Farms in Chilliwack say provincial rules might spell the end of their seasonal events like Reapers Haunted Attractions.
Lisa and Gary Moran grow pumpkins, and other crops at the Gibson Road farm, but have become known for agri-tourism events like Petey’s Pumpkin Patch/Country Christmas, Reapers, and a Garlic Festival, held in their ag buildings, as well as outdoors.
“We were told to cease and desist on Oct. 4,” said Gary Moran told The Progress. “But this is our livelihood. There’s no way we’d survive otherwise.”
According to ALR rules, permanent agricultural buildings, like the Fantasy Farms’ greenhouses, cannot be used for non-farm related events on agricultural land, as per the decision of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) in April 2019.
City of Chilliwack officials notified the Morans that they’d received a complaint about the haunted house attraction, which triggered an investigation.
“We hadn’t even opened Reapers yet. Someone responded to some of our advertising,” Moran said.
The farm owners had applied to the ALC to have their buildings’ use “grandfathered” for non-farm use like special events and weddings, after rules were changed by the previous BC Liberal government, but that request came back “refused as proposed.”
The rules stipulate that no existing permanent structures are allowed to be used for “non-farm events.”
“As the ALC panel refused the proposal to allow the use of the subject property to host annual and special events, occurring outdoors and in permanent buildings, beyond what is permitted within the ALR use regulation…the advertised events are considered to be in contravention of ALC resolution #116/2019, City Bylaws and ALC regulations,” according to the Oct. 8 letter from City of Chilliwack.
The Morans tried to suggest their greenhouse structures are well built and much safer than a tent in the field as seen in other agritourism operations, but to no avail.
“B.C. is one of the only farming communities on the continent that does not fully embrace agritourism,” Moran said. “There should be a new zoning designation for Agritourism and Agrieducation.”
If there is a way to get through this the Morans said they will let the public know as they are trying to get these rules changed.
“We will try to figure out a way to keep the pumpkin patch going and make it as much fun as it is today but with all the unrealistic regulations from the agricultural land commission it may be impossible,” Moran wrote in a social media post.
“We have worked very hard over the past 26 years in building this farm into a safe, fun, family-events farm for our community and many surrounding communities, and it breaks our hearts that we will no longer be able to do this. We would like to thank all of our past and present customers for your support and love we will miss you all.”
City officials sent a letter to Fantasy Farms on Oct. 4 requesting a written response of their intentions by Oct. 11.
The Morans are sharing a petition against the provincial legislation. They say they will continue with Reapers until the end of the month.
The Progress has reached out to Agriculture Minister Lana Popham for comment.