Richmond embracing agritourism with zoning law

The Richmond Town Board seeks to protect and promote the community’s agricultural heritage through a new local zoning law that supports agritourism.

The new law, adopted in October 2018, allows property owners in Richmond’s agricultural-residential District A to apply for special use permits for a range of agritourism business ventures, including farm markets and roadside stands, petting zoos, seasonal events like hayrides and corn mazes, harvest festivals and barn dances, school tours, and “u-pick” operations. State law currently protects many of these activities if they support the operations of an active farm.

The new law expands access to property owners who use land for agricultural purposes, with local planners working with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. It extends to culinary tourism activities that include farm-to-table dinners, cooking experiences, and weddings and parties that use agricultural products grown or produced on-site or locally.

“It’s a great way to promote our town as a niche tourism destination,” said Steve Barnhoorn, a council member who led the process of drafting and shepherding the law through its adoption.

The Town Board was approached by community members interested in offering farm-to-table dining, Barnhoorn said. In neighboring Livonia, farm-based event venues like Wingate Barn and Twin Silos are popular spots for birthday parties, family reunions and weddings.

“Couples getting married, especially, are looking to put their own stamp on things with a unique venue,” Barnhoorn said. “It would be great if our town could replicate Livonia’s success.”

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