Agriculture Commission Releases Model Definition of “Agri-Tourism” For Local Governments

A January 13 press release by the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced that the Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission on Agriculture (GICA) has developed a model definition for “agri-tourism” that local governments and zoning and permitting agencies can use as a template.  GICA also developed six recommendations concerning agri-tourism as well as a checklist that farmers and local officials can use when considering agri-tourism activities. From the press release:

A GICA workgroup developed the definition after both farmers and local government officials expressed confusion over what type of farming activity and operation constitutes an agri-tourism business.

The definition is a suggestion only; however, the commission will be asking county officials to review the language and consider adopting it as part of their local ordinances or to incorporate it into a guidance document when dealings with farm operations in the zoning and permitting process.  A representative from the Maryland Association of Counties was a member of the workgroup developing the definition.  …

MODEL DEFINITION:  “Agricultural Enterprise” includes an accessory farm-based business which is secondary to the primary agricultural use of the properties where activities such as on-farm processing of agricultural products and agritourism occur.  Agritourism is a series of activities conducted on a farm and offered to the public or to invited groups for the purpose of education, recreation, or active involvement in the farm operation.  These activities may include, but are not limited to, farm tours, hayrides, corn mazes, seasonal petting farms, farm museums, guest farm, pumpkin patches, “pick your own” or “cut your own” produce, classes related to agricultural products or skills, and picnic and party facilities offered in conjunction with the above.

GICA also made the following recommendations:

  • Recommend to county officials that a county “ombudsman” be designated in each county where there is no Agricultural Marketing Professional (AMP).
  • Agritourism operators should create an industry association, comprised of agritourism operations as well as other niche-market groups.
  • At the county level, where there is a tourism board, appoint an agritourism operator as a board member.
  • Encourage linkages between the AMP and county tourism person.
  • Leave the existing contributory negligence statute alone but consider recommending that operations put signage at the front of their properties and/or have guests sign waiver forms.
  • Provide a model “checklist” for people who want to go into agritourism, as well as for county planning and health officials. See a recommended checklist.
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