When the Ohio winter ends and the warmer months come, you see many people moving outdoors for entertainment. A growing trend in Ohio is for Ohioans to take part in agritourism. Over the last 15 or so years, this industry has really taken off and we in the state Legislature are doing our part to help it continue to be successful.
Agritourism can be defined as the crossroads between agriculture and tourism. It can consist of farmers and agriculture-based enterprises opening attractions to the general public in an effort to educate, entertain, and increase revenues. Activities like pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hay rides, and winery and wine-tasting tours all fall under agritourism.
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation is reporting that the number of farms featuring an agritourism component has more than doubled to 650 farms from 2002 to 2012. It is a great chance for our farmers to increase their revenue while providing the general public with educational and recreational opportunities that reconnect them to Ohio’s agricultural roots.
As we continue to watch this trend, the House has taken action recently to help farmers continue to take part in this industry. House Bill 80, sponsored by my friend and colleague state Rep. Tony Burkley, seeks to help and protect agritourism in Ohio.
House Bill 80 would clarify that agritourism receive the same zoning protections as agricultural land, would fall under the state’s Current Agricultural Use Value, and would provide farm operators with immunity from civil action liability if a participant is harmed as a result of a defined risk inherent to an agritourism activity. Twenty-eight other states currently have legislation concerning agritourism, and this is a big issue to the citizens of western Ohio due to our roots in this industry and in agriculture in general.
The legislation would give operators of agritourism the freedom and flexibility to run their business without fear, and promotes the entrepreneurial spirit that makes this industry great. I hope to see this bill move quickly through the legislative process, and I hope to see Ohioans continue to enjoy agritourism in the future.
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The writer represents the 84th District in the Ohio House of Representatives.