Below are the questions from the last webinar that we didn't have time to answer during the hour, with answers from the presenters - Karen Giovannini of UCCE and Tom Purciel of the El Dorado Planning Dept. If you have any other questions, please ask! All of the webinar presenters are "on-call" to provide assistance. (Soon we'll also post the last webinar recording, powerpoint presentations and Q&A questions from during the session.)
Question: We have a kitchen in our barn, can we use it to make meals for our guests?
Karen’s Answer: No, any food served must be prepared in a licensed kitchen by a licensed caterer or by someone holding a food safety certification and all other food preparers must have food handler cards.
NOTE: There is one exception, and I'm not sure if this is statewide, so check with your environmental health department but if you are only doing a one-day event (i.e. 1x per month a special farm stand bbq during the summer months) in Sonoma County, you would NOT need to obtain a permit from the health department to prepare and serve the food. However, you are still responsible for good food safety practices. Again, check with your county environmental health department if you are thinking about doing something like that because interpretation of this regulations may be different in your county.
Question: Is there a minimum acreage that the County requires for an Agritourism Venture?
Karen’s Answer: You would need to check with your county planning department; each county is different.
Question: Do regulatory agencies require liability insurance for farm visits?
Karen’s Answer: I don’t believe so, but it is in your best interest to have it.
Question: How do I find out what zone my property is listed in?
Karen’s Answer: Check with your county/municipality planning department.
Question: If an activity is not listed on my parcel's zone, am I allowed to do that activity?
Karen’s Answer: Maybe. It depends on if the code is permissible, meaning if it's not listed it's not allowed. Or not, meaning if it's not listed it might be allowed with permission from the county/municipality.
Question: I thought farms were exempt from health dept certification if only serving breakfast to overnight guests, both for kitchen and food handlers license?
Karen’s Answer: In Sonoma County, a Restricted Food Service Facility permit is required, but you can use your kitchen: http://ucanr.edu/sites/CESonomaAgOmbuds/Agricultural_Farm_Stay/ - see Dept of Health Services Requirements. See also the California Retail Food Code section 113893 “Restricted food service facility” https://www.cdph.ca.gov/services/Documents/fdbRFC.pdf
Question: How can my agricultural community join or form a local advisory committee?
Tom’s Answer: It is a good idea to first check with your local county agriculture department and your local Farm Bureau for information on existing agricultural advisory committees in your area, and find out what agricultural industries each existing group represents. They can also give you information on how to form your own local advisory group - Some jurisdictions have a more formal process than others. For more information you may also contact your state Farm Bureau. A directory of all state Farm Bureaus can be found here: http://www.fb.org/statefbs/.
Question: How did you go about collaborating with the county?
Tom’s Answer: I think the first, and most important step, is to let your local county Board of Supervisors know of any changes you would like to make to local regulations, and explain the reason(s) for making those changes. It is very helpful having at least one Board member as an advocate for your cause(!) You should consider having regular meetings with Board members, both formally and informally, as you (or your groups) needs require.
As a planner, when writing new or updated regulations, it is important for me to involve as many stakeholders (interested or affected parties) as possible, and include those individuals or groups as early as possible in the process. For example, preliminary changes to the Ranch Marketing Ordinance, (e.g. "the first draft") was shared with many agricultural advisory groups/grower associations for input during the 2002-2003 Ranch Marketing Ordinance update. That way, as many affected groups as possible had an opportunity to help shape the regulations to best meet their needs.