County Urgency Ordinance Encourages Agritourism

Sep 4, 2020

County Urgency Ordinance Encourages Agritourism

Sep 4, 2020

Agriculture in Sonoma County is a core industry and there is concern that small agricultural operations in particular will have a difficult time adjusting to and recovering from the Shelter In Place and this could jeopardize access to local agricultural products. The urgency ordinance provides measures that allow farmers to augment income, expand supply chain and marketing opportunities, teach residents and visitors about agriculture, and offer the public another option to enjoying the outdoors in a safe manner.

Agritourism collage
With an eye towards helping local agricultural operations survive the pandemic while also encouraging citizens to visit the outdoors locally, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved the urgency ordinance to protect agriculture. The ordinance is in place at least until physical distancing requirements are removed.

This is great news for operations looking to offer agricultural experiences. Under the ordinance, agricultural experiences can now occur without obtaining a Special Events permit from Permit Sonoma, saving time and money!

What are agricultural experiences? Could they include a tour with an outdoor activity – goat yoga perhaps? Or a farm to table meal? Educational day camp where participants make meals with farm produce? Picnic Day on the farm? Any of those and more are included.

The Rules

This applies only to agriculture zoned parcels (LIA, LEA, DA). If you are not sure, visit Permit Sonoma ActiveMap and input your address. If the zoning is correct, activities must comply with the following:

  1. Incidental to a primary agricultural use.
  2. Features agricultural products grown or produced onsite.
  3. No amplified sound or loud musical instruments, such as horns, drums, or cymbals.
  4. Occurs during one day between the hours of 10 am and 7 pm. This means it's not a two (or more) day event, it's a one-day event/experience that can occur up to 4 times a month.
  5. No overnight sleeping accommodations.
  6. Up to 4 agricultural experiences per month. Note: hikes, tours, and educational seminars without additional activities are not limited.
  7. Attendees cannot exceed the lesser of the following:
    1. The maximum number of individuals in a group allowed under the County Health Order for outdoor recreation activity businesses, or for gatherings if outdoor recreation activity businesses are no longer specifically limited; or
    2. 49 attendees.
  8. No permanent improvements are necessary to accommodate or support the agricultural experience, such as construction or grading.
  9. Compliance with environmental health requirements, including those related to food service, porta-toilets, and trash containers, fire and building code requirements, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and any other applicable requirements.

Additional Considerations

This is a wonderful way to bring customers to your farm and to build your customer base. And an effective way to test out agritourism. Is it for you? If you are new to agritourism, we recommend you consider the following as you plan inviting visitors to your farm:

  • Insurance can be expensive but is a necessary protection. Talk to an agent familiar with agritourism.
  • Safety of visitors: tripping hazards, aggressive animals, climbing hazards. (See:
  • Sanitizing, restrooms, and wash stations; follow guidance from Sonoma County public health officials.
  • Your capacity for added activities, along with that of your family members, employees.

To learn more about this ordinance, visit

About agritourism: and

Publication: Agritourism and Nature Tourism in California, available for purchase from UCANR catalog.

Contact: Ag Ombuds:

By Karen Giovannini
Author - Agriculture Ombudsman

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