ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball was joined by Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder today to announce a transformational $11 million in joint funding to support critical renovations to the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market in Jessup. Photos of the event can be found here.
This facility is truly a one-of-a-kind asset for our entire region, with over 330,000 square feet of terminal space used to distribute an enormous volume of produce daily. At any time, virtually any type of produce grown in the United States, locally, and around the world is available in this global market. This decades-old operation will now be modernized – to expand critical refrigeration capacity and allow for an enclosed expansion of the Market’s back dock.
County Executive Calvin Ball included $1 million in his proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which was passed by the County Council, to support the redevelopment of the produce market, supplemented by $10 million in State funding, to ensure this Howard County facility remains on the cutting edge of food distribution best practices.
The combined funding will help expand critical refrigeration capacity and allow for an enclosed expansion of the Market’s back dock. This market is a vital component in the food chain for the entire Mid-Atlantic region, connecting local farmers, wholesale produce vendors, grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, and residents in Howard County and Maryland.
The Wholesale Produce Market is an economic driver for Howard County, employing more than 3,000 Marylanders and housing 43 tenants. The market is surrounded by hundreds more fresh food companies located within a 5-mile radius of the Food Center, making Howard County the largest food business cluster in Maryland.
"The upgrades to this facility will ensure the continued successful operations of this center. The many challenges of COVID-19 have highlighted the need for this distribution hub, connecting the Maryland farm community with restaurants, grocery stores, and so much more. The State's investment will strengthen this link in the food supply chain for years to come," said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder.
“The Maryland Food Center Authority is a major economic generator in our county, our region, and our state,” said Council Vice Chair Christiana Rigby. “This investment will spur the development of additional food businesses and increase food distribution in our county. I am so grateful to all the county and state partners whose efforts are moving this expansion forward.”
This renovation is another critical aspect of County Executive Ball’s focus on agricultural prosperity and combating food insecurity throughout Howard County. In June, Ball announced free summer meals to our students and families, discounted meals throughout the year to income-qualified families through the Roving Radish Marketplace, and pandemic assistance to support our Howard County Food Bank.
Additionally, Ball relaunched the Agricultural Land Preservation program in 2019, after it was shut down by the previous administration. The highly regarded program helped protect 23,000 acres of farmland over the previous 40 years, and since it was restarted in 2019, added seven properties totaling over 300 acres into the acquisition pipeline for preservation – making sure they remain part of Howard County’s agriculture heritage forever.
"The Maryland Food Center Authority which owns the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market continues to invest millions of dollars on capital improvements,” said Steven Fararoff, Maryland Food Center Authority Chair. “We are very pleased to partner with Howard County and the State on a capital improvement project which will allow for an enclosed expansion of the back dock.”
“The Maryland Food Center Authority and its Board of Directors are extremely grateful to receive such generous financial support from the State of Maryland and Howard County for this critical infrastructure project which will protect the region’s food supply chain and ensure the future of the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market located in Jessup,” said Donald Darnall, Maryland Food Center Authority Executive Director.
As a tenant of the produce market, I want to offer our sincere thanks to all those who made this possible. Closing in the docks, and improvements to the produce market will solidify the idea that the Wholesale Produce Market is here to stay as a crucial hub for agricultural commerce, not only for Howard County but for the tri-state area and beyond. New businesses will be eager to move in, and existing businesses will prosper knowing that Howard County is behind them.