Plan For Ag Innovation Center In Frederick County Advancing

County Executive Jan Gardner

A feasibility study is expected to begin soon.

Frederick, Md. (KM) РA feasibility  study is expected to get underway on whether an agricultural innovation center would work in Frederick County. That announcement was made Thursday by County Executive Jan Gardner during her public information briefing.

She said such a facility would shared use center for  farmers, including those who are just starting out, or have new products to sell to the public, or want to better market their products. That could include butchering services, a commercial kitchen, cold and dry storage space,  and packaging and distribution equipment.

“So the goal of a shared-use agriculture center would be to eliminate the high cost of a start-up business and the minimize the financial risk for farmers, ” Gardner said. “We know that sharing space and equipment can make a huge different for operations trying to bring new products to market.”

The study will be conducted by three consultant: HR&A Advisers, ACDS LLC and Epstein and Sons International. HRSA is a nationally known real estate consulting firm with offices in Washington DC. ACDS   is based in Maryland and has conducted economic development efforts nationally and internationally. Epstein works across the US and abroad.

These three firms were chosen after the County put out a request for a proposal earlier this year.

The feasibility study will be done in three phases. Phase one will include a consumer survey and focus groups with the agricultural community in Frederick County. During the second phase, the findings will be analyzed and a business plan  will be developed. In Phase Three, the consultants will present a report with recommendations on the type of center which will create an economic impact on the county, along with possible sites and a business plan to support the facility.

“Frederick County is ideally located for an agriculture innovation shared use facility,” says Gardner. “More than a third of all Maryland’s farms are located in Frederick, and in our four neighboring counties. These same counties count for 42% of the farms in our state, and sell value added products that generate nearly $26-and-a-half million dollars of revenue.”

Gardner says the county must ensure that agriculture continues to be viable for years to come.

By Kevin McManus