On April 25, 2017, the Southold Town Board adopted Local Law No. 5 of 2017, which amends the Town’s Zoning Code as it relates to agricultural uses. Specifically, the local law amends and adds certain definitions to the Code in recognition of the changes in modern farm operations. The changes are also consistent with the expanded definitions of agriculture found in New York State’s Agriculture and Markets Law.
The new law broadens the scope of agricultural practices by adding several definitions, including those for agriculture, agricultural production, agricultural processing, farm operations, farmhouses, processed agricultural product and on-farm operation direct marketing. These changes expand agricultural practices beyond the growing of crops and raising of livestock and will allow farmers to process their crops and other agricultural products onsite and market them for sale, much like vineyards that make wine on their properties. Such processed agricultural products include jams, jellies, cheeses, potato chips, jerkies, meats, fowl, fish, breads and baked goods, beer, wine and distilled alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Farmers will also be allowed to sell their processed agricultural products directly to consumers from within buildings constructed on the farm for the purpose of marketing their products. The law even allows non-farmers to sell home grown fruits, vegetables or plants to the general public from a “roadside stand,” which is defined as a display area that is less than 100 square feet in size located on the same parcel where the products are grown.
According to Chris Baiz, the chairman of the Southold Agricultural Advisory Committee and a fourth-generation farmer, the high cost of land requires farmers to achieve greater cash flows in order to operate successfully. These new changes should help local farmers realize more income from their lands by allowing them to process and market value-added products from within their operations.