For the past 14 years, people have gathered at Thistle Farm to eat locally grown food, listen to music and celebrate the year’s farm harvest.
Not this year. This year, Harvestfest — planned for Sept. 14 — may not happen.
Dudy said Wednesday he’s run into roadblocks from the City. His Westsyde farm is zoned for agricultural use, but because of complaints from a neighbour, he is working on rezoning for agricultural with allowed events.
His wife advised the City about weddings and a performance by the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra on the farm this summer, but forgot Harvestfest. When the City was advised about the omission, the couple was told they could run it next year.
“Tickets were supposed to go on sale today,” he said of the one-day fall event. “It’s become a tradition.”
Harvestfest started off as a gathering for the farmer’s friends and customers, but has over the years attracted area celebs like Nancy Greene Raine.
“It’s a celebration of the bounty of the season,” he said.
Dudy sells tickets to the event and donates the surplus to charity. As a farmer, he sees the annual gathering as a way of teaching people more about where their food comes from.
“Education is key and it comes in many forms. If they’re there, they see the food and how it’s prepared,” he said.
“It’s about relationships, too. We’ve developed relationships in the community.”
A few years ago, a neighbour complained to the City about Dudy’s visitors parking along the roadside. Dudy has since added parking to his property and is trying to stay on top of the issue.
Then the City took issue with a wooden cover he built for the outdoor eating area.
“I’m not trying to break the rules,” said Dudy, who in 2011 ran against Peter Milobar for the mayor’s seat and lost narrowly by 235 votes.
Dudy said he still has aspirations to be involved with City council some day, so he doesn’t want to incur a fine for proceeding with Harvestfest regardless.
But rezoning takes time and involves not just the City but also the Agricultural Land Commission. And during the summer, he’s too busy working to deal with the paperwork.
City development and engineering services director Marvin Kwiatkowski said it’s not just his office that’s requiring permits and regulation, it’s the ALC and Interior Health.
The dining area cover was built without a permit, as was the full kitchen used to serve guests.
“They do now have an application in for non farm use. We went out on a limb and asked which events they already had planned. They initially had three, and then added a fourth,” Kwiatkowski said.
But there was no mention of Harvestfest until Dudy was asked about his rezoning application that will be going to council.
“That one wasn’t mentioned and no dates were given,” he said.
Kwiatkowski said one neighbour has been the main source of complaints, but others have, too.
“We’ve been as clear as we can. What if something happens?” he said. “If something was to happen, we’re potentially putting ourselves at risk.”
Dudy could potentially team up with a neighbour and move Harvestfest to a nearby spot, he said. But the City has already granted Thistle Farm leeway on its other events and there are regulations that need to be met.
Dudy was a member of the City’s agricultural advisory committee, but stepped down after a while because he felt he was in conflict of interest.
He hasn’t decided how he’s going to handle Harvestfest 2013, but he’s been frustrated at what he feels is a lack of flexibility.
“It’s disheartening. You don’t feel valued as a member of the community.