New agritourism discussion deserves full public hearing

Allowing agritourism on smaller rural lots is a discussion that was unnecessary 20 years ago. But today it is. 

Last week, the Yamhill County Planning Commission first considered expanding the local agritourism ordinance to rural residential zones. The existing ordinance, fashioned after Senate Bill 960, allows agricultural enterprises on lots zoned exclusive farm use, designated by a size exceeding 20 acres. 

The initial reaction from some commissioners was a natural one: Expanding agritourism further can be viewed as a threat to Oregon’s protective land use system; masses of farmers all engaging in tourism activities may greatly increase traffic, impact livability in rural areas and create negative effects on farmland in general. So goes one argument. 

The flip side of that coin will focus on the individual farmer struggling to turn a profit on a 10-acre lot. When Oregon land use laws were created, viable 10-acre farms were never in the discussion. Modern trends have led to smaller farms and community supported agriculture. When it comes to connecting people with the food they eat, is there still a major difference between a 20-acre farm and a 5- or 10-acre farm?

The Oregon State University Extension Service recently held two sessions of an Oregon Agritourism Summit, one last November and the second in March. The events brought together stakeholders to discuss all angles of related topics, including a theme on the importance of maintaining strong connections between people, farms and food.

That is one argument people in the wine industry used in advancing their agritourism industry. Sure, people like to taste wine, but they also want to see where the grapes are grown to sense a connection with what they are drinking. 

Agritourism can provide hands-on education for urbanites, and further stresses the importance of locally-grown food. It would go a step beyond the farmers’ markets and farm-to-fork movement celebrated in our region. It also can provide an incentive to attract new entrepreneurial farmers in Oregon, where farms lag far behind Washington, Idaho and California in average net income.

Ultimately, there will be a finite answer to the question, “How much is too much?” But we encourage the discussion about how land use laws preserve, or hinder, the opportunity to farm today.

Small agricultural ventures were not part of the picture when those laws were put in place. Given the landscape of modern farming, however, the arguments for expanding agricultural agritouriam should be heard.



Expanding agricultural agritourism will lead to the Gentrification of rural Yamhill County residential zones.


I would rather suggest the plowing of urban soccer fields and teaching kids what they really need to learn. How and what it takes to produce their very own food, from dirt to fork.


Perhaps an instillation of a 'hog waller' just a hop,skip and a jump somewhere between the dining room and the 18th hole at the Michelbook Country Club.

Maybe even mull over the idea of changing the name of the County seat to better match the vision of today's more modern city fathers for the future of the surrounding outlier communities.

McMartha-Stewartville might help create just the buzz you folks at the News-Register are pushing for. Fly that idea up the flagpole and see what it attracts.

Don Dix

You know, there was a time when minors were allowed to help harvest the summer crops of the area. Labor laws nullified that prospect. Land use laws only tightened the knot.

Lamenting the lack of those experiences is one thing, but food can be grown in residential areas quite easily. Flower beds and large containers are just as effective as a garden plot or even garden acreage. Volume is the only difference.

It is foolish to use 'the bulldozer approach' when a simple shovel will accomplish the goal, but extremism seems to be the only solution for some.


Perhaps a demonstration garden located at the Evergreen campus on Three Mile Lane involving both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts might serve such a role in meeting such educational requirement?

But, I don't believe that that is actually where this is all headed than it is towards more high-end weekend retreats for the affluent velvet rope crowd. That's just my opinion, not that my opinion matters.

Ossie Bladine

The blurring of the urban/rural divide became one of my favorite topics to discuss during my time in Vancouver, Wash. and Clark County. Talk about a place with extremism. Southwest Washington once grew a majority of the West Coast's food, only to become the prime example of why land use laws are necessary to prevent gross urban sprawl.

However, good has resulted from the crashing of the urban/rural divide there (with costs, of course). The number of community gardens in Vancouver rivals if not beats out Portland. Southwest Washington is home to dozens of Community Supported Agriculture operations, paving the way (pun intended) on small-scale agriculture.

Agri-tourism doesn't have to be all about out-of-staters rolling in limos with their checkbooks. If a balance can be struck, encouraging local urbanites to spend time on farms of various sizes can prove beneficial. I'm on the fence whether that balance is a reality in these parts, but it's worth exploring.


"If a balance can be struck, encouraging local urbanites to spend time on farms of various sizes can prove beneficial."

The roads from here to there are littered with such good intentions, and many a long time family farm or ranch driven out of business by them. And by 'them' I am referring to the high-end developers and speculators with better ideas for your rural neighborhoods.

Yep, Ossie, I can remember a few things, too. I can remember when the signpost at the edge of town read: San Jose, CA. Pop: 47,000, and if you had a job in that town it was more than likely in a cannery, both vegetable and fruit, or with a nut processor, or with one of the various meat packers, or even one of the local cheese packing companies.

Those days of the rural age will never return to Santa Clara County, it's family farms now lost forever to urbanization and it's accompanying 'best use' practices. Be careful what you advocate.

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