Dane County to Regulate Agri-Tourism Business

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Dane County farms that thrive on fun instead of crops face new regulation after county board members voted in favor of a new ordinance.

Schuster's Playtime Farm cultivates more than a corn crop. Owner Don Schuster says he has a corn maze, hayrides, pumpkins and other family activities throughout August, September and October.
Schuster says his 225-acre farm survives on what he calls farm fun.

Agri-tourism can bring hundreds of people here on any given autumn day.

Schuster says, "if the corn maze just opens, we're lucky to have 10 to 15 people, but on a beautiful fall day in October, on Saturday or Sunday, it's nothing to have 500 to 600 people here."

But it's large scale ag-entertainment operators a new county ordinance targets.

Schuster says, "nobody has anything as strict as what Dane County has." The ordinance requires farms like Schuster's to come up with a plan of operations, including a designated area for restrooms or parking. The ordinance also requires any farm that operates for more than 45 days or plans on having 200 people at any time to get a conditional use permit.

Schuster says he has operated this farm for more than ten years without a problem. "We have to go through a lot of stuff with our insurance company ... Without liability insurance we're done."

He says he can live with getting a conditional use permit for $262 dollars, but he worries about over-regulation.
"Like I say, if they give a guy a badge and a pad of paper, that really makes me nervous."

The county says it started to consider such an ordinance as these businesses became more popular and generated complaints from neighbors.

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