The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) is undertaking an exciting new project to address local farming and food. For many years, SMADC had held public forums and focal group discussions, and invited public input into our strategic plan. The community has consistently asked SMADC for help with food processing and distribution, and assistance for new and transitioning farmers. With our partners, we have helped individual farms and the community transition to a new economy based on food (and beverages), equine, tourism, green products, and natural resources. The Agricultural Business Park and Food Innovation Center is the next logical step.
The Center is intended to benefit Southern Maryland by 1) enhancing farmers’ profitability, 2) enabling entry to bigger wholesale markets, 3) increasing the region’s capacity to meet consumer demand for locally produced foods, 4) expanding and revitalizing the farming community, and 5) creating new jobs for the region.
SMADC’s vision is a centrally located site or series of sites in Southern Maryland (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s County) that can house private and/or public partnerships to provide the following (components will phase in over time):
- A hub to efficiently warehouse and distribute food from local farms to wholesale and retail buyers
- Land for new farmer incubation
- A food innovation center where start-ups can create value-added products like salsas, jams, pies, etc. from local farm foods
- A regional meat processing facility
- An aquaculture processing center
- If the site is suitable, a year-round indoor farmers’ market/store, café/deli and/or outdoor farmer’s market
- Warehouse space for local food and food products
The Center will make it more efficient to aggregate and distribute local food, and help our farmers and food businesses gain better access to the $26 billion food market in the DC-Baltimore metro region. Ideally, creating a centrally located site (or series of sites) with these multiple uses will allow businesses to share assets and personnel, training, cross marketing, and more.
Where we are in the process: The Southern Maryland Delegation introduced a bill to allow SMADC, through the Tri-County Council, to use funds to purchase, lease or lease-to-buy real estate for this purpose. Once the bill is signed by the Governor, it will become law. We are awaiting one more level of approval before we issue a request for an “Expression of Interest” (EOI) to the public. Anyone with suitable property within the five-county area is welcome to apply. We hope to have the EOI on the street as soon as possible, and ideally have a site selected later this summer. The EOI will be posted in public venues such as newspapers, newsletters, the SMADC website (www.smadc.com) and other venues.
SMADC continues to meet with farmers, elected officials and the public. The next opportunity for individuals to learn more and provide input will be at the Southern Maryland Food Council Networking Event, on May 6, from 6-8 at the Loveville St. Mary’s Agricultural Service Center, Suite C, 26737 Radio Station, Way, Leonardtown, MD 20650 (www.somdfoodcouncil.com). We will continue to post updates on the SMADC website as the project progresses.