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,and Agricultural Economist J Philip Gottwals began this assessment process this spring, conducting dozens of interviews with agricultural stakeholders including business owners, entrepreneurs, farmers and government officials. Out of those meeting rose a need for specific forums to focus on dairy farmers and livestock producers. (Read the Dairy Briefing)
Meanwhile, the consulting firm is investigating possible new local and regional markets and representatives of the PA Department of Agriculture has been following Wayne Tomorrow's efforts on this topic and is participating the meetings.
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 and 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 grants expire at the end of the year, but both consultants are expected to present their findings in the fall.