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Governor’s Commission Develops Definition of Agri-Tourism


GICA to ask local governments to consider adopting definition of “agritourism” for zoning, permitting uses

ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission on Agriculture (GICA) has developed a suggested definition of “agri-tourism” to help guide counties and local zoning and permitting agencies when dealing with agricultural operations. 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.

GICA also developed six recommendations for local governments to consider, as well as a checklist that farmers can use to review their operations and see if they meet the definitions and requirements of an agri-toruism operation.

“GICA developed these recommendations and checklist to help farmers navigate the regulatory process and to help local counties adopt a legal definition of agri-tourism for zoning and permitting purposes,” said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance, who chairs the commission. “We will be sending local officials a letter with this definition and related checklists and asked them to consider it.”

The definition also clarifies that agri-tourism is a secondary function of the farm. The definition and recommendations are listed below.

GICA works to promotes the economic profitability of agriculture by encouraging all state agencies to work together with local government and industry groups to plan, implement, oversee and evaluate  intergovernmental initiatives related to agricultural affairs.

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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