Soil Sisters: Soil Sisters supports economic development through agrotourism

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According to an analysis I read by the Farm Bureau, farming is a tough business. With the median farm household income in the red over the past 20 years, that means more than half of all farms in the United States were unprofitable! Naively, my husband and I got into farming 5 years ago in the hope of finding a good way to “retire” to a rural community.

I have been told that many of our fellow farmers have kept their cash flow positive by increasing their debt or finding other ways to earn money from non-farm jobs to generate farm income like farming. bakery, thanks to the successful 2017 lawsuit making the sale of homemade bakery products legal. This is not news. What is new, however, is that an economic driving force known as agricultural tourism is getting a boost in Green County. With the likely adoption of the updated Farm Tourism Zoning Codes proposed by Green County, we farmers will have new ways to generate income on the farm to sustain our way of life.

Throughout 2021, the Green County Zoning and Land Use Committee along with Zoning Administrator Adam Wiegel worked hard to update the codes by securing valuable input from farmers and community leaders. By working with an incredible alliance of organizations including 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 have been able to increase our collective voices to express the need for the adoption of a border agricultural tourism zoning in Green County. For my part, I am grateful for the work of the Green County Zoning Committee and staff and for their willingness to move their thinking forward by collecting and processing so much information this year to formulate the new codes.

According to the United States Census of Agriculture, farm tourism income tripled between 2002 and 2017. WOW I thought, this is an opportunity for Green County! Not only for us farmers, but also for our rural neighbors who own small businesses. The average on-farm wedding venue can generate between $ 3,000 and $ 5,000 in rental income for the farm, while helping to generate around $ 22,500 per event for surrounding rural businesses. This includes the income of my neighbors who run the bakery, catering, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, hairdressers, photographer, DJ, florist, officiants and yes, even a floriculturalist like me. These new permitted uses and the enhanced conditional use permit conditions on zoned farmland are a vital driver of economic development in our rural Green County, that’s for sure!

Green County Agricultural Tourism Zoning Public Hearing

Here’s your chance to examine and have your voice heard at the agricultural tourism zoning public hearing tentatively scheduled for January 10. For more information and to confirm the date and time, visit https://greencountywi.org/183/Land-Use-Zoning. If all goes according to plan, these new zoning codes will be put to the Green County Board for a vote in March 2022. So please call your supervisor and ask them to vote for the new codes to advance economic development in Green County. It’s a win-win situation for all of us, especially for us farmers.

—Penny Molina is a florist at Still Point Flower Farm in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, and a proud member of the Green County Soil Sisters, Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association, and Wisconsin Farmers Union. Soil Sisters, a program of Renewing the Countryside, connects and advocates for women in the Green County area engaged in sustainable and organic agriculture, land stewardship, local food, family farms and healthy rural communities and economically dynamic.


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