SOUTHERN MARYLAND - Area farmers interested in learning about and 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 is offering a second round of the "Southern Maryland Growing Grapes for Wine" grant 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.
"A recent survey of vineyard yields and winery demands shows that Maryland's wineries need an additional 900 tons (roughly 300 acres) of grapes to meet their growing demand, said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association. "With the wine industry growing at roughly 20% each year, there is an increasing demand for Maryland fruit."
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 2007 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.
"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. "In order for a wine to carry the Maryland label, at least 75% of the fruit must be grown in Maryland. There are 20 wineries already in Maryland, with seven more coming on-line in 2007. All of these wineries are looking for Maryland-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."
Grant applications are due to the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission by March 31. Applications will be reviewed in April and May, and vines purchased in late 2007.
To acquire a grant application, contact the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission office at (301) 274-1922, or visit http://www.somarylandsogood.com/ .