We are six of St. Mary’s County farms venues that host weddings. All six farms are located on the water and are part of a group of 14 farm wedding venues that provide St. Mary’s County with a unique and historical setting for couples to celebrate their wedding, and a substantial economic contribution to all businesses within the county including (but not limited to) caterers, florists, restaurants, photographers, hair and makeup, entertainment and hotels that rely on our business for weekend bookings.

We are active farms and our wedding business significantly contributes to sustaining local farming in the county. Finally, and most important, we recognize the importance of being good neighbors to the county residents who live near our farms.

The county commissioners earlier this week indefinitely postponed a hearing that was planned for later this month to consider an ordinance proposed by the county’s land use and growth management department. The commissioners sent the proposal back to the department to rework.

This issue is complex and has an overwhelming impact on our businesses. There are many county businesses who rely on our ability to diversify and contribute to the county’s economy and the county commissioners are rushing to judgement via unsubstantiated claims. We are rallying for the support to postpone this hearing so that everyone’s voice can be heard.

We are justified in this request as it falls directly within the mission statement of the commissioners of St. Mary’s County (www.stmarysmd.com/bocc/), namely: Responsible and accountable to the county’s citizens; high ethical standards; citizen engagement; transparent operations; provide effective and efficient services; eliminate unnecessary obstacles; use data driven priorities; foster opportunities for future generations; prioritize economic growth; foster entrepreneurial initiatives; preserve the county’s environment, heritage and rural character; lead conservative efforts; and promote our heritage.

In the time leading up to this new proposed ordinance, please consider the following:

From Jan. 1, 2020, to Aug. 25, 2020, (the date of commissioners’ meetings) there was absolutely no discussion or outreach with any of the 14 farm venues.

The 14 farm venues and numerous businesses in the county will be devastated if the proposed ordinance is approved. All 14 farm venues question why drastic measures are being considered without transparency to those whom it affects.

Official records show two venues have received registered complaints reported by only two county residents over a six-month time period. This constitutes less than a 1% complaint ratio.

All county farm venues enforce a zero tolerance for noise and disturbance policy, which can be made publicly available.

This new ordinance will devastate farm venues, the county businesses that support them, and the county’s economy in the midst of desperately trying to rebound from the COVID-19 crisis.

The sustainability of small farms in this county and the country is a treasure that should never be compromised. Small farms provide an invaluable asset to diversify St. Mary’s economy and quality of life.