For the past 7 years, Backyard Farm has operated in our beautiful region. We have had the opportunity to build a business that showcases our love and respect for farm and food culture while allowing us to support our family and staff doing what we are passionate about.
During this time, we have positioned ourself to be a voice and representation to encourage support and educate our clients of the importance of responsible farming, and bring forth the awareness of where our food comes from, who grows it, and the effort and sacrifice it takes to do it well. We did not develop a restaurant, but rather a culinary experience. We are not open to the public, as it was always our priority to strive for balance in family, life and career. In order to achieve this, we set a mandate to focus my culinary experience of over 25 years in the professional culinary industry, and my families’ passion for growing food in offering private culinary experiences in an engaging and intimate atmosphere. We are very limited in our availability due to holding the value of time with our family as a priority, rather than financial gain. Upon purchasing the farm, we felt that the heritage of the property itself needed to be recognized and shared, as more of a part of the “bigger picture”. We work the land ourselves, we plant, harvest, process and prepare the bounty from our farm. We believe that we have a unique ability to truly connect our clients and guests to our land and region with what we have developed. We are community minded, and aside from the majority of ingredients on our tailored menus being derived from our heritage farm, we strive to support local like minded responsible and sustainable farmers that share in our passion for quality and sustainability. Mikkel and I have managed to carve a lifestyle off of a 1 acre piece of land, contrary to the belief that it was not likely possible. We have been able to recognize our dream life through this investment, and have supported the wine industry with an unbiased approach, encouraging our guests to go and explore the wealth of talent and passion that exists around us, rather than choose a handful of wineries to carry on our wine list for significant profit margin with minimal effort . We have garnered attention in many publications both national and international, all authentically driven for the sake of the interest in our approach, rather than being paid advertising. In addition to all of this, we have focused energy on employing staff in our community and training the future generation of culinarians, while offering insight and experience into growing the food that we prepare in our modest commercial kitchen. Consequently, we have also drawn business to our valley eager to spend their money and time in our communities. We love what we do, and we wouldn’t change anything aside from things we can’t control.
We have managed to work through the pandemic, pivoting our business to offer our staff continued employment and our clients the ability to enjoy our food in a different way. The reality of our main revenue stream in catering was decimated last year with the Covid 19 pandemic, and we realized it was necessary to build our patio to stay in business. With the looming uncertainty paired with heavy losses, the permit application prompted a reaction from the Regional District, in order to adhere to the ALR zoning designation bylaws. Due to a misinterpretation of our business as a “food and beverage service establishment” in agriculture land zoning, our regional district has deemed us non-compliant. Currently, we have had to apply for a Temporary Use Permit, which will allow us to operate for 3 years while we attempt to rezone, hoping the end result will be a long future of continuing to offer the very things we have become recognized for. This, if approved, would allow us to continue to operate as we have at least for the 3 year term. Should it be denied, we are at risk for losing everything that we have built. The interpretation of our non-compliance is based upon business being considered a commercial entity, perhaps exploiting Agriculture use of our land for financial purposes.Our preference would to be recognized for being in compliance without the necessity for re-zoning. Our interpretation of the by-laws in question were perceived as being compliant with the absence of public availability, lack of beverage sales, and the use of the farm produce in a value added, educational culinary offering . We would never have invested , nor risked the investment and trust in our family, staff and clients should we have thought otherwise. The reality of our business is that it is break even in the best of years(pre global pandemic), and our intention was never to contravene laws put in place to protect the very thing we have built our livelihood and families’ future on- respecting and preserving agriculture land. We strongly advocate for all of the things that these laws were introduced for, as the foundation of our business is based upon these principles.
We have enjoyed the opportunity to connect with so many guests and clients through the years, and as we move forward through this process, it has been suggested that we reach out to garner letters of support. It may help to distinguish our role in the community as a food-forward educational facility rather than a restaurant. In addition, it may also offer insight in regards to the fact that we truly do represent agriculture on this piece of land, and that we are an integral part of agri-tourism. We also want to offer unbiased information to the reality that we are enhancing our farmland, using it as it was intended to be when the bylaws were put in place. It is our hope that as we move forward in this process that we will be recognized as a business that our region needs to exist. The bottom line is that we have always maintained that we support and respect that preserving agriculture land is very important, and that we support the need to protect such a valuable resource. The personal and passionate side of the approach is not relevant, rather the reality that our unique business is difficult to categorize.
We have a limited amount of time, as it was our wish to trust the process and that making this situation public may not be to our benefit. As of late, and upon sage advice, it was suggested that we encourage our supporters to send a letter if they are so inclined, to bring forth the awareness of our integrity as business owners in representing our agriculture region in its truest form. Additionally, we would like to share that there will be a public forum, for any who wish to be a part of, in order to offer public insight into our application. The meeting is at 6PM, June 1st(this tuesday) you can log on then, and the link to be a part of it can be found here:Public Forum Link
Further to this, we will have another meeting with the Planning Committee on Wednesday where they will offer advice to The Regional District Board of Directors on how they should proceed with our application. It was suggested that letters of support may be helpful in showcasing the contribution we have to our community. If you are able to offer some time in supporting us, please forward letters to us at: email@example.com
Unfortunately, we are on a bit of a timeline, and we would need brief letters of support by Wednesday afternoon at the latest.
On behalf of my family, staff and myself, we thank you for your continued support in our business, along with your time and consideration. Please understand that we had preferred to trust this process by keeping the situation private. The future of our family and so much more is dependent on this approval, thus we must reach out to you in hopes that it will be helpful for our cause. Here are a few links sharing our story:
With much gratitude,
Chris Van Hooydonk