The county has received a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to help fund an agriculture economic development study that will consider traditional land-use planning and other types of infrastructure planning as well. The grant calls for a $50,000 county match, which has been approved by the Board of Commissioners.
The initiative is also working to build a qualified workforce and address needs in all elements of the industry from new farmers to veterinarians to post-production processing.
The consulting firm, Agricultural and Community Development Services of Maryland, has been engaged and has begun the assessment process. The company has already started conducting the 30 to 40 interviews with agricultural stakeholders including business owners, entrepreneurs, farmers and government officials. The consultants will also analyze data on the current state of agriculture in the county before examining ways to build up the industry through new markets and other innovative projects and programs.
A second part of the ARC grant focuses on the financial elements and the establishment of a Community Investment Model to secure the financial resources need to move this an other initiatives forward. These consultants will be looking into community philanthropy, alternate funding models, models for engaging young adults and even downtown revitalization and place-making models.
The overall study is expected by complete in late 2018.