According to an analysis I read by the Farm Bureau, agriculture is a tough business to be in. With median on-farm household income being in the red for the past 20 years, that means that more than ½ of all farms in the United States were unprofitable! Naively, my husband and I jumped right into farming 5 years ago hoping to find a nice way to “retire” in a rural community.
I have been told that many of our fellow farmers have kept their cash flow positive by increasing their debt load or finding other means of income from off-farm jobs to on-farm revenue generations like baking, thanks to successful 2017 lawsuit making the sale of home baked goods legal. This isn’t new news. However, what is new news is that an economic driving force known as Agricultural Tourism is getting a boost in Green County. With the likely passage of Green County’s proposed updated Agricultural Tourism zoning codes, we farmers will have new ways to generate on-farm income to sustain our way of life.
Throughout 2021 the Green County Land Use and Zoning Committee along with Zoning Administrator Adam Wiegel have been working hard to update the codes getting valuable input from farmers and community leaders. By working with an incredible alliance of organizations including the Green County Economic Development, Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association, Green County Women in Sustainable Ag (Soil Sisters), Blackhawk Community College and others, we were able to raise our collective voices to express the need for the adoption of boarder Agricultural Tourism zoning in Green County. I, for one, am grateful for the work of the Green County Zoning Committee and staff and their willingness to evolve their thinking by taking in and processing so much information this past year in order to formulate the new codes.
According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, agricultural tourism revenues have tripled between 2002-2017. WOW I thought, this is an opportunity for Green County! Not only for us farmers but for our rural small business-owning neighbors too. The average on-farm wedding venue can generate $3,000-$5,000 in rental income for the farm while also helping to generate roughly $22,500 per event for surrounding rural businesses. This includes revenue for my neighbors who run the bakery, catering, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, hair stylists, photographer, DJ, florist, officiants and yes, even a flower farmer like me. These new allowable uses and evolved conditional use permit terms on agricultural zoned land are a much-needed driver of economic development in our rural Green County, that’s for sure!
Green County Agricultural Tourism Zoning Public Hearing
Here is your chance to review and have your voice heard at the Agricultural Tourism zoning public hearing tentatively scheduled for January 10. For additional information and to confirm date and time visit https://greencountywi.org/183/Land-Use-Zoning. If all goes according to plan, these new zoning codes will be coming up for a vote by the Green County Board in March of 2022. So please call your supervisor and ask them to vote in favor of the new codes to move economic development forward in Green County. It’s a win-win for all of us, especially us farmers.
—Penny Molina is a flower farmer at Still Point Flower Farm in Brooklyn, Wis. and a proud member of Green County’s Soil Sisters, Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association and Wisconsin Farmers Union. Soil Sisters, a program of Renewing the Countryside, connects and champions women in the Green County area committed to sustainable and organic agriculture, land stewardship, local food, family farms and healthy and economically vibrant rural communities.