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County Comment: Commissioners hear Agriculture Marketing Department update

County Comment
Commissioners hear Agriculture Marketing Department update
By Leslie Hart
Washington County Agriculture Marketing Specialist

As part of its regular meeting on June 1st, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard the Agricultural Marketing Department's annual report.
Ag Marketing is responsible for developing, marketing and managing economic development strategies and implement marketing programs to attract, retain, preserve and grow agricultural enterprises and related industries in Washington County. The Agricultural Marketing Specialist for Washington County is one of 20 Ag Marketing Professionals across the State of Maryland all dedicated to agriculture.
Maryland agriculture is the states largest commercial industry contributing more than $17 billion in revenue annually. Agriculture employs over 350,000 Marylanders and over 2 million acres of land is in agriculture.
A highlight accomplishment for the Ag Marketing Department was sharing in the success of Palmyra Farm who was recognized as the 2010 Small Business of the Year for Washington County. Palmyra Farm produces cheeses from their Hagerstown herd of Aryshires.
Education and community outreach continues to be a primary focus for the Ag Marketing Department. Many initiatives have already been implemented such as partnering with local farmers markets, getting more Washington County students to visit local farms, working with the USDA and MDA on regional programs, and providing resources for new and existing agricultural businesses.
The strategic focus for the Ag Marketing Department is on economic and business development, education and training, marketing and communications, regulation including legislation and land use and infrastructure.
Eight newly established agricultural businesses have opened in 2009-2010 time frame or plan for expansion in the very near future. Two additional farms have plans for large commodity and consumer growth in the next 18 months. Knob Hall Winery is one of the newest agricultural businesses that has great promise and growth for the future. Annie's Project, an educational business class designed for women was a success in early 2010 and will be provided again in early 2011. An upcoming educational session is scheduled for June 24 hosted in Washington County by the Ag Marketing Department and will be presented by the MDA and USDA called Red Meat Mobile Slaughter Information Session. Ag Expo & Fair is July 16 to 23 and the Ag Marketing Department will have an increased presence this year at the fair.
The Agricultural Marketing Department has seen growth and expansion in its strategic focus since the office opened in April 2008. There are still many opportunities for outreach and education focused on Washington County's rich agricultural roots, heritage, and future technologies. The primary goal is to make it easier for county residents to find, choose, and appreciate great local foods and events while supporting Washington County farms, farmers and agriculture.

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