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UPPER MARLBORO — The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) awarded a total of $22,845 in grants to 15 farms, seven from Prince George’s County, through their SMADC Farmer Mini-Grant program.
“What we’ve done is made these funds available for small projects that can be completed relatively quickly in, let’s say, a year,” said Marketing Executive Susan McQuilkin.
With the goal of creating a market-driven and sustainable farming future in Maryland, the SMADC gives out mini-grants to new and experienced farmers looking to enhance their farms.
Each of the farms selected were awarded up to $2,000 for projects such as vineyards, foundation livestock, fencing, housing for animals and growing produce, material needed for production, ground-level irrigation, food safety such as refrigeration and other ways to improve the current state of their farm as well as brochures, signage and website improvements for the business and marketing aspects of the farm.
The number of recipients has grown with each round of grants and for this round, the fourth round of grants the SMADC has awarded, they gave grants to the most Prince George’s County farms than any other round of mini-grants.
Cabin Creek Heritage Farm in Upper Marlboro received $2,000 for farm store expansion, Holly Grove Farm received $2,000 for goat fence expansion, Holly Hill Ranch received $1,635 for sheep and turkey fencing and pens, James Richards Farm received $2,000 for fencing and irrigation, Stallworth-McKee Farms received $1,700 for its livestock fencing and water supply system, Townshend Vogt Farm was given $900 for marketing and Truman Vineyards was awarded $2,000 for vineyard expansion.
Grants were given to other farms throughout southern Maryland in St. Mary’s County, Charles County, Anne Arundel County and Calvert County such as Fox Run Farm, Hollywood Farm and Rock Spring Hall.
These funds were a part of SMADC’s third round of grants, and the organization is currently in the middle of choosing winners for their fourth round which closed its applications on Jan. 1. The winners of the round four grants will be announced in mid-February.
“We introduced this last summer in 2018 and did a round in the summer and did a second round last January and did it again this year, so we’re in the fourth round, and with every round that we go through, we get many more applications,” SMADC Spokesperson Cia Morey said.
The grants are given to new farmers for small start-up projects or veteran farmers who are looking to expand their agricultural projects. The projects that the money will go toward must be small and completed in a year, and the farmer must be able to match the funds given to them.
However, the grants cannot be used for administrative expenses or events or improvements or repairs to already existing infrastructures.
The SMADC also requires that the applicants reside in one of the five southern Maryland county’s and send in a reference letter from their county’s Soil Conservation District, Farm Bureau, the University of Maryland Extension or the Economic Development Office.
To ensure that the program is beneficial to beginner farmers, the SMADC allows people as young as 16 who have been in agricultural related programs or classes or have a farming background to apply.
“One thing the board felt strongly about was making these awards available for younger folks too,” McQuilkin said. “In our criteria, the eligibility for those who can apply for this is 16 years and older, and we had a few youths that have applied and have been awarded for some of their projects.”
Their first youth grant winner, 16-year-old Jacob Bowen from Sunderland, was awarded last year. With the money he was given, he was able to purchase a livestock scale enhance his farming process by monitoring the health and weight of his beef cattle.
Additionally, SMADC supports youth agriculture through the Southern Maryland Invitational Livestock Expo and Southern Maryland Meats Junior program.
Ensuring that the application was highly publicized throughout the farming community, SMADC received over 30 applications for this past grant cycle. An independent review committee makes their recommendations to the SMADC board. Once the board approves it, they give out the grants.
“They’re all looking for economically viable projects that are going to enhance the farm operation but more importantly keep farming going in our area,” McQuilkin said. “So looking good for the future, things that are going to give that farm a leg up and be sustainable and be profitable.”