Farmers and ranchers could branch out into campgrounds, farm stays, tours, weddings and other businesses on their properties under Santa Barbara County’s proposed agricultural enterprise ordinance.

The goal of the law is for agricultural property owners to make more money through new or expanded uses, including agritourism.

An environmental impact report for the program was released Tuesday, and the public comment period runs through Sept. 14. This kind of report looks at cumulative impacts of the program rather than those of one specific operation and property.

It found significant and unavoidable impacts from the likely increase in vehicle trips for these recreational businesses.

Those impacts could be partly mitigated if farm stays (short-term rentals on ag property) and campgrounds were removed from the list of uses, but that would take away a big potential income source, according to the report.

The proposed ordinance applies to land that’s primarily used for agriculture (farming or ranching/grazing).

The possibilities, according to the county:

“Proposed supplemental agricultural uses include small-scale agricultural processing beyond the raw state, agricultural product preparation, aquaponics, composting, farm stands, firewood processing and sales, lumber processing/milling, and tree nut hulling.

“Proposed rural recreational uses include small-scale campgrounds, farmstays, educational experiences and opportunities (e.g., farm tours, technical agricultural training, bird/wildlife viewing, photography), fishing, hunting, horseback riding, incidental food service, and small-scale events (e.g., farm-to-table dinners, weddings, receptions, non-motorized trail runs/races).”

Agritourism, in addition to bringing in more money for the owners, can educate the public about the importance of agriculture, increase demand for local products, and support the county’s tourism industry, the report states.

Submitting Public Comments on the Ordinance’s Environmental Impact Report

The agricultural enterprise ordinance will be reviewed by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission later this year, and by the Board of Supervisors after that, Planning & Development Director Lisa Plowman said Wednesday.

Several farmers supported the ordinance at a 2020 Board of Supervisors hearing, saying it has “obvious economic benefit” to the farms, and lets visitors connect with the local agricultural industry.

The farm-stay ordinance was consolidated into the agricultural enterprise ordinance.

Public comments on the programmatic environmental impact report can be made in writing or at virtual hearings hosted by the county.

Hearings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 10 and Aug. 21.

The first hearing will be on Zoom and in person at the Riviera Conference Room of the County Engineering Building at 123 E. Anapamu St. (next door to the County Administration Building) in Santa Barbara. The second hearing will be on Zoom only.

To submit written comments: write to project planner Julie Harris at 123 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 or email PADAgEnterprise@countyofsb.org before 5 p.m. Sept. 14.