Senate bill would help launch new ag center

Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 31, 2015) — A Senate bill under consideration would provide $150,000 in startup cash for an ambitious agricultural center in Harford County, a project envisioned by new county Executive Barry Glassman.
The bill would provide the money to a new foundation’s board of directors to pay for construction analysis for an unnamed site in Harford County — a site the county already owns, Glassman said.
The center would consolidate the county’s agricultural offices and services and allow outside Harford County institutions, such as Aberdeen Proving Ground, to join forces with farmers and agricultural professionals under one roof, he said — figuratively speaking.
“It’s sort of a campus approach,” he said. “I don’t envision this being under one building.”
The center, which would include labs and other facilities, would create agriculture-related research jobs that could link institutions working on issues such as food safety and bioterrorism with local organizations already devoted to agriculture such as North Harford High School and its agricultural magnet program, Glassman said.
The focus would be on STEM — science, technology, education and mathematics — issues in agriculture.
“When those young people go get their advanced degrees, we hope to bring them back here for those jobs,” he said.
It would include a “commercial kitchen,” he said, which would allow farmers to rent the facility for the production of products such as produce, crafts or bakery items.
Eventually, it could be a center that would include facilities for large livestock shows and entertainment events such as concerts.
“We’re kind of at the infancy of it,” Glassman said. “Animal livestock is shrinking as far as larger operations. We’ve become more of a niche market.
“We’re trying to cobble together a plan to help us go into the future.”
The bill is sponsored by three members of the Senate leadership: President Mike Miller, D-Calvert, Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, R-Harford and Majority Leader Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore City.