SNOW HILL – Local officials testified in support of a bill that would allow for more agritourism in Worcester County this week.
On Tuesday, Worcester County Commissioner Diana Purnell and Melanie Pursel, director of the Worcester County Office of Tourism and Economic Development, testified in support of Senate Bill 32 as it was heard by the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. The bill was introduced by Sen. Mary Beth Carozza to pave the way for more agritourism in Worcester County.
“This legislation is a win-win for both the farm families who may need to diversify and pull in additional revenue just to keep the farm and a win for tourists who will have more options to explore and experience our local farms,” Carozza said.
Carozza told the committee the bill would simply add Worcester County to the list of 18 jurisdictions in which farm structures used for agritourism activities are exempted from certain requirements typically applied to commercial buildings. The bill would be effective June 1, so it would be in effect for the summer season.
“Specifically, this legislation would exempt an agriculture building in Worcester County used for agritourism from obtaining a change of occupancy permit if the building’s use of agritourism does not require it to be occupied by more than 200 people at any one time,” Carozza said.
Purnell addressed the need to support family farms as they were a key part of Worcester County.
“Family farms, they are the heart of the rural life in Worcester County,” she said. “And thanks to the growth of the agritourism market, family farms are also a key component in Worcester County’s tourism branding.”
She said Senate Bill 32 would give farmers the flexibility to use their existing structures for agritourism uses that complemented their farms.
“From tasting rooms for wineries to barn weddings set against the backdrop of horse farms, these new activities will ensure that farms can remain economically viable, entice those inheriting the land to continue farming and educate those from less rural areas about the value of farming,” she said.
Pursel said the bill would support the efforts local officials have already made.
“Here locally the Worcester County Commissioners have supported even local code amendments and changes to make it a little bit easier for these businesses to diversify and to expand their operations…,” she said. “We look forward to inviting you to visit some of these great places once they’re able to really add a lot more experience and enjoy the open farms here in Worcester County.”