Legislation signed allowing special-occasion events on preserved farmland

Legislation was recently signed authorizing commercial farms that are located on preserved farmland to hold special-occasion events, according to a Friday announcement from Gov. Phil Murphy’s office.

The Legislature concurred with Murphy’s conditional veto of an earlier version of the legislation.

“As the Garden State, agriculture is quintessential to New Jersey’s identity, and agritourism is the next frontier to maintaining this heritage,” Murphy said. “This law will open new revenue streams for those who work tirelessly to maintain the preserved farmland that is core to our state’s cultural fabric. I am especially proud to sign this bill in honor of the late Assemblyman Ron Dancer, whose legacy of advocacy for our state’s agricultural and tourism industries is found writ-large in this new law.”

Special occasion events allow preserved farmland owners the opportunity to introduce new streams of income to family farming operations and increase the enjoyments offered to the public by agritourism.

Under the bill (S757), a preserved farm that produces agricultural or horticultural products worth more than $10,000 annually may hold up to a maximum of 26 special-occasion events per calendar year, of which six may have 250 guests or more in attendance.

Primary sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) and Steve Oroho (R-Sparta), and Assemblymen Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) and Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City). The late Assemblyman Ron Dancer also served as a primary sponsor of the bill.

“New Jersey’s farms are one of the state’s most productive and attractive assets,” Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said. “In addition to growing fruits and vegetables, our farms offer a beautiful venue to host weddings and other events that help farmers supplement their income and preserve their farmland. This will help make life more affordable for farmers and provide economic benefits to their communities.”

“This law gives farmers in New Jersey the opportunity to supplement their income by hosting special events on their land. Agritourism is a growing industry and, by allowing our farmers to participate, we make it possible for them to expand their businesses, grow the economy and showcase that which makes New Jersey’s agricultural community special. Further, it provides access to farms and farmland, allowing all to enjoy the beauty of nature, and gives insight into the challenges and rewards farmers encounter in growing the food we consume,” Freiman and Mukherji said jointly.

Under the bill, a special-occasion event is required to not interfere with the use of the preserved farmland for agricultural or horticultural production, have minimal effects on the occupied area, and must be designed to protect the agricultural resources of the land to ensure that the land can be readily returned to productive agricultural or horticultural use after the event. All applicable state and local laws and ordinances, including those concerning food safety, litter, noise, solid waste, traffic and the protection of public health and safety apply to the special occasion event.