One of the biggest trends in land use law is an increasing number of court cases and legislative battles over agritourism. The first issue surrounds the question of what activities qualify as agritourism. Second, courts, state legislatures, and local planning boards struggle to harmonize agritourism with other land uses.
One generally thinks of agritourism as pick-your-own, hayrides, corn mazes, small farm stands, and maybe even apple cannons and punkin’ chunkers. Depending on where you live, the courts or state legislature may have determined that weddings, paintball, shooting ranges, rodeos, concerts, festivals, movies, and even skydiving constitute agritourism. Agritourism activities should also be connected to production activities on that farm.
Most communities support agritourism as a way to help agricultural operations supplement their incomes. However, as agritourism activities increasingly involve large numbers of people and cars, increased noise, parking and traffic issues and attendees wandering onto neighboring properties, conflicts between agritourism operators and their neighbors have increased. Some of the complaining neighbors are producers that find that the cars, people and noise interfere with their production activities.
Weddings are a prime example of a contentious agritourism activity today. Courts have struggled to determine when a wedding is sufficiently connected to the farm’s production activities to be considered “agrtourism”. Courts increasingly consult several different factors in a complex analysis to make legal decisions. Is the farm setting integral to the wedding ceremony? Are farm products such as flowers or food items used in the wedding or reception? Perhaps the wedding is agritourism, but the reception should be held elsewhere?
Take these questions and concerns and expand them to the myriad of activities that may be considered agritourism and the difficulties are obvious. Land use impacts of production agriculture and intensive agritourism activities are very different and neighbors react accordingly. As always, agritourism operators should think about impacts to neighbors when developing new activities. Neighbors should be consulted prior to commencing the new activity. In addition, design activities to minimize impacts on nearby landowners. Agritourism operations that result in angry neighbors not only cause negative publicity for that operation, but for agritourism as a whole.