Agritourism Challenged By State & County Regulations According to Advocate

A Delmarva Farmer article (2017-06-06) reported on comments made by Grow & Fortify founder Kevin Atticks before the Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission on Agriculture (GICA) regarding the challenges agritourism and value-added agriculture face as a result of State and local regulations. Conduit Street previously reported on the June 2 GICA meeting and the Delmarva Farmer article provides some additional details on Atticks’ comments. Grow & Fortify is an organization that advocates for agritourism and value-added agriculture.

Atticks called out the need for better education and clarity from local governments. From the Delmarva Farmer article:

If the state wants to boost value-added agriculture, it needs to do a better job helping counties understand where agricultural activity ends and commercial enterprise begins, a regional advocacy organization said last week. …

At the state and local level it’s often unclear what’s allowed or how an [agritourism or value-added agricultural] activity is defined, leaving local regulatory officials guessing. It leads to inconsistent regulatory enforcement across the state and stunts the growth of value-added agriculture, Atticks said.

The article described a hypothetical proposed by Atticks where a lavender farm that wanted to build a barn to host baking classes could be categorized as a commercial activity, triggering food and fire safety regulations and water and septic system requirements. In the article Atticks also stressed that there are times where regulations or prohibitions are needed and that some counties have been working to update their regulations to better address the needs of agritourism and value-added agriculture:

Crackdowns on farm wedding venues have become somewhat popular, Atticks said.

Occasionally, it’s warranted, he said.

“We are not proponents of someone buying a farm and turning it into a wedding venue or a conference center,” he said.

In some situations, counties are taking it upon themselves to ease and clarify their regulatory process for value-added agriculture.

Charles County, for instance, has started looking seriously at the issue, and so has Frederick County, he said.
“Frederick was tough to deal with,” Atticks said.

For four years, the county had no new value-added agricultural businesses. Now, it’s anticipating more than 20, he said.

Atticks will be part of MACo’s June 12th agritourism symposium “Make Agritourism a Bumper Crop in Your County.” The symposium will identify the challenges posed by agritourism both from a regulator and practitioner perspective and will hold facilitated discussions to propose potential solutions to those challenges. For further information on the symposium click here.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage on Atticks Presentation to GICA

Grow & Fortify Website