HUGHESVILLE, Md. — Southern Maryland agriculture has undergone major transformations in the past two decades. Across the region, farmers have transitioned away from the 300-year-old tradition of growing tobacco into new agricultural ventures. With that change has come new needs; one of them being new infrastructure.
On June 28, the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission announced a new program called the Regional Agricultural Project, which is poised to meet that need.
“We’ve listened to the feedback from the agriculture community and understand that one of the things they need is new infrastructure,” said Shelby Watson-Hampton, director of SMADC, which is a division of the Tri-County Council for southern Maryland. “As farming has changed in Southern Maryland, so have the requirements to support the growth of the agricultural industry.”
RAP is designed to further SMADC’s mission to support farms, farmers and the future of agriculture in southern Maryland.
The intended purpose of this project is to create economic viability for farmers and to foster region-wide collaboration in order to enhance and sustain Southern Maryland’s agricultural economy. SMADC encourages everyone to work together on this grant on multiple levels — within the county Farm Bureau, Soil Conservation District, Economic Development/county government and University of Maryland Extension, and also with area farmers so that together, funds can be used to strengthen cross county relationships and to bolster the entire farming community.
The project application is open to all five counties of southern Maryland: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties. Project funds are intended to benefit the existing agriculture community and create seed money for agriculture-related projects needed in those counties. Each county may request between $20,000 to $25,000 for a specific project. Examples of projects may include a commercial kitchen, farmers market, meat lockers, cold storage, etc. Ineligible project examples include, but are not limited to: one-time events, marketing and promotion, plant stock, livestock, etc.
Only one application per county may be submitted with one of the following entities taking the lead: a county Farm Bureau, Soil Conservation District, Economic Development or county government office, or University of Maryland Extension. Applications must be accompanied by letters of support from the other county organizations and agencies as evidence of consensus and collaboration. Counties may also choose to combine their applications and funding requests for a collaborative project.
“I believe the region has a cohesiveness that will lend itself well to a project of this nature. The farmers in Southern Maryland have a strong tradition of working together. Whether it was in the fields and auction barns of the tobacco era, during the buy-out, or in rebuilding our agricultural industry, we’ve progressed as a community. I look forward to seeing what regional farmers, agri-businesses and agricultural support agencies will create with this opportunity,” Watson-Hampton said.
SMADC will hold a pre-deadline meeting for eligible entities interested in applying for the RAP on July 21 at 9 a.m. at the SMECO Auditorium in Hughesville, Md. The deadline to apply for the RAP is Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. EST. Notification of grant recipients will be made by Oct. 31 and funds will be dispersed by Dec. 1.
The application, eligibility requirements and additional information about SMADC’s Regional Agriculture Project is available on the Farm Resources/Grants page at www.smadc.com or by calling 301-274-1922, ext. 1.
— Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission