Local farmers may improve their income and protect their agricultural environment by applying for a grant from the"2005 Southern Maryland Farm Viability Enhancement Program" administered by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland.
A team of agricultural, economic and environmental consultants assists participating farms in the development of farm viability plans specifically for agro-tourism. The team suggests ways to increase on-farm income through improved management practices, diversification, direct marketing, and more.
"This program helps our farmers to increase their income as they transition away from our area's 360-year tobacco industry," said Christine Bergmark, director of the commission. "Farmers receive help in creating their business plans, and once the plans are submitted, farmers may request grant funds to implement portions of the plan."
In return for the grant funds and assistance, the farmers agree to place their land under agricultural land preservation and they commit the land to agriculture for the duration of the grant. To be eligible for participation in the program, an applicant must own, or be a co-applicant with the owner of, at least five acres of land in agricultural use. It is not necessary to have taken the Tobacco Buyout, but no tobacco may be produced on the land for human consumption.
Grant applications are due to the Tri-County Council by May 15. Plans will be reviewed by June 30 and initial funds will be distributed in January 2006.
To acquire a grant application, contact the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission office at (301) 274-1922, or visit www.somarylandsogood.com.