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Anne Arundel Jumps on the Agritourism Bandwagon

Expect more reasons to go back to the farm, in areas near you

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh at Y Worry Farm in Davidsonville announces passage of the county’s new agritourism bill.
      Agritourism has been in full swing with apple buying, pumpkin picking, hay-wagon riding, corn-maze wandering and vineyard and microbrewery touring.
     By next fall, Anne Arundel may have caught up with neighboring Calvert, Prince George’s, Charles and St. Mary’s counties in offering day-trippers a full range of ways to get into nature and onto the farm. 
      Last month, County Executive Steve Schuh declared Anne Arundel County “open for agritourism businesses.”
      Included in that broad definition are activities, classes and events, corn mazes, farm museums and tours, field trips, fishing, food services (including farm-to-table meals), harvest festivals, hayrides, pick-your-own operations, pumpkin patches and wildlife study.
      Equestrian centers are also allowed in a narrower zoning range. 
     Underwriting the announcement was County Council legislation defining agritourism as “a business enterprise on a farm related to agriculture or natural resources that is offered to the public and invited groups and is accessory to the primary operation of the farm.” 
      Farms include animal, aquaculture and flower operations and vineyards. Marijuana growers, however, are excluded.
      The Council further approved agritourism as a conditional zoning use in certain residentially zoned areas and exempted agritourism businesses from the county’s 10 percent amusement tax assessed, for example, for movie tickets and amusement parks.
      Maryland is riding an agritourism bandwagon. Governor Larry Hogan’s Commission for Agriculture defined agritourism in 2015, and the University of Maryland Extension named it one of Maryland’s “trending enterprises.”
      Anne Arundel County’s jump onto the bandwagon was not without debate. 
      Ann M. Fligsten, executive director of the Growth Action Network of Anne Arundel County, criticized it as “the weakest AgTourism bill in the state,” noting three key faults: setting no upper limits on buildings, allowing only one ingredient to be grown on the farm to allow “value-added processing” and setting no conditions for “conditional use.”
      In coming months, we’ll see how agritourism develops in Anne Arundel County. Don’t expect more haunted farms or houses; that proposed use the Council denied.