Artisan Agriculture

By definition, artisan agricultural uses are small scale farms that can range from a few chickens in the backyard to a local farm producing meat, cheese, and honey, or breads for sale at your community’s farmers market. The artisan farm has grown in popularity as people become more aware of their positive impacts on the environment and community. The popularity in other markets, such as organic farming, farm-to-table, and artisan products (e.g., breads, honey, beer, and wine) has also inspired younger populations to take on small scale farming.

"The Comprehensive Plan supports artisan farms or small scale farming throughout the County."

Stearns County’s Zoning Districts will primarily dictate the appropriate locations for these types of uses to minimize potential conflicts between adjacent land uses.


  1. Permitting of small-scale farms, hobby farms, and home business will be guided by Stearns County’s Zoning Districts and Ordinance.
  2. Farming operations and home businesses may be subject to zoning restrictions, building codes, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, taxation, and business permits.
  3. Producers who provide food products, food stands, or restaurants must consider local and state food safety and public health laws that may apply, in addition to laws governing liquor licenses.
  4. Businesses located in the agricultural areas of the County should follow the Comprehensive Plan’s Future Land Use Factors to minimize conflicts with adjacent land uses and natural resources.

Moving forward, the County will need to consider how the Zoning Ordinance can provide flexibility to accommodate new markets. Areas for consideration include:

  • Artisan Zoning: Artisan zoning is an approach to land use and development that provides space for small-scale operations that produce little to no vibration, noise, fumes, or other nuisances. These type of uses can fit within a wide variety of agricultural, industrial, commercial, and even residential districts.
  • Event Space: Stearns County has experienced a growing interest in the conversion of barns and other buildings to event space that can be used for weddings, parties, and meetings. The conversion of a barn to a different use is subject to Minnesota State Building Code and the Stearns County Zoning Ordinance. Introducing food and beverages as part of these uses are also subject to Stearns County’s Food, Beverage, and Lodging Ordinances. These ordinances are in place for public safety, health, and welfare purposes.
  • Hunting & Fishing: Stearns County’s vast open spaces, woodlands, and waters attract hunters and fisherman from across the state. Artisan shops, tourism based businesses, and hunting/fishing supply shops rely on these visitors and the various hunting/fishing seasons as a source of income.
  • Farmers Markets: Zoning language should be crafted that allows farmers markets to occur in particular areas of the County that do not disrupt adjacent areas.
  • Tasting Rooms: Tasting rooms are typically associated with wineries, breweries, cideries, cheese shops, and distilleries. The Zoning Ordinance can help facilitate the orderly development of these uses, within agricultural zoning districts and certain commercial, industrial and residential zoning districts, to encourage the economic development of the local agricultural industry, provide for the sampling and sales of value-added products, and protect the agricultural character and long-term agricultural production of agricultural lands.

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