The Anne Arundel County Council unanimously passed a bill this week that from adhering to mandated construction codes.
With a vote of 7-0, the bill seeks to help farmers increase profits and maintain their property by creating additional value to their land.
The term “value-added” was used throughout the conversation, and the bill will make it easier for farmers to add buildings for vineyards or other revenue bases, said the bill’s co-sponsor Councilman Jerry Walker (R-7th District).
“It’s for value-added production," Walker said. "So in other words, someone grows the crop and they want to add value of that crop, so they do that through adding process to that crop. For some cases, it’s grapes for a vineyard or somebody who wanted to produce beer. That's really what will help keep farms sustainable, not just the commodity crops that are out there that so many farms are struggling to survive by growing.”
The largest family farm in the county is in Davidsonville—the 550-acre Dodon Farm—run by its owners Tom Croghan, Polly Pittman and farm manager Michael Lefever.
Croghan told The Baltimore Sun that value-added production on farmland is key to maintaining profits. The Dodon farm did just that when it expanded to host .
Walker said the legislation allows family farmers to pursue alternative profit avenues with minimal restrictions and regulations.
The councilman said his focus is on “anything we can do to give [farmers] another option or another opportunity to not only preserve the land but also create jobs. Dodon’s vineyard’s manager was there … I’m sure as they go into harvest season, there will be other people, other employees there.”
Only buildings that are not open to the public will be exempt from county mandated construction codes, Walker said. He also said the potential buildings will go toward cultivating a crop to be sold, but not for inviting the public onto the property.
Walker called the new legislation a “win-win.”
“It’s a win for the farmers and it’s a win for the community because it prevents large tracks of development in rural south county," Walker said.
The county executive must still sign the bill and then it will take effect in 45 days, Walker said.