Supervisors Brew Study to Boost Agriculture

County supervisors considered a little beer and cheese Wednesday, directing the County’s planning department to look for ways to ease restrictions and make it easier for people to start microbreweries, cheese-making operations and promote agri-tourism.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who brought the recommendation to the Board, said the San Diego County region was emerging as a craft-brewing capital, with more than 60 local micro-breweries, and the County should move to promote agriculture and the local economy.

Jacob said the County has already had success in boosting agriculture in a similar area — by streamlining permitting processes to promote “boutique wineries” a few years ago — and is working to ease regulations for horse-related businesses.

“As a result of those efforts we have really boosted our winery industry,” Jacob said. “In what I would call a blazing success, we have today, in just a couple of years since the ordinance came into effect, nearly 20 boutique wineries operating in our region.”

Eric Larson, director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, who came to support the County’s action, said there was already a strong connection between micro-brewing and the local farming community.

“People may say, ‘where’s the connection to agriculture?’” Larson said. “But I do want to report to you we have a number of hops growers in San Diego County — driven by the local brewery industry looking for local hops. We’ve also had a number of inquiries into our office from folks interested in growing grains in San Diego County to sell to local breweries.”

Hop is a vine related to the mulberry family. It produces a cone-like female flower called hops that are a key ingredient in flavoring beer.

Larson said farmers are also interested in supplementing their income through agri-tourism — where farmers charge people to visit their farms to see how they operate, or even work on them.

“And there’s a lot of demand for that,” Larson said. “You may be aware we did farm tour days, an annual event that the bureau did two week ago. We had nearly 800 people signed up. We opened up 13 farms for an open house and the demand was overwhelming.”

County planning department officials said they could return to the Board with a work plan to begin the process this winter.



Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact