This week the County Council unanimously passed a zoning measure that creates a clear and reasonable path for farm-based breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries to locate and grow here in our agricultural areas. This is a win for farmers, creators, and consumers alike.
The County already has a growing industry of wineries and breweries, thanks to visionary entrepreneurs and a commitment from County government that has resulted in reduced regulatory barriers and increased incentives.
Serious challenges, however, existed in our zoning code for entrepreneurs trying to start and grow a business in our rural and agricultural areas. Tackling these challenges head on, the zoning measure passed this week establishes clear and reasonable zoning rules that incentivize investment and enhance the agricultural heritage of the County.
The core of the ordinance is to allow these businesses as accessory to a farm operation. In other words, the primary use of the land or property must be agricultural. The measure also set prudent and balanced requirements for events and local ingredients. For all the details, read the staff report.
There are many reasons to support this industry:
- Making beer, wine, cider, and spirits has historically been agricultural activity— farmers brought not only grain or produce but also beer or whiskey to market.
- Increasing demand for local ingredients from our craft alcohol producers opens new opportunities for Montgomery County farmers. There is potential for hundreds–or even thousands–of acres of grains, hops, and fruit being grown in the County for our local craft alcohol producers.
- Allowing this use is helping a new generation to return and thrive as business owners in our agricultural reserve. You can see the creativity and energy these young cultivators and creators are bringing to the job. Having this opportunity makes farming more viable which will reduce pressures to sell for residential development or sell to corporate farming conglomerations.
- These businesses enhance the quality of life of our residents and make Montgomery County a better place to live. Have you spent a Saturday afternoon at one of our farm breweries or wineries? It is an experience you don’t want to miss.
Checking out the scenery, soil, and production facilities of Montgomery County wineries
I want to thank Councilmember Craig Rice for co-leading this effort with me as well as all my colleagues for their support. Most of all, I want to thank all the stakeholders and community members for their advocacy and inspiration. There is no doubt that the ordinance I introduced last spring improved considerably as we learned more and incorporated good ideas from all sides.
Here’s to a prosperous, vibrant, and sustainable agricultural reserve!