Hobby vineyards and orchards are popular additions to properties across Sonoma County. A hobby vineyard or orchard is defined in Chapter 36 of the Sonoma County Code as less than ½ acre in size and produces wine grapes, fruits, or nuts for non-commercial hobby purposes. These hobby projects do not require Vineyard and Orchard Erosion Control Ordinance (VESCO) permits but they are subject to the standards in Article 20 of Chapter 36 of the Sonoma County Code. These standards include things like setback requirements from streams and ponds as well as construction season parameters. Be sure you check with the Sonoma County Code or call your Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures when considering putting in a hobby vineyard to better understand the rules around them.
This 2022-2023 rainy season has been as exceptional as it has been surprising. At the time of this writing in mid-March, snow is still lying at low elevations in the hills and the atmospheric rivers continue to come saturating soils across the county. April 1 is the official start of construction season under VESCO, so if you are planning on starting your vineyard or orchard project soon there are a few details you should pay attention to. Make sure the soil you plan to work in is dry enough and stable enough for the work you intend to do so no erosion occurs and be sure to watch the weather for potential incoming storms. According to Section 36.20.140 of the Sonoma County Code, work during the month of April is considered “Rainy Season” work which means farmers are responsible for having any necessary erosion control materials staged at the site and ready to deploy if a storm large enough to produce runoff comes into the forecast. The property owner is ultimately responsible for preventing soil from leaving the property. Keeping these things in mind will help us all have a successful start to the construction season this year and we can celebrate our full creeks and reservoirs.