Charles County farms harvest healthy revenue, thanks to a variety of agricultural initiatives. The “buy local” movement has reinvigorated our agricultural market, with a growing number of residents frequenting farmers’ markets and farm stores in search of homegrown delights.
Charles County has a rich history of agriculture. Ever since the decline in the region’s tobacco industry, the County’s single-crop identity has become far more diversified. Charles County farms cultivate a variety of grains and produce, and farm livestock. Many Charles County farms are seasonally open to the public for a variety of agritourism activities.
The Economic Development Department works to strengthen, promote and enhance agricultural industries by promoting products, encouraging a diversity of products and markets and support efforts to preserve the rural communities within Charles County. The Agriculture Business Development Manager serves as a liaison to the local agricultural community.
New Farmer Resources
Are you looking to start or expand a farm or agricultural business? Below are some organizations with a lot of great resources before getting started:
When exploring a new or expanded agricultural venture, it is important to know if your property is zoned appropriately. The Planning Division, within Charles County’s Department of Planning and Growth Management, can offer guidance on clarifying a property’s zone and the permissible uses.
The Charles Soil Conservation District offers many resources and technical assistance to agricultural producers. Services include cost-share programs, farm equipment rentals, soil testing, Soil Conservation, Nutrient Management, and Water Quality Plans for Farmland.
The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) supports farms and the future of agriculture in our region through farmland preservation, business support for regional farmers, and resources to help consumers find the farms they need.
The University of Maryland Extension (UME) is a fresh resource for education, regulations, and marketing support. County Extension agents and educators teach citizens research-based information concerning agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H youth development in their communities. The Maryland Beginning Farm Success Project helps new farmers develop profitable business plans and products. The Charles County Extension Office is located in Bel Alton.
Maryland FarmLINK provides resources and real estate leads to new and established farmers.
Agriculture is evolving in Maryland. With smaller farms and more diversified operations, the “value-added” sectors of agriculture are growing fast. “Value-added” is defined by USDA, but not limited to, the physical state or form and the production of a product in a manner that enhances its value (such as “organic”).
When looking to diversify into value-added agriculture, it is important to know what regulations apply to a proposed operation. Along with the EDD’s Agriculture Business Development Manager, the organizations and agencies can also offer important information and considerations.
Grow and Fortify supports organizations and businesses involved in industries related to value-added agriculture. Check out the online “Resource Hubs” for guidelines and checklist for specific agritourism or value-added projects.
The Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center (MREDC) is an UME Community Resource and Economic Development Online Initiative. MREDC provides resources for farm business planning and production and management techniques. MREDC offers many quick and accessible modules with helpful tools and information for agricultural businesses of all sizes.
When considering value-added processing, it is important to check with the Maryland Department of Health’s Center for Food Processing (CFP). Although some food products may be produced in a home or farm kitchen under the Maryland Cottage Food Law, it is important to know whether a processing or on-farm processing license is necessary through the State. Although the State’s Department of Health regulates the processing of value-added products, the Charles County Department of Health deals with food service and temporary food establishments.
Starting or expanding a farm or agricultural business can be an expensive venture. A variety of programs exist on local, state, and federal levels that can benefit farms and agricultural businesses. Funding sources include:
The Southern Maryland Agriculture Development Commission (Local) frequently offers Mini-Grant cycles for small-scale farm projects with a positive economic impact for the region.
MARBIDCO helps Maryland's farms prosper by providing emerging or existing
agricultural enterprises with essential funding and resources.
Colonial Farm Credit offers fixed-rate loans on land with no minimum acreage required.
USDA, through a few agencies, offers a variety of loans to start, improve, transition, and expand farm operations nationwide. (National) USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers may financial programs for on-farm conservation and preservation.
*2017 USDA Census of Agriculture