ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today was joined by Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Atticks, elected and County officials, and members of Howard County’s agriculture community at West Friendship Park, to announce the creation of Howard County Government’s new Office of Agriculture (OoA), which will become, only the third in Maryland. Pictures from the event can be found here.
We have and will continue to do more to make sure that agriculture remains a viable business and lifestyle for today’s farming families and future generations. The Office of Agriculture will create a physical space where all our agriculture-facing functions can collaborate toward a common goal of supporting farms and farmers. By locating the new Office of Agriculture at West Friendship Park, we envision a strong partnership between the Office and the Department of Recreation and Parks to develop and administer agricultural learning and recreational uses. These combined efforts will help develop and promote agricultural learning and agri-recreation among our residents and visitors.
The creation of the OoA is consistent with the policy directive provided by the County’s recently adopted General Plan, HoCo By Design, specifically with Economic Prosperity Policy 9, Implementing Action 6, which states: “Consider consolidating offices, services, and educational resources supporting the agriculture community in a single location to better coordinate marketing and other programs, and support operators when interacting with government agencies. Ideally these functions would be physically located in the west in a location that also hosts the public for programs and activities to learn about and promote agriculture.”
We are thrilled that Howard County is creating this new office dedicated to supporting agriculture. It’s an acknowledgment of the incredible importance of the industry to the county and its residents.
Located at West Friendship Park, the new OoA will bring agricultural resources closer to Howard County’s farming community. The office will bring together various agricultural programs and staff in a shared space to enhance coordination and impact and will provide co-working opportunities for the agriculture-facing functions of the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA), Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) and University of Maryland Extension. Additionally, OoA will also work with the County’s Department of Recreation & Parks to provide agriculturally-focused recreational programming and learning opportunities for residents at the park.
Currently, the County provides a variety of programs and support to the farming community through multiple agencies. This includes:
- Agricultural outreach and administrative functions through the Office of Community Sustainability’s (OCS) Agricultural Coordinator. The Agricultural Coordinator serves as Executive Secretary to the Agricultural Preservation Board, manages Roving Radish and HoCo Fresh, administers the Enhanced Agricultural Grant program, facilitates the HoCo Harvest venison donation program and leads the Howard County Farm Academy.
- HCEDA’s Director of Agricultural Business Development primarily provides marketing and ombudsman services on behalf of farm businesses. This role also administers the Agriculture Grant for Innovation and Expansion program.
- DPZ is home to an Administrator for the Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP). This position primarily oversees the ALPP, including evaluating and crafting new easement acquisitions; as well as enforcement of County-held preservation easement terms.
- Other farm-facing functions in the county include the work of the Soil Conservation Division and the University of Maryland Extension.
A part of the County’s Department of County Administration, the OoA will have four full-time positions: Administrator of Agriculture, Executive Assistant, Manager – Agricultural Program, and Manager – Roving Radish Program. OCS’s Agricultural Coordinator position will also be reassigned to OoA. Ball plans to include money in his proposed Fiscal Year 2025 operating budget for the three additional positions.
HCEDA’s Director of Agricultural Business Development will also share space with the Office of Agriculture, but remain an employee of HCEDA.
Here is what others had to say about the County’s new Office of Agriculture:
“The creation of this Office of Agriculture will make the many existing agriculture supports and resources more accessible and effective as they consolidate efforts and leverage their respective strengths and missions,” said David Yungmann, Howard County Council, District 5. “Its creation builds on the commitment of County Executive Ball and county government to the health and growth of our agriculture industry.”
“In the face of growing challenges in the farming industry, the Office of Agriculture will be a tremendous asset to farmers in Howard County,” said Maryland State Senator Katie Fry Hester. “This Office underscores the significance of agriculture in our community and the state’s economy more broadly, and I look forward to a collaborative state-local relationship.”
"Agriculture has always played an essential role in Howard County’s history and economy. From agricultural preservation easement acquisitions to the land preservation program, County Executive Calvin Ball’s leadership has led the way in supporting our county’s agricultural community,” said Maryland State Senator Clarence Lam. “That’s why I appreciate his foresight and commitment in establishing a new Office of Agriculture in order to bring all of these programs under one roof and ensure that our local government is able to best support this important industry for generations to come."
“I believe the new Office of Agriculture will bring together the resources, community, talent and vision to serve the Howard County agriculture community much better than before,” said Maryland State Delegate Chao Wu.
"This is great news - not just for the farming community, but for anyone interested in buying fresh local food, enjoying farm events and retaining the scenic beauty of the rural west,” said Maryland State Delegate Natalie Ziegler. “I'm excited about the potential for collaboration and new agricultural learning programs, so that we can support our vital agricultural sector now, and help ensure continued success in the future."
“Farming may evolve over time, but it will always be fundamental to our community. This office is a major step forward in supporting the farmers who sustain us all,” Said Maryland State Delegate Jessica Feldmark.
“This is an exciting opportunity to work with the farming community in a more direct way and to forward the agricultural initiatives identified in HoCo By Design, the County’s newly adopted General Plan,” said Lynda Eisenberg, Director, Department of Planning and Zoning. “Having a one-stop shop for the agricultural community in Howard County will enhance DPZs commitment to the ALPP.”
“The Department of Recreation and Parks is eager to work with the Office of Agriculture, the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension, and other agricultural organizations and to begin the public engagement process to identify and propose the West Friendship Park amenities and programs,” said Nicholas Mooneyhan, Director, Recreation and Parks. “We believe that West Friendship Park can be a place where we celebrate the County’s agricultural heritage and provide unique amenities and programming related to nature, adventure, and non-traditional sports.”
“Establishing an Office of Agriculture further supports HCEDA’s initiatives by extending the reach of our agricultural policies and programs,” said Jennifer Jones, CEO, HCEDA. “Departments coming together and sharing insights and resources will create new and innovative opportunities for our agribusinesses and bolster our economy.”
“This is a great day for Howard County Agriculture,” said James Zoller, Agricultural Coordinator, Office of Community Sustainability. “The Office of Agriculture has been discussed by the agricultural community and leaders for years and I appreciate County Executive Calvin Ball making this a reality. This new office is going to create synergy between offices already providing services to our agricultural community allowing for better service and development of new programs to assist our farmers.”
“The University of Maryland Extension, Howard County, is excited to partner with the county's new Office of Agriculture,” said Lynn Rubin Traversa, Area Extension Director for University of Maryland Extension (UME) Central Cluster. “The proposed model of this new office with a co-working space, where multiple agricultural agencies are represented, will enhance UME's partnerships and program delivery for Howard County’s entire agricultural community. We look forward to this new opportunity to empower farmers, families and communities through research-based education.”
“An Office of Agriculture has been on the wish list of county farmers for many years,” said Leslie Bauer, President, Howard County Farm Bureau. “Currently, if a farmer is in need of service or support from the County, they need to travel to various locations in either Ellicott City or Columbia for assistance. The convenience and accessibility of consolidating many of these services under one roof, near to where we work, will go a long way to provide support to county farmers and make the process just a bit easier. Having these different agencies housed together here at West Friendship Park will also provide consistency and the chance for additional synergy to create enhanced programming, collaboration opportunities and sharing of resources.”
“Thank you to the county executive for implementing many suggestions brought forth from the Agricultural Preservation Board in the last year, it means a lot to the board and should help the farm community,” said Jamie Brown, Agricultural Preservation Board Chair, Howard County Farm Bureau Board Member and Farmer and Owner of TLV Farm. “The new Office of Agriculture is another example of the County Executive listening and taking action to support Agriculture in Howard County.”
“Howard County is taking a giant step today in supporting farmers with the announcement of the Office of Agriculture,” said Justin Brendel, Chair, Howard County Soil Conservation District Board of Supervisors. “I see this as a tremendous benefit to all who touch agriculture and want to learn more about it. My hope is to see it as a source of pride for our farm community in the future.”
“Working together to use the property by combining an Office of Agriculture, part of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, DPZ and the University of Maryland Extension is a great move, so that we farmers with limited time and resources can make a ‘one stop shop’ out of the property. Working together for the betterment of all is always a good way to go,” said Howie Feaga, Howard County Farm Bureau Past-President, Agricultural Preservation Board Past Board Member and Farmer and Owner of Merry Acres Farm.
“I am so excited that Executive Ball and the administration for making this innovative move,” said Mickey Day, Former President Howard County Fair Association and Agricultural Preservation Board Past Chair. “A lifelong resident of West Friendship, Past Ag Preservation Chair, and Immediate Past President of the Howard County Fair, this just makes so much sense and will put the resources where they are needed, near the farmers.”
“This is an awesome thing for farmers now and farmers to come. I personally try to take advantage of every new grant opportunity available – it’s a new way of farming,” said Derek Patrick, Agricultural Preservation Board Member, Farmer, Part-Owner of Maple Dell Farm, and Owner of Sunflowers of Lisbon. “This effort is an absolute game-changer to the county and the state. Thank you, Dr. Ball and everyone who made this vision a reality.”