Area farmers interested in learning about and/or expanding their agricultural income by growing grapes for wine have a great opportunity. The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission in cooperation with Maryland Cooperative Extension has just put together a new grant program called the "2006 Southern Maryland Growing Grapes for Wine Program".
Matching grant funds will be made available to purchase grape vines in bulk from a list of recommended grape varieties for growers throughout the five Southern Maryland Counties.
"The purpose of the program is to encourage the development of a wine industry in Southern Maryland," said Christine Bergmark, executive director of the commission. "Currently, there are 17 wineries in the State of Maryland, all of whom are looking for more locally grown grapes. We hope this grant opportunity will give interested farmers the educational tools, as well as financial assistance to start or expand their vineyards. And who knows, maybe we'll even see more Southern Maryland wineries cropping up."
The program will be administered by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission in coordination with Maryland Cooperative Extension. The Commission will provide up to 50% of matching funds to purchase vines in the winter of 2006 and coordinate purchasing. Maryland Cooperative Extension will provide training and production expertise. Mandatory participation in a two-day workshop conducted by Maryland Cooperative Extension will be required for all participants prior to receiving vines.
Grant applications are due to the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission by March 31. Applications will be reviewed by April 30 and vines purchased in late 2006 or early 2007.
To acquire a grant application, contact the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission office at (301) 274-1922, or visit http://www.somarylandsogood.com/.