GRANTS: The Regional Agriculture Project (RAP)
SMADC Presents $125,000 in Funding Awards for Regional Agriculture Enhancement Projects
During the January 3, 2018 meeting of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC), Chairman Yates Clagett, SMADC Director Shelby Watson-Hampton and Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland Executive Director John Hartline, presented checks totaling $125,000.00, to four regional entities for agricultural enhancement projects.
Representatives from Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles’ County governments, the Prince George’s County Soil Conservation District and University of Maryland Extension received the funding awards on behalf of their counties for Regional Agriculture Projects (RAP) that benefit their respective Southern Maryland farming communities.
The Regional Agriculture Project (RAP) initiative was conceived by SMADC to further its mission to support farms and farmers in order to sustain the future of agriculture in Southern Maryland. All five Southern Maryland counties collaborated with their county Farm Bureaus, Soil Conservation Districts and Economic Development/county governments, to identify much needed enhancements for their agricultural communities. Every county provided matching funds to their projects for a total regional investment of $980,000. Resulting projects and partnerships offer potential to boost economic viability for all types of farming enterprise and strengthen cross-county relationships.
Regional Agricultural Project Awards
Projects (expected to commence in 2018 and completed within three years) address specific issues or needs expressed by the counties, include:
- The restoration of an historic dairy barn in Anne Arundel County for agriculture education programs and meeting space,
- An online infrastructure and content management system for Calvert County to provide opportunity for all producers to have a presence on the internet,
- A soil health demonstration project for Prince George’s County to help educate the farming community on best management practices that improve soil health,
- Charles County is supporting the St. Mary’s County market project with their share of RAP funds as the market offers opportunity for vendors/farms from both counties.
and a new enclosed farmers market building for St. Mary’s County that provides utility services to allow the expanded sale of refrigerated value-added products.
Current Grant & Financing Programs
FARMER MINI GRANTS
SMADC makes awards of up to $2,000 for individual farmers (one-to-one match by farmer) to assist farmers with small start-up projects and with diversifying their farming enterprise.
THE SOUTHERN MARYLAND AGRICULTURAL EQUITY INCENTIVE MATCHING FUND
Financing program offered in conjunction with MARBIDCO, helps qualified farmers meet certain down-payment (equity) requirements, in order to help improve the credit quality of their applications.
THE SOUTHERN MARYLAND REVOLVING LOAN FUND FOR AGRICULTURAL & SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE PRODUCERS
Loan program designed exclusively for Southern Maryland applicants to assist with purchases and upgrades. Loans available from $10,000 – $20,000.
SMADC Farm Grants (Past Grants)
NOTE: These are examples of past grant programs. SMADC periodically offers grant and financing opportunities to support ag-related endeavors in the region. See the MAIN GRANTS PAGE for current opportunities.
The Southern Maryland Farm Viability Enhancement Program
The Farm Viability Grants are intended to foster ways to increase the income and sustainability of area farms, to encourage the establishment of new farms and to support those farmers transitioning from tobacco into other farm ventures like agritourism or pick-your-own sites. Grant amounts vary from $5,000 to $40,000, depending on the needs of the specific farm. The farmer must match the grant and agree to place the farm into an agricultural use covenant for five to ten years, based upon the grant amount. This grant program has become a model for a similar statewide program.
Past grants have been awarded to help rebuild farms damaged by a tornado, to open a pick-your-own farm, to build a kitchen for on-farm processing, to establish a state-of-the art hydroponic system, to improve irrigation, to create several agritourism sites and to build an on-farm butcher shop.
Since inception of this program, 29 farms (24 grants awarded in addition to five business plans developed) have been impacted and over 3,800 acres now have an agricultural covenant.
The SMFVEP has allowed farms to take advantage of emerging trends such as agritourism, and to the emerging wine and meat industries now developing in Southern Maryland.
Growing Grapes for Wine in Southern Maryland
In 2006, SMADC instituted The Growing Grapes for Wine initiative, the first of its kind in Maryland. For those in the program, SMADC covers 50 percent of the cost of vines. SMADC, in collaboration with Maryland Cooperative Extension, provides mandatory training for the grant recipients on all aspects of grape production, including hands-on demonstrations at an Upper Marlboro research site. Maryland Cooperative Extension also provides expertise and guidance through individual farm site visits. Recipients are also required to join the Maryland Grape Growers Association or the Maryland Wineries Association. SMADC’s grape grant program has become a model for a similar statewide program offered by the State of Maryland.
Grape Grant highlights:
Due to research and grant funds from SMADC’s wine grape program, the number of new acres in wine grapes has grown exponentially from 12 acres in 2002 to 53 acres in 2012, and from two wineries to 12 wineries, with an additional five wineries expected by 2014. The regional returns on SMADC’s investments in the wine industry are estimated at $1.350 million (based on a proportion of Maryland sales)
Initiated in 2010, these grants are awarded to partners throughout the five Southern Maryland counties for projects deemed to have structural longevity and a lasting impact on regional farming community.
Regional Grant highlights:
In 2010-2012, SMADC awarded regional grants to partners (Farm Bureaus, Soil Conservation Districts, schools, local economic development and others) throughout the five Southern Maryland counties targeting farmers’ market enhancements, agricultural education projects for youth and new or beginning farmers, increased access to fresh food in urban communities and continued research on wine grape varietals suitable for production in Southern Maryland.