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Farm cafe bill, specific to Lane County, introduced in Oregon Senate

Ryan Ceniga speaks to the Senate Committee on Rules on Thursday
Oregon State Legislature
Ryan Ceniga speaks to the Senate Committee on Rules on Thursday

Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill that would create a way for Farm Cafes to operate in lands zoned for agricultural use.

The bill is the latest attempt to legally allow rural farms to operate restaurants that serve food largely grown on site.

“In Oregon, we allow for alcohol consumption at farms, provided the ingredients are grown on the farm," said Lane County Commissioner Ryan Ceniga during a public hearing for Senate Bill 1087 Thursday. "But those farmers may not provide their customers with food grown on the farm. Farm stands can only offer food that is packaged and prepared off site.”

Ceniga said the practice is routine in other states, where “farm to fork” measures allow farmers to diversify their income and educate consumers.

In its current form, the legislation would only apply to farms located in Lane County. The bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek, called it a “demonstration project.”

Sen. James Manning, D-Eugene, is also a sponsor of the measure.

Opposition to the bill is strong. Farmers from all over the state testified that roadside stands are already a legal way to sell farm food. They’re concerned the bill would “urbanize” Oregon’s farm land, increase traffic and pollution, and open the doors to other uses.

Robert Emmons wrote on behalf of LandWatch Lane County, “Farms are for growing crops not cafes, and Oregon has some of the richest agricultural soils in the world. They shouldn’t be buried under non-conforming restaurants, parking lots and other infrastructure.”

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.