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Definition vital in ‘agri-tourism’ (Editorial)
(Feb. 1, 2015) What constitutes “agri-tourism?” How is it defined? Is it hosting a birthday party in the old farmhouse? Is it leasing the barn for a catered meeting of the local lodge? Is it offering the Back 40 as an outdoor movie theater?
What is agri-tourism and what is it not?
A little known government advisory agency in Maryland, known as the “Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission on Agriculture,” has accepted the challenge of finding out.
It 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 dealing with farm operations in the zoning and permitting process.
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-tourism operation.
The definition also clarifies that agri-tourism is a secondary function of the farm.
Here is what GICA came up with in broad terms.
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 suggested, among other things that agri-tourism operators put signage at the front of their properties and/or have guests sign waiver forms.
Most agri-tourism activities fit comfortably within those guidelines.
But every so often, a questionable activity — a noisy dinner party in the barn, for example — will catch the attention of a neighbor who will complain to county officials who now have something in hand to help them deal with the problem.
Agri-tourism is a venture that is becoming more and more attractive, both to farm operators and to their guests.
The GICA document, defining the enterprise, will prove extremely valuable down the line.