The pilot program is over. Maryland's new ag-tourism signage program pilot in Charles County was successful. It's now open to farms throughout the state where county governments agree to participate in the program.
That's the word from State Ag Secretry Buddy Hance. "As farmers diversify their operations and connect more directly with consumers, ag-tourism has become a growing segment of Maryland agriculture. It's an important source of income for our farmers," he notes. The 2012 Census of Agriculture identified 307 ag-tourism farms in Maryland with annual receipts of $7.2 million.
"I thank Transportation Secretary Jim Smith and his staff for their cooperation in developing the program. We look forward to expanding the program statewide so more residents can enjoy fresh products and lively activities right on the farm."
The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission initiated a series of discussions with Maryland State Highway Administration and Maryland Department of Agriculture to create a program that permits installing signs directing the public to agri-tourism farms.
Farms participating in the program must be open to customers and tourists at least six months of the year (at least four days a week and at least six hours a day) and have on-site sale of local agricultural products. Farms must also have an established educational tour that can be provided by a knowledgeable guide upon request or host public events, such as festivals, fairs or workshops.
The State Ag tourism Signing Program will be available to farms in other counties. However counties are required to first set up their own program to place directional ag-tourism signs on county roads to ensure that motorists can find the farms after leaving state roads.
Interested farmers must apply to the program through their county to receive signs on county roads. Once approved, the farmer then applies to the state for signs on state maintained roads.
After county approval, SHA and MDA will approve farms meeting the criteria and determine the number of signs applicable. Click on Guidelines and Application for details. Or contact MDA's Stone Slade at 410- -841-5779 or email [email protected].