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Signs of attraction: Bill would let DOT point way to agri-tourism sites
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A bill passed by the Georgia House on Wednesday would allow the Department of Transportation to erect directional signs pointing to the state’s agricultural tourism attractions.

The bill is good news for owners of wineries, corn mazes and farms where consumers can pick their own fresh fruits and vegetables.

"That’s priceless," said Drew Echols of Jaemor Farm Market, which operates a corn maze each fall. In addition, the market, which is located adjacent to peach and apple orchards, draws visits from tour buses on a regular basis.

"I think it is great news, not just for us," Echols said. "We’re right here on the side of a four-lane highway, but there are a lot of folks in rural areas who are trying to bring tourists to the farm."

Agri-tourism, as it is called, is one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture.

David Harris of Blackstock Winery, near Dahlonega, said the prospect of additional signage is good news.

"We already have wine trail signage, but they won’t allow you to put the name of the business," said Harris, whose winery is located close to others in the area near the Lumpkin and White county lines.

Harris said sales at the farm, where many of the operators have tasting rooms and conduct tours of the vineyards, is an important part of his business.

"You don’t really drive more people to you," he said. "But it is a tremendous help to rural businesses in helping customers get to you and not waste time getting lost."

He said the bill has positive implications for agri-tourism. "Agri-tourism, by nature, is rural business, which needs this kind of support."

The legislation, House Bill 1088, passed by a vote of 154-1 and goes on to the state Senate.

The bill, as passed, requires the Georgia Department of Agriculture to determine what constitutes an agricultural tourist attraction and maintain a registry of approved attractions. It also adds the attractions to the DOT’s list for which directional signs can be provided, including natural phenomena, scenic attractions, historic, educational, cultural, scientific and religious sites.