By Associated Press • 

Central Oregon farms see uptick in events

BEND — An improving economic climate and clearer state laws about agritourism have fueled an uptick in events on farmland in central Oregon.

In 2010 and 2011, Deschutes County received just one permit application from a rural landowner for events and other commercial activities. Since 2012, it has received 65 of these permit requests, The Bend Bulletin reported.

More than a dozen of the permit applications sought permission for things such as annual horse shows and music festivals on Tumalo farm properties and wine-tasting events in Terrebonne.

“I can't recall a time when this has been so prevalent,” said Jon Jinings, a Bend-based staffer with the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

County and state officials say a pair of Oregon laws implemented in 2012 is partly responsible for the increase. The changes opened up more opportunities for recreation on farmland.

The laws defined events considered to be agritourism, held on farmland but aimed at bringing in revenue through events. The laws allow up to 18 agritourism events on a property in any year, as long as they meet state and local restrictions and don't take away from the land's agricultural value.

State laws preserving farm properties have been in place since the early 1970s, as population growth pushed new subdivisions increasingly onto rural land, said Katherine Daniels, a farm and forest specialist with the land conservation department.

“But we do have a general concern across the state with the uptick in numbers of events, and their potential cumulative impact on farm operations,” Daniels said.

Other parts of the state are dealing similar increases, she said.

Some neighbors, often farm owners themselves, have also raised concerns over noise, traffic and litter affecting their agricultural operations.

Deschutes County Commissioner Alan Unger said that if noise is kept under control and pollution kept to a minimum, events such as weddings can be a major tool for farmers looking to supplement their incomes.

He's confident recent county statutes will prevent a repeat of 2007, when unsanctioned weddings drew numerous complaints, Unger said.

In 2012, Deschutes County went further than the state and added provisions in the county code that clamp down on events running more than 30 consecutive hours. It also prohibited events on land less than 10 acres.

Deschutes County Community Development Director Nick Lelack said the county's additions try to strike a balance between the larger mission to preserve farmland and the opportunities and revenues such events can bring property owners.

“I've heard from farmers that one of their biggest challenges is people living next door or close by creating a challenge for their farming practices,” Unger said. “Having said that, these events are kind of sporadic in nature, and I think they work for some of these (property owners) in terms of providing more income for their families.”

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Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com

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