Categorized | Agriculture

County has state’s first ag tourism ordinance


(The following article appears in the April-June edition of Agriculture Hawaii, an official publication of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.)

A new law in Hawaii County gives Big Island farmers a chance to showcase their agricultural products while giving visitors a taste of a real farming experience.

The state’s first agriculture tourism bill, designed to help diversify Hawaii County’s agricultural economy, was adopted by the County Council last November.

Farming is a risky business due to the unpredictable forces of nature and markets. Depending solely on crop production puts farmers in near-constant survival mode. Recognizing the precarious existence of farmers, Hawaii County wanted to provide added opportunities for farmers to generate additional income that would lead to greater economic stability for farmers and a stronger agricultural industry on the Big Island.

At the same time, visitors were clamoring for new activities and wanted to get out onto farms and ranches. It would seem a perfect match – agriculture and tourism.

Yet, once visitors began arriving at farms, neighboring farmers and residents began to complain about unsafe and unpermitted activities such as parked cars and buses blocking single lane rural roads and large weddings taking place within the State agricultural district and county agricultural zoned lands. 

The county Planning Department stepped in issuing violation notices and frustrating the agricultural tourism operators, who felt they should be entitled to proceed with their business operations unimpeded.

Proactively, the Planning Department initiated conversations with the Big Island Farm Bureau along with farm and ranch businesses interested in pursuing county legislation that would establish a permitting process that could address neighboring property owners’ concerns about traffic safety, parking and restroom facilities. Following extended discussion and multiple hearings by the County Council, an ordinance was approved that provides for a fair and level playing field for concerned parties. A win-win for all, the bill gives the local visitor industry another unique tour attraction to promote on the island and an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to further diversify their operations.


Hawaii County’s agricultural tourism ordinance was made possible by Act 250, SLH 2006, which allowed agriculture tourism on state agricultural lands only if counties adopt an ordinance regulating it.

The Hawaii County ordinance defines agricultural tourism as “visitor-related commercial activities or periodic special events designed to promote agricultural activities conducted on a working farm, ranch, or agricultural products processing facility.”

The bill is designed to insure that agriculture remains the primary operation at agriculture tourism sites. Farmers who want to supplement their incomes with tourism must submit plans for approval with the following restrictions:

* The area used primarily for agricultural tourism activities can be no larger than 1,000 square feet under roof.

* There can be no more than 30,000 visitors a year per site.

* Weddings, restaurants, or overnight accommodations are prohibited.

* Ag tourism revenue cannot exceed 50 percent of total farm revenues.

Exceeding those limits would require a special permit to operate. Ag tourism operations that fall with the parameters of the ordinance do not need a special permit.

Anyone with questions about the County of Hawaii’s agricultural bill should call the county Planning Department at 961-8288.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

RSS Weather Alerts

  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.