What defines ‘agritourism?’ (Editorial)

(April 25, 2017) What is agritourism?
Specifically, what constitutes this increasingly popular activity on farms?
There is no consensus, although there is increasing agreement that, in many cases today, it isn’t what it should be.
Agritourism benefits from the fact that since it is an activity on the farm, it benefits from the standard agricultural assessment for tax purposes.
Therefore, county and local zoning codes are called upon to define what local or county officials consider as agritourism activities.
Often that fails to include what’s going on out there on the farms.
For example, county officials, some time ago, hauled a woman farm owner in Virginia, into court because she was holding wedding ceremonies and children’s birthday parties in her large and most attractive old farmhouse.
Those activities were, by definition, in violation of the county zoning code, thereby threatening the agricultural tax assessment on the farm.
A judge ultimately ruled otherwise and the county amended its zoning code to accommodate the farm owner’s effort to bolster the farm’s bottom line.
Delaware, which relies heavily on its agricultural industry, is now engaged in a similar task — expanding a section of Title 9 of the state’s tax assessment to redefine what is considered agritourism.
House Bill 129, introduced by Rep. Harvey Kenton, spells out in lengthy detail what a farm or farm family can do to introduce the city or suburban folks to life on the farm.
The bill reads: “Agritourism activity” means any activity that allows members of the general public to view or enjoy rural activities, including: farming; ranching; farm and dairy markets; wineries; micro-breweries; distilleries; historical, cultural or harvest-your-own activities; guided or self-guided tours; mazes; bed and breakfast accommodations; or temporary outdoor recreation activities.
“Agritourism activity” includes, but is not limited to: planting, cultivation, irrigation or harvesting of crops; acceptable practices of animal husbandry; livery and animal boarding; rural weddings; barn parties or farm festivals; trail rides; hayrides; farm-oriented miniature golf; livestock activities, including pony rides, petting zoos, and rodeos; archery; trap or skeet shooting; firearm safety and practice; paintball; hunting; fishing; swimming; boating, canoeing or kayaking; temporary camping; picnicking; hiking; diving; water skiing or tubing; and non-motorized freestyle, mountain or off-road bicycling. An activity is an agritourism activity whether or not the participant paid to participate in the activity.
Agritourism activities, the bill adds, “may be allowed statewide on farms of 10 or more acres subject to the provisions of this title adopted for each county.”
Rep. Kenton’s bill leaves very little out. Delaware lawmakers obviously were already well aware of the value of agritourism.
Kenton simply wants to make sure that all the bases are touched.
Not only does the farm family benefit from all of this, but also so does the vast agri-uninformed community outside the farm gate.
We applaud Rep. Kenton’s effort and expect it will be approved.