Rachel RespondsAugust 17, 2018

Zoning issues when starting an agri-tourism venture

Question:

My farm operation is allowed under my local zoning ordinance. Does that mean an agritourism venture is allowed as well?

Answer:

The short answer is no. Even where a farm operation is allowed, zoning ordinances can prohibit agritourism ventures. This is because agritourism is often classified as an entertainment, educational, or other commercial, non-agricultural use of the property. These other uses may not be allowed in agricultural, residential, or urban zones. More likely, agritourism ventures will require an event permit, conditional use permit, or even a variance before they are allowed. Securing event or conditional use permits is generally fairly easy, so long as the farmer allows enough time for the process.  

Farmers will need to do more research to learn their specific zoning obligations. One option is to call the local zoning authority (which may be a city, town, county, or other unit of government), explain the proposed venture, and ask if it’s allowed. Other farmers may prefer to research the zoning code themselves. Many local entities have their zoning codes online. Start by discovering in which code the property falls, and then read up on which activities are allowed or disallowed in that zone. Other options include talking with a local attorney or asking a reference librarian for assistance.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Read all of our FAQ for Agritourism on the Farm. Farm Commons has a short guide, Hosting Safer, More Legally Secure On-Farm Events, with information on zoning codes on pages 5–7. Farm Commons also has a audio tutorial titled, “Hosting Safe, Legally Secure Farm Events,” which is available in Part 1 and Part 2 at our site or as a podcast- search for us in your favorite podcast provider. For help interpreting your specific zoning language, zoning office staff and attorneys are excellent resources.

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