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Registration opens for first-ever Grow Maryland Summit on December 1: Summit explores Maryland’s agriculture industry through the lens of value-added opportunities

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Stevensville, MD – The Grow Maryland Summit: The Future of Value-Added Agriculture will be the first of its kind event, devoted to the state’s value-added agriculture industry. The conference, hosted by Grow Maryland and the Rural Maryland Council, will take place on Thursday, December 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, 500 Marina Club Rd., Stevensville, and includes numerous speakers and panel discussions.

Dr. Craig Beyrouty, dean of the University of Maryland College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, will welcome attendees. Attendees are encouraged to meet Maryland’s robust and diverse value-added agriculture industry, which includes everything from apples, ales, agritourism and angus. The morning will include a panel of experts who will provide an overview of the value-added landscape, including updates on some of the latest industry studies. In the afternoon, breakout sessions will include tracks on innovation, law and liability, trends, and tourism, as well as starting small, and scaling up.

There will be a unique one-on-one curbside consultation where potential, and current, value-added producers can meet with financiers, licensing agents and other technical consultants, about 15 in total.

Organizers hope to attract a diverse audience of farmers, small food businesses, state and county agency representatives, elected officials, and representatives from the aquaculture industry. Tickets are $60 per person, which includes full access to the conference, lunch and reception. Register online at http://www.growmaryland.org/grow-maryland-summit-dec-1-2016/.

The inaugural event comes on the heels of the “Value-Added Agriculture: A Regional Focus” report, conducted by Grow & Fortify, LLC. The Baltimore-based management firm develops and supports organizations that specialize in value-added agriculture, agritourism, craft beverages and other related industries. In 2015, Grow & Fortify launched their non-profit arm, Grow Maryland, after convening a series of listening sessions throughout the state, helping to determine the needs of the industry.

“Maryland’s agricultural industry is a quintessential driver for the state’s economy,” said Janna Howley, co-director of Grow Maryland. “This event will take a focused look at the challenges and opportunities in value-added agriculture, which is growing as farmers and processors are looking for ways to increase profitability, include new generations into family businesses, and keep agricultural lands in agriculture.”

Simply defined, value-added agriculture is altering or processing a raw agricultural product in a way to increase its value to the consumer, and in turn, bring more revenue to the farmer, producer, or processor. The driving factors for value-added agriculture are higher returns on investment, opportunity to enter new markets or extend current marketing seasons, and to create greater visibility and business opportunity within the farm operation.

“Ordinarily we would purely look at what is being produced,” said Charlotte Davis, executive director, Rural Maryland Council. “Where some of us might just see barley, for example, an entrepreneur has a vision for the value-added product that can be made using barley. This innovative thinking often leads to higher profits than those that could be made by selling the raw product alone.”

The Grow Maryland Summit is made possible through the support of numerous sponsors including: Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC), MARBIDCO, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, Maryland Farmers Market Association, Maryland Department of Agriculture, Future Harvest CASA Maryland Horse Industry Board, Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Maryland Wineries Association, Queen Anne’s County Tourism, USDA Rural Development, Maryland Distillers Guild, Brewers Association of Maryland, Preservation Maryland, Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Maryland Extension; Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center, and The Common Market Mid-Atlantic.

For information on the Grow Maryland Summit visit http://www.growmaryland.org/grow-maryland-summit-dec-1-2016/ or call (410) 252-9463.

Established in 2015, Grow Maryland is an industry-led non-profit whose mission is to support value-added agriculture and agritourism in Maryland. The organization works to promote the state’s value-added agricultural producers, agritourism operations and small food businesses that utilize Maryland-grown ingredients. Grow Maryland provides resources to streamline the regulatory process, conducts educational outreach activities, promotes value-added enterprises, and works to improve laws that support agricultural and food communities. Visit growmaryland.org or call (410) 252-9463 for more information. Connect with Grow Maryland on Facebook at facebook.com/GrowMaryland.

Founded in 1994, the Rural Maryland Council (RMC) operates under the direction of a 40-member executive board in a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory manner. It serves as the state’s federally designated rural development council and functions as a voice for rural Maryland, advocating for and helping rural communities and businesses across the state to flourish and to gain equity to its suburban and urban counterparts. RMC’s vision is the ultimate realization that citizens living in rural communities are achieving success in education and employment, have access to affordable, quality health care and other vital public services, and live in an environment where natural and cultural resources are being sustained for future generations. To learn more, call (410) 841-5774, email rmc.mda@maryland.gov  or connect with RMC at facebook.com/RuralMaryland or on Twitter @RuralMaryland.

PHOTO CAPTION
Maryland’s agricultural sector plays a pivotal role in the state’s economy. An upcoming conference, called Grow Maryland Summit: The Future of Value-Added Agriculture, will explore growing Maryland’s agricultural sector through value-added agriculture. The conference will be held at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, 500 Marina Club Rd., Stevensville, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $60 per person. Wine is only one of the many value-added products. Pictured is the Black Ankle Vineyards in Mount Airy, Md.

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