By Alissa Matthews, VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
Many Vermont farms open to the public as a way to share their intimate relationship with the land and animals, and to direct market their agricultural products and products from neighboring farms to consumers. This year, August 9th – 15th, many farms will explore this opportunity by hosting special on farm events during Open Farm Week. The businesses associated with being open to the public are often necessary to sustain a working farm. To help define and protect these types of businesses, Act 143 allows farmers to diversify operations and revenue streams and increase their ability to market agricultural products and the agricultural experience by welcoming the public to their farms.
As of July 1, 2018, a farmer, farm resident, or farm lessee interested in operating an accessory on-farm
business may do so in the same location as a “farm” regulated by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) under the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) rule.
When and where does this law apply?
Farmers interested in opening their land for one of the types of businesses described above that are located in a Vermont municipality that has adopted zoning bylaws and conducts site plan review.
Act 143 created a statewide land use review category, the “accessory on-farm business”, which is defined in statute. While this same broad language will be applied across all municipalities with site plan review it may be interpreted and applied differently. The administration of the law depends on local application requirements, the standards in the bylaws and even could depend on the culture of the community.
A municipality may review the accessory business under site plan review and adopted performance standards; however, a municipality cannot prohibit an accessory on-farm businesses in the same location as a farm. The municipality also determines if the products meet the definition of “qualifying product”.
Qualifying products are products that are wholly:
- An agricultural, horticultural, viticultural, or dairy commodity, or maple syrup;
- Livestock, or cultured fish or a product thereof;
- A product of poultry, bees, an orchard, or fiber crops;
- A commodity otherwise grown or raised on a farm; or
- A product manufactured on one or more farms
Accessory on-farm businesses are limited to the following types of businesses:
- The storage, preparation and sale of qualifying products, provided that more than half of the sales are from qualifying agricultural products principally produced on the farm; and
- The educational, recreational, and social events that feature agricultural practices and /or qualifying agricultural products.
To learn more about accessory on-farm businesses, RAPs, and resources for farmers visit:
To learn more about Open Farm Week visit: