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Agritourism being considered for county farms
Georgia Grown

Special to the Herald

 

SPRINGFIELD – Development Services has planted the seed for an agritourism ordinance for the Effingham County Board of Commissioners to consider.

As defined by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, agritourism is an experience that combines traditional agriculture with tourism. It is becoming increasingly popular throughout the state.

“Agritourism deserves a place in our county because we don’t want to lose an important, founding piece of our history,” Planner II Chelsie Fernald said.

Fernald, who asked the board of commissioners for guidance during a Tuesday workshop, said that Development Services, working with County Attorney Lee Newberry, has received input from farmers and organizations in the county that have an interest in the subject.

“There is that need for something in the county like this to preserve the family farm and for folks who want to do you-pick blueberry farms – even Christmas tree farms and pumpkin patches,” Fernald said.

Agritourism businesses are secondary or incidental to the primary use of the property on which they operate. Examples of uses likely to be permitted include:

·       On-farm sales

·       Agricultural crafts/gifts sales

·       Fee fishing/hunting

·       Wildlife viewing and photography

·       Equine-related activities

·       Wagon rides

·       School tours

·       Garden/nursery tours

·       Farm technical demonstrations and sales (canning, weaving, soap-making, etc.)

·       Wine tastings or tours

·       Corn mazes

·       Haunted attractions, and

·       Small, private zoological attraction or sanctuary

“The ordinance will give them a category that they can fit in so that they don’t have to come in every year (for assemblage permits) and to help their family farm grow to keep them continuing in their operation,” Fernald said.

Madraw Farms and Butterducks Winery are examples of agritourism businesses already operating in the county that regularly draw a large number of visitors.

“There is the agriculture part but tourism is the important second part,” Fernald said. “We would like to see (agritourism businesses) utilize field trips. That is something we have talked about.

“People learn about animals and the agricultural process (through agritourism).”

Fernald expects to have an ordinance proposal to present to the board for a vote soon.