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Business Resources

All Businesses

Most businesses usually need all of the following:

Additional requirements are covered below and depend on business and/or sales location, business name and if employees or contractors are hired.

Business Licenses

The State of California does not require or issue business licenses for sole proprietorship's or general partnerships. Other business structures, however, must register with the state. 

All businesses located in an incorporated city in Sonoma County must first obtain a business license from that city. The county does not require a business license to do business within its unincorporated areas. Check for sure at CalGOLD.

  • City Business Licensing Requirements by EDB
  • Business License if your business is within city limits, check with your municipality to obtain your business license.*
  • Home Occupation Permit usually required for home-based businesses, check with your municipality.

*Bottom line: Business license is needed if you are doing retail sales in a municipality (e.g. farmers market, storefront). It is not needed if you are selling wholesale (e.g. to restaurants, markets). 

Sales/Use Tax

California Dept of Tax & Fee Administration (CDTFA) regulates sales/use taxes all business in CA are to register with them. Visit their site for the Tax Guide for the Agricultural Industry.

In some cases, purchases made by agricultural businesses are exempt from sales tax including:

  • Animals, Feed, and Related Supplies
  • Farm and Garden Supplies
  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
  • Farm Equipment and Machinery
  • Diesel Fuel Used in Farming or Food Processing   

 CDTFA resources

Hiring Employees

As your business grows, you may find that you need to hire your first employee. There are several steps you need to take before you bring on someone. For more information, check out this information provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or connect with a mentor from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). If you hire employees, you will need to obtain/be aware of the following:

Fictitious Business Name

Register with the Sonoma County Clerk. Generally, this registration would apply if:

  • an individual is doing business under a name other than their own
  • the name suggests the existence of additional owners
  • the name does not include the surname of each general partner.

If you plan to operate a business under a name other than your own, a fictitious business name statement is required in Sonoma County. Forms and information are online or call (707) 565-3700.

Insurance for Ag Operations

Although it can be expensive, it's important to have a farm policy. Talk to insurance agent(s) to find the best policy for your operation. 

Make sure you and your business are covered for activities you want to do (e.g. atritourism, ag processing). Farm Liability Insurance policies generally only cover farming activities (ag processing may not be considered a farming activity). You may need a Commercial General Liability coverage. Talk to your agent.

An excellent resources is Farm Commons Insurance information. From understanding an insurance policy, to evaluating insurance coverage for crop and livestock loss, planning for worker injuries and more, find tip sheets, guides, and multimedia materials for building a resilient farm or ranch business with effective insurance coverage.

Farm Bill Insurance Programs

The following are offered by USDA Risk Management Agency to help cover farm income when losses occur. Visit the site for all programs, here are some that might be right for your operation:

Getting Started in Business

The following resource can be of help to new businesses.