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Agricultural Farm Stay Fact Sheet

CA Farmstay Defined

  • Part of an agricultural enterprise that produces agricultural products as its primary source of income.
  • Farmstay accommodations must be in the primary residence or guest house1 on the property.
  • The owner, or tenant farmer, must reside on the property.
  • Maximum of 5 rooms.  Maximum occupancy of 2 per room except for children under 3 years.
  • Food may only be served to registered guests.  Price of the meals is included in the cost of lodging.
  • There are reasonable noise limitations.
  • Special Events are not allowed without a Special Event permit and then only up to 4 times a year.
  • The farmstay must register and pay Transient Occupancy Tax.
  • The septic system must be adequate to accommodate the additional occupancy.

As defined by CA Agricultural Homestay Bill, AB 1258, July 1999 and can be found in CA Health & Safety Code 113893(a)(2). Note, CA Food & Ag code search for 'producer' to define 'farmer.'

See Permit Sonoma Requirements for county specifics.

Updates in Sonoma County

7/2018 PLP16-001 Planning Commission hearing and recommendation

1/2019 BOS meeting agenda item on PC recommendation- page 504

Permit Sonoma Requirements

Where allowed, a Zoning Permit is required for Farmstay or one bedroom Bed & Breakfast operations.  This is considered an “over the counter” permit from PRMD.  If you bring the required documents, you should be able to walk out with a Zoning Permit for the Farmstay (B&B’s require PRMD to send notice to the neighbors, so the process takes longer).  
Items required by Permit Sonoma:

Marketing Accommodations

Marketing Accommodations are not Farm Stays. Marketing accommodations are not allowed on properties where Farm Stays are present.

Marketing accommodations are for use by distributors, investors, partners and owners of the processing facility for short term occupancy related to the agricultural operation. They are not to be rented out or used for direct-to-consumer promotions.

The use may only be to promote or market agricultural products processed on site (e.g. wine, cheese). No more than two marketing accommodation units are allowed per operation. Each unit shall not exceed 640 square feet and cannot include a kitchen.

Marketing Accommodations ordinance.

Housing Types and Occupancy Requirements

Per Permit Sonoma standards for Farmstay and B&B’s: A whole-house vacation rental is not a Farmstay or a Bed and Breakfast Inn, even if the property owner resides in another dwelling unit on the same property. (That would be considered a vacation rental with all sorts of implications).

The guests may stay in the main house and/or and additional “guest house”, but the main house must also be occupied by the owner. ONLY a guest house (defined below), not an ADU -ADU’s require a kitchen. The Farmstay or B&B are not permitted within Second Dwelling Units, "not in structures or dwellings with County covenants or agreements restricting their use, including but not limited to affordable housing units, agricultural employee units, farmworker housing, farm family units, or on lands under Williamson Act contract."

Guest House: maximum of 640 square feet, one half or full bathroom, no kitchen. See comparison – ADU, Jr ADU and Guest House.

Department of Health Services (DHS) Requirements

Restricted Food Facility permit is required for Farmstay and B&B operations. DHS has 20 days from the date of application to respond to the request.
Items required by DHS:

  • Food Facility application
  • Written proposal – commercial kitchen appliances not required, dishwasher must reach a minimum of 160 degrees.
  • Cost: $500+ depending upon the use of well water and/or a pool available for guests
  • DHS Food Facility Construction
  • B&B/Farmstay Food Facilities Guidelines by CA Conference of Directors of Environmental Health, July 2008

County Tax Collector Requirements

Transient Occupancy Tax – register with the County Tax Collector.

  • 12% of the lodging fees 
  • Must file and pay (if applicable) to County every quarter
  • Maintain records for 5 years
  • For complete information refer to the County Tax Collector TOT Information or call 707-565-2073

California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Requirements

This applies to both Farmstay and Bed & Breakfast establishments that want to serve/provide alcohol to their guests.
- B&B License (type 67) – Beer and wine only
- B&B General License (type 80) – Beer, wine and distilled spirits

hard-cider-in a glass

  • Authorizes the sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits (type 80 only) purchased from a licensed wholesaler or winegrower only to registered guests of the establishment for consumption on the premises.
  • Alcoholic beverages shall not be given away to guests, but the price of the alcoholic beverage shall be included in the price of the overnight transient occupancy accommodation.
  • Removal of alcoholic beverages from the grounds is not permitted.
  • Property owners within 500 feet of your property line must be notified of your ABC license application.
  • Cost:
    - Type 67: $50 plus $7 per room for original application: annual renewal $7 per room
    - Type 80: $200 plus $15 per room for original application; annual renewal $15 per room.

Other Licenses, Insurances & Considerations

  • There are many additional requirements for business operations. To get started, visit Business Resources

  • Insurance: make sure you and your business are covered for this activity. Farm Liability Insurance policies generally only cover farming activities (agritourism and farm stays are not farming activities). You may need a Commercial General Liability coverage for farm stays.  Talk to your agent. See Insurance Discussion Sheet by SafeAgritourism.org and Farm Commons Value-Added/Tourism Resources for suggestions.

Disclaimer:  Costs for permits listed in this document were obtained from the regulatory agencies and are subject to change.


The following table shows the specific parcel zones where Farmstays are allowed in Sonoma County. To find your parcel zoning, use Permit Sonoma's GIS Map.




Bed & Breakfast


Vacation Rental


Land Intensive Agriculture LIA Yes No No
Land Extensive Agriculture LEA Yes Yes Yes
Diverse Agriculture DA Yes Yes Yes
Resources & Rural Development RRD Yes Yes Yes
Agriculture & Residential AR No Yes Yes
Rural Residential RR No Yes Yes


This table shows some of the different characteristics of Farmstay, Bed & Breakfast and Vacation Rentals.

  Farmstay Bed & Breakfast Vacation Rental
Maximum Rooms 5 with zoning permit 1 with zoning permit,
2-5 with use permit

5 with zoning permit,
6+ with use permit

Occupancy per Room 2 people, excluding children under 3 years of age
Buildings Allowed Primary Residence or Guest House* Residence or Guest House*
Agricultural Education element Required Not applicable
Meal served – included in price of lodging Any meal(s) Breakfast only Not applicable
Posting requirements for new operations None Required for all B&B’s Required for all Vacation Rentals
Allowed on Williamson Act contracted property Yes No
Special Events Not allowed without a Special Events permit and then only up to 4 per year.

*Primary Residence: The primary residence of the owner/tenant farmer and any other home on the property that can be designated a primary residence (i.e. property with 20 acre density and owns 45 acres, can have 2 primary residences).
*Guest House: maximum of 640 square feet, one half or full bathroom, no kitchen.
Recommendation: if you do plan to use a second primary residence or a guest house you should research the property at PRMD to make sure the building designations are correct.

About Vacation Rentals

Zoning Permit is required for up to a five-bedroom Vacation Rental where allowed.  Structures allowed include single-family dwelling and legally-established guest house up to a maximum of five guest rooms.

See Permit Sonoma’s Vacation Rental Information for complete information. 

This is an “over the counter” permit from PRMD.  Items required:

  • Zoning Permit application
  • Site Plan – aerial is ok
  • Floor Plan – hand drawn is ok
  • Copy of letter you will send to your neighbors, within 100 foot radius of the subject parcel boundary, with a current 24-hour working phone number for them to use to report problems
  • Proof of Registration with the County Tax Collector for TOT Registration (TOT).  Note: TOT is collected for stays less of than 30 days; contact the County Tax Collector for complete information.
  • Septic evaluation report is NOT required, but recommended
  • Cost for Vacation Rental up to 5 bedrooms: $350 (as of March 2014)