Howard County Creates New Office of Agriculture

December 2023

Howard County has created a new Office of Agriculture – only the third in Maryland – to bring together agricultural programs and staff closer to the County’s farming community in a shared space at West Friendship Park in support of farms and farmers.

“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,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “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,” said Kevin Atticks, Secretary of Agriculture, Maryland Department of Agriculture. “It’s an acknowledgment of the incredible importance of the industry to the county and its residents.”

In its location 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 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.

As 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.