Agriculture remains a key economic driver for the state of Maryland, but like all successful businesses, agriculture is evolving with the times. Agritourism now plays an increasingly important role in the long-term profitability of agriculture, especially for small- to mid-sized farms.
However, while most counties have attempted to embrace agritourism, its diverse and sometimes vague nature poses a variety of regulatory challenges – from zoning and building code requirements to health and sanitation issues. Even properly promoting agritourism activities can be a challenge.
At this year’s MACo Summer Conference, a panel of state and local experts discussed how state and local governments are balancing the expansion of agritourism against valid land use, infrastructure, and public health concerns.
State Delegate Charles Otto led the well-attended discussion.
Panel speakers included:
- Joseph Bartenfelder, Secretary of Agriculture, Maryland Department of the Environment
- Lucille Walker, Chair, Coalition of Maryland Heritage Areas and Executive Director, Southern Maryland Heritage Area
- Kevin Atticks, Founder and CEO, Grow & Fortify
The panel explained that while counties recognize the value of agritourism in preserving and enhancing traditional farm operations, significant challenges remain over acceptable land uses, infrastructure and building code requirements, and health and safety protections.
Attendees learned how state and local governments are working together to identify the regulatory challenges posed by agritourism and developing best practices in order to develop solutions to those issues through a collaborative exchange with key stakeholders.
The 2019 MACo Summer Conference – “Winds of Change” on August 14-17 focused on the changes being seen at every level of government and constituent services and how counties are harnessing that momentum for the good of all Marylanders.