Agritourism supports farmers in region


Last updated 11/30/2022 at Noon

Farms and ranches around the country and right here in Central Oregon are diversifying their operations to offer opportunities for the public to experience what goes on at a working ranch or farm while providing additional income for ranchers and farmers. Agritourism is a way to add value to a farm/ranch without adding acreage.

In Deschutes County, the term agritourism refers to a commercial enterprise at a working farm or ranch that is incidental and subordinate to the existing farm use of the tract that promotes successful agriculture. The commercial enterprise generates supplemental income for the owner and must be related to and supportive of agriculture.

Today in Oregon, just over one percent of the population lives on farms, and fewer than 20 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Agritourism helps provide the remaining small farms with additional revenue streams.

The types of agritourism activities allowed in exclusive farm use (EFU) zones for properties with an existing farm use in Oregon were established in Senate Bill 960 by the state legislature in 2011. Individual counties adopted ordinances in compliance with the State criteria and may add local requirements.

Deschutes County incorporated the law into County Code in 2012. Three types of limited-use permits are allowed. Type 1 permits allow up to six small-scale agritourism-only uses per year, such as farm-to-plate dinners. Type 2 permits allow up to six agritourism and other commercial events or activities per year. Type 3 permits allow up to 18 events per year and must be necessary to support the commercial farm uses of the commercial agricultural enterprises of the area.

According to Deschutes County, “A commercial event or activity is any meeting, celebratory gathering, wedding, party, or similar uses consisting of any assembly of persons and the sale of goods or services. A commercial event or activity shall be related to and supportive of agriculture.”

There are many types of agritourism, with the most popular activities being farm/ranch bed and breakfasts, meals featuring farm products, hayrides, farm/ranch tours, and direct sales, including roadside vegetable stands and pick-your-own produce.

Two local examples of properties that have been granted limited-use permits for agritourism are Pine Meadow Ranch and Pole Creek Ranch, both of which are raising crops and cattle, and also hosting agritourism events and other commercial events and activities.

Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards on Lower Valley Drive in Terrebonne is another agricultural business that hosts musical events, wine tastings, weddings, wine release parties, winemaker dinners, farmers markets, and other special events in addition to growing wine grapes on 15 acres and making wine.

Agritourism has benefits for both the farmer/rancher and the consumer. In addition to serving as an additional source of income, agritourism can benefit farmers/

ranchers by:

• Creating name recognition for their agricultural products;

• Educating consumers about farming/ranching and America’s rural heritage;

• Generating financial incentives for the protection and enhancement of a farm’s or ranch’s natural resources and natural amenities;

• Generating “spillover” economic development opportunities in the community by bringing tourists into town who may then shop, eat, and stay locally.

Travel Oregon launched the Oregon Agritourism Network in 2015 to cultivate Oregon’s agritourism potential and advance Oregon’s agriculture and food and beverage industries. An Agritourism Work Group identified six priority focus areas and developed a 2025 vision for agritourism in Oregon. Those six priority focus areas are policy advancement, statewide network development, marketing and promotion, quality of product, education, and economic impact.

Editor’s notes: In coming weeks, The Nugget will examine how agritourism is implemented in Sisters Country and the benefits and challenges associated with it.


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