Economic Development Plan for Agriculture

2018 Study Complete

The county received a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to help fund an agriculture economic development study that considers 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.

Agriculture IconsmallThe 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 last spring, conducting dozens of interviews with agricultural stakeholders including business owners, entrepreneurs, farmers and government officials. Out of those meetings rose a need for specific forums to focus on dairy farmers and livestock producers. (Read the Dairy Briefing)

 Meanwhile, the consulting firm investigated possible new local and regional markets. In general, the Economic Development Plan for Agriculture looked at how the “rapidly changing economy is impacting the efficiency and profitability of the agricultural sector and thus that of the entire county.”

Gotwalls issued his final report at the Wayne County Ag Day in February and spoke about the findings of the study.

Working Group Co-Chair Jane Bollinger said, “We need the farmers to revitalize the agriculture industry. We need the farmers to work with Wayne Agriculture Tomorrow to address their needs. Their involvement in the implementation is key to its success.”

Bollinger said, with the release of the plan, the working group now focuses its energy on the four cornerstone recommendations in the report:

  • Helping support beginning farmers and an entrepreneurial culture;
  • Modernizing local infrastructure including broadband internet, improved cell phone coverage and better roads;
  • Targeting the development of related food and processing industries, known as a cluster; and
  • Finding the public and private funding for agriculture projects.

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 needed to move this and other initiatives forward. These consultants looked into community philanthropy, alternate funding models, models for engaging young adults and even downtown revitalization and place-making models.

A draft of the Community Investment Model report is currently being reviewed by the County Commissioners.