In an August 21 press release, the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced that an agricultural tourism pilot signage program has successfully concluded in Charles County and was now open statewide, but county governments must first agree to participate. From the press release:
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Maryland’s new ag-tourism signage program pilot has been completed successfully in Charles County with the installation of directional signs for two farms: Serenity Farm in Benedict and Zekiah Farms in Waldorf. The program is now open to farms throughout the state where county governments have agreed to participate in the program.
Charles County government and the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission initiated a series of discussions with the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) and the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to create a program that permits SHA to install signs directing the public to ag-tourism farms.
“As farmers diversify their operations and connect more directly with consumers, ag-tourism has become a growing segment of Maryland agriculture and an important source of income for our farmers,” said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance. “I thank Transportation Secretary Jim Smith and his staff for their cooperation in developing the program. We look forward to expanding the program statewide so more residents can enjoy fresh products and lively activities right on the farm.”
Farms participating in the program must be open to customers and tourists at least six months of the year (at least four days a week and at least six hours a day) and have on-site sale of local agricultural products. Farms must also have an established educational tour that can be provided by a knowledgeable guide upon request or host public events, such as festivals, fairs or workshops.
The State Ag-tourism Signage Program will be available to farms in other counties. However counties are required to first set up their own program to place directional ag-tourism signs on county roads to ensure that motorists can find the farms after leaving state roads. Interested farmers must apply to the program through their county to receive signs on county roads. Once approved, the farmer then applies to the state for signs on state maintained roads. After county approval, SHA and MDA will approve farms meeting the criteria and determine the number of signs applicable. The application and guidelines for the state Ag-Tourism Signage Program can be found here: Guidelines and Application. For information concerning the program contact Stone Slade with MDA at (410) 841-5779 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture identified 307 ag-tourism farms in Maryland with annual receipts of $7.2 million.