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New agricultural zoning ordinance developed

The Issue

Increasingly, farmers and ranchers are finding it necessary to diversify their operations to stay in business. Value-added products, agriculture and nature tourism are ways to increase income from existing farm resources. Agriculture tourism includes farm tours, u-pick operations, hunting clubs, vineyard weddings and farm stays. Nature tourism aims to offer greater understanding and appreciation of natural areas while conserving local ecological, social and cultural values. Value-added products include wines, olive oils, cashmere garments, etc.

However, Calaveras County had not changed its agricultural zoning component in the General Plan since the early 1960s. When it was written, the cattle industry was the primary agricultural enterprise. There was no allowance for agricultural or nature tourism, or value-added product development. In order to conduct agricultural tourism or nature tourism activities, landowners were required to undergo a costly process to acquire a conditional use permit. Growth of the agricultural industry was inhibited by outdated zoning codes.

What Has ANR Done?

Calaveras County UC Cooperative Extension served as the facilitator over a two-year period to bring together a team with representation from the farm bureau, Calaveras Winegrape Alliance, Calaveras Grown, Cattlemen's Association, subdivision homeowners' associations, the county planning department and the county board of supervisors. They collaborated to produce a comprehensive document that permits hundreds of new agriculturally related business opportunities. The complete ordinance can be viewed online.

The Payoff

Agricultural zoning benefits farmers and ranchers

Land uses on agricultural properties that are now permitted under the new ordinance have opened up hundreds of new opportunities for farmers and ranchers to increase annual income. Farm stays, small wineries and tasting rooms, farm and ranch weddings, dude ranches, hunting clubs and on-farm sales of produce are just a few of the new businesses being developed. The county's agricultural sector and all county residents benefit from the protected open space and the rural lifestyle that is so highly prized in foothill counties. Large land holdings are now better able to remain intact and resist the ever increasing pressure to subdivide.


Supporting Unit: Calaveras County

Kenneth Churches, (209) 754-6477, cdcalaveras@ucdavis.edu