The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC), a division of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland has announced the launch of a new virtual information resource portal on small fruit and hop production for regional and statewide producers.
In 2018 and 2019, SMADC partnered with the University of Maryland Extension (UME) to offer a series of 9 workshops on everything producers need to know to grow, sell and market small fruits and hops in the Southern Maryland region and throughout the state of Maryland. All the ‘Ready to Take Root’ workshop presentations, associated research, training videos, and other resources are now available to farmers and the general public through the Small Fruits Portal at SMADC.com.
The new portal offers an extensive library of free information to view or download at any time. Workshop materials plus a gallery of video tutorials explore different production techniques and pest management for blueberries and brambles, strawberries, hops, and alternative and niche small fruit, specific to Southern Maryland’s growing region. Also featured are the results of 16 cultivar trials, conducted by UME at the Central Maryland Research and Education Center in Upper Marlboro, to determine best-recommended varieties for regional growers.
An important aspect of SMADC’s work is to ensure farmers receive the support they need to enter new markets and improve their financial sustainability. Marketing information offered in the portal’s suite of presentations is applicable to both prospective and experienced producers; topics include evaluating diverse marketing and sales strategies, building a sustainable brand, as well as tips on how to increase customer engagement and maximize the effectiveness of promotional materials and social media platforms.
The ‘Ready to Take Root’ workshop series and ‘Small Fruits Portal’ are made possible in part by a Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund Grant (RMPIF) and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Small fruits and hops were selected for this grant project because of their market profit potential for small to medium acreage farms, relatively low capital investment, and infrastructure requirements and suitability to the region. For more information on SMADC’s programs and support resources for farms, visit SMADC.com.