Agritourism Study Presented to Montgomery County Planning Board

December 19, 2019

Agritourism Study
Study seeks to develop comprehensive approach to promote agricultural tourism while preserving the agricultural functions and rural character of the county’s Agricultural Reserve

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, briefed the Montgomery County Planning Board on its Agritourism Study at the board’s December 19 meeting. Montgomery Planning recently conducted the study to identify and assess opportunities and constraints for the evolution of Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve, including agricultural activities beyond traditional farming. The Agricultural Reserve was created in 1980 through the Preservation of Agriculture and Rural Open Space Functional Master Plan to protect over 93,000 acres of farmland, fields and forests.

View the December 19 Planning Board Meeting Staff Report for the Agritourism Study.

View the Agritourism Study.

The study considered ways to increase awareness of the Agricultural Reserve, as well as promote, support and facilitate agricultural education and tourism in Montgomery County. To develop the study, staff built on relevant plans and studies, historic and current farming data and involvement from an Agritourism Study Advisory Committee. Staff also worked with consultants to study agritourism policies and regulations in Montgomery County, comparable local jurisdictions, and across the country to identify strategies for managing, regulating, and promoting agritourism.

In addition to relying on these resources and dialogue to develop the framework of the study, staff and the committee worked together to develop themes, goals and potential solutions.

Overarching goals for the Agritourism Study include:

  • Protect and preserve farming, farmland and rural open space in the Agricultural Reserve.
  • Support existing and future agritourism activities through improved processes for agritourism businesses and promotional tools.
  • Support agritourism activities with a direct relationship to agriculture, to facilitate preservation of farming, farmland and rural open space.
  • Increase awareness of the Agricultural Reserve’s assets through education of agricultural practices and better wayfinding.
  • Provide inclusive and equitable access to the Agricultural Reserve.

The study includes more than 30 potential solutions and provides suggestions for implementation. Solutions range from establishing programs and procedures to address current challenges associated with agritourism to opportunities to promote and support agritourism businesses.

About the Agritourism Study

While the 1980 Preservation of Agriculture and Rural Open Space Functional Master Plan focused on the preservation of farming, farmland and rural open space in Montgomery County, it did not anticipate the growing importance of agricultural-related economic development to the ongoing preservation effort in the Agricultural Reserve.

The Agritourism Study built on the earlier work of the Montgomery County Heritage Area Management Plan as well as studies of agritourism practices in Montgomery County and comparable jurisdictions. It seeks to identify opportunities and challenges, as well as develop a menu of potential solutions, to provide a comprehensive and coordinated approach for agricultural education and tourism. The study sought to preserve the character of the Agricultural Reserve while enhancing the economic viability of farming.

The Planning Department formed the Agritourism Study Advisory Committee (ASAC) in October 2017 and formally invited members of the agricultural community, industry experts, government representatives and community members to review the progress of the study and provide guidance at key intervals during the development of the study. The representation on the ASAC provides a balanced discourse on the current issues, impacts and status of agritourism in Montgomery County.