Deschutes County

Land Use FAQ’s

DCLogo1Deschutes County /dəˈʃuːts/ was created in 1916 and was named for the Deschutes River, which itself was named by French-Canadian trappers of the early 19th century.

The HDFFA provides educational information for agricultural producers to make choices that benefit their viability. Below are frequently asked questions about farmland in Deschutes County.   Note that these are only recommendations. Updated 2/3/12

Frequently Asked Questions: Click on the following FAQ’s to read the answers.

Can I divide my farm land?

There are ways to partition (divide a parcel into three or fewer parcels) farm land (zoned EFU) in Deschutes County – however, subdivisions (divide a parcel into more than three parcels) are not allowed. There are two basic types of land partitions possible for farm ground (zoned EFU) in Deschutes County.

Irrigated land division
Nonirrigated land division

Irrigated Land Division

An irrigated land division shall be subject to the minimum parcel size and irrigation requirements of the applicable farm subzones. In other words, if your parcel is in the Lower Bridge subzone, you would need to have a minimum of 130 acres of irrigated land for each new farm parcel.

However, if the original or parent parcel was created before July 1, 2001, one or two new nonfarm parcels may be divided off the parent parcel – as long as the parent parcel retains the minimum acreage of irrigation required in the subzone. There is no minimum lot size for the new nonfarm parcel, but you will need to show that the new parcel is located on a part of the parcel that’s not suitable for farming because of slope or poor soils.

If the parent parcel is equal to or greater than the minimum lot size required for the subzone and is greater than or equal to 80 acres in size, then you may be able to create two new nonfarm parcels.

You will need to follow the standard steps for a new house on either a farm or nonfarm parcel (see FAQ – Home on Farmland). This type of partition can only be applied to a parcel once.

Non-irrigation Land Division

The minimum lot or parcel size for a nonirrigated land division is 80 acres. However, land divisions creating up to two new five-acre(minimum) nonfarm parcels may be allowed if the parent parcel is greater than 80 acres in size, was lawfully created prior to July 1, 2001; and the remainder parcel is at least 80 acres in size. The new parcel needs to be located on portions of the property that can be shown to be generally unsuitable for farming.

You will need to follow the standard steps for a new house on either a farm or nonfarm parcel (see FAQ – Home on Farmland). This type of partition can only be applied to a parcel once.

Can I have a house on my farm land?

There are two ways to get a Farm Dwelling (as opposed to a Nonfarm Dwelling): If your land meets one of the County’s tests for being a farm, you may build a farm dwelling. The test are:

Your parcel has the minimum number of acres for its subzone (go to to see what subzone you are in); or
Your parcel is currently in farm use with a farm management plan (see Deschutes County Code 18.16.067; p. 20 @ for a description of a Farm Management Plan); or
The farm produced $32,500 in gross annual income in the last two years, or three of the last five years.

In addition to meeting one of the tests, the house must be occupied by those who are farming the land; and there can’t be any other dwellings on the parcel (unless you get approval for an accessory dwelling or a relative farm assistance dwelling, as describe below)

I need help on my farm, can I house farm workers?

You can have an accessory dwelling for farm help if your property is classified as a farm (see above), and if the accessory dwelling will be:

Occupied by persons who are mainly engaged in the farming use of the parcel, and whose seasonal or year-round help is required by the main farmer; and
Located on the same parcel as the main farm dwelling[1]; and
Located on a farm is or ranch operation that produced $32,500 in gross annual sales[2] in the last two years or three of the last five years.

[1] If the farm help dwelling is located on parcel other than the one on which the main farm dwelling, it must be a manufactured home.

[2] This is for nonhigh-value farmland only. The gross income test is $80,000 for high value farmland.

My brother-in-law helps with the farm and needs a place to live. Can I have a second hourse where a relative who helps out on the farm can live?

You can have a relative farm assistance dwelling on your farm if:

Your parcel is at least 40 acres in size (or, if less than 40 acres, can be shown to be in commercial agriculture); and
The parcel is used as a farm[3]; and
The dwelling is a manufactured home (or is a house that is more than 30 years old); and
The dwelling is located on the same parcel as the main farmer’s dwelling, and is occupied by a relative of the farmer or farmer’s spouse who assists the farmer.

[3] In this case, the farm DOES NOT need to pass the income or size tests.

What if my parcel doesn't qualify as a farm but I still want to live on it and farm?

There are a couple of ways to get a nonfarm dwelling on EFU land that doesn’t qualify as a farm because it’s too small, has limited water, or poor soils. All three of these require you to obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) from Deschutes County. These include:

Nonfarm dwelling;
Lot of record dwelling[4]; and a
Dwelling in conjunction with a wildlife habitat conservation and management plan.

The County has a process for obtaining a CUP that can feel intimidating – but remember, you really need to demonstrate two main things: (1) your dwelling won’t make it harder or more expensive for your neighbors to farm (recognizing that houses and dust, flies, and fertilizer don’t always mix); and (2) where you plan to put your house is the least productive part of the parcel because of poor soil or lack of irrigation. A dwelling in conjunction with wildlife conservation requires additional coordination with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildllife.

[4] A “lot of record dwelling” is one that would be located on a lot or parcel which was lawfully created and was acquired and owned continuously by the present owner prior to January 1, 1985; or which has been acquired through devise or by intestate succession (i.e., legally inherited) from a person who acquired and owned continuously the lot or parcel prior to January 1, 1985, and the tract on which the dwelling will be sited does not already include a dwelling..

I need to take care of my mother. Can I let her stay on my land?

Yes, the County allows a temporary hardship dwelling, which can include one manufactured dwelling or recreational vehicle, in conjunction with an existing dwelling as a temporary use for the term of a hardship suffered by the existing resident or a relative of the resident. This is also a Conditional Use Permit.

Is my property a winery?

If you produce less than 50,000 gallons of wine per year, your property may be considered a winery if;

You own or have the rights to at least 15 acres of vineyard.
The vineyard must be located on the same property where the winery will be located, or on adjacent land.
If you do not own the vineyard on the adjacent land, you must have a long-term contract guaranteeing you the purchase of all the grapes from at least 15 acres.
The 15-acre minimum may be achieved by any combination of the acceptable properties.

If you produce at least 50,000 gallons of wine per year, your property may be considered a winery if;

You have at least 40 acres of onsite vineyard and/or
You have at least 40 acres of vineyard on an adjacent property and/or
You have a long-term contract guaranteeing you the purchase of all grapes from an adjacent property (at least 40 acres).

You may be considered a winery if you obtain grapes from any combination of the three previously mentioned qualifications.

What activities are allowed on my winery?

Activities like:

Wine tours
Tastings (in tasting room or other part of property)
Wine clubs

What about a restaurant or private events?

A winery may market and sell items related to the production of wine, including food and beverages in a limited service restaurant (ORS 624.010).
Private events featuring wines produced by the winery that are related to the sale or promotion of the wine, incidental to the retail sale of wine onsite. These events are limited to 25 days or fewer per year.
The income from both incidental sales (i.e. souvenir corkscrews, glasses, and food at the restaurant) combined with income from private events cannot exceed 25% of gross yearly income.
The winery must annually (before April 15th) submit a document from a CPA to the Deschutes County Community Development Department, verifying that the income from the previous year did not exceed 25%.
The winery must provide parking for all events.

What kind of health and safety standards must my winery follow?

Events must begin after 7am and end before 10pm (including set-up and take-down)
Outdoor sound amplification must begin after 8am and end before 8pm
Amplification equipment must be located at least 350 ft away from a dwelling on an adjoining property, and should be directed away from that property.
Must at least provide portable restroom facilities and stand alone hand washing stations.

Can I have a processing facility on my farmland?

You may have a facility to process farm crops (not animals) if:

It is located on a farm (as designated by Deschutes County) and
The farm provides at least ¼ of the crops processed at the facility and
The facility does not exceed 10,000 square feet of floor area (may be located within a larger building, but other areas must be designated for other farm activities) and
It complies with all applicable siting standards, standards may not be applied to prohibit the siting of the facility.
The County will not approve a farm parcel/lot division that separates the processing facility from the farm on which it is located.

Things to keep in mind when considering a processing facility:

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is in charge of monitoring, licensing, and inspecting the facility. They are an excellent first resource to explain compliance with health and safety standards.
Adequate water and sewer must be available as well as proper sanitation for workers. The Department of Environmental Quality or the County will determine your compliance.
Area – floors, walls, equipment must be easily cleaned and made out of specific materials
Access to pets, children, casual visitors, rodents must be controlled

What can I sell at my farm stand?

Crops and livestock grown on the farm, fresh or processed, but not prepared items.
Examples of items allowed= jams, syrups, apple cider in sealed container
Examples of prepared items not allowed= baked goods, drinks by the glass
Crops and livestock grown on any other farm in Oregon, or in neighboring states that border the county the farm stand is in. Goods may be fresh or processed, but not ready prepared.
Retail incidental items and fee-based activities used to promote sales.
Examples of retail incidental items= anything not produced on the farm or neighboring farm, such as candles, towels, cooking utensils, etc.
Examples of fee-based promotional activities= hay rides

What are the limitations of my farm stand?

  • Annual sales of incidental items and fee-based activities must be ≤ 25% of total annual sales for the farm stand.
  • The farm stand cannot be used as a place of residency, for banquets, or for special events such as public gatherings or public entertainment.

―Structurally, the farm stand should be designed for the sale of crops and livestock only.
Road side stand blueprint

Can I have a sign for my farm stand?

Deschutes County allows signs for farm products that are grown on the farm where the sign is located. The signs need to be on the farm or residential premises and can’t be more than 16 square feet in size. They also need to be removed within 5 days of the end of the sale activities.”