Historical and Impactful: Frederick County Office of Agriculture

Office of Ag staff

Preserving the future of agriculture in Frederick County for generations to come

Now that the Office of Agriculture is established and staff members have hit the ground running, the time has come to share how this historical moment came to fruition.

Upon the election of County Executive Fitzwater in December of 2022, her administration prioritized inclusion, sustainability and accountability. A transition team of more than 130 residents and stakeholders was assembled to establish goals for the administration while allowing opportunities for the public to share input. Transition team members were divided into committees to focus on key priorities. “What does this have to do with the Office of Ag?”, you might ask. The Sustainability, Infrastructure and Transportation transition workgroup initially proposed the creation of a Frederick County Office of Agriculture.

Word of this recommendation spread throughout the community, initiating advocacy amongst individuals and community organizations following the County Executive’s transition process. Strong supporters, Mobilize Frederick and the Frederick County Farm Bureau led the initiative and urged the County to move forward with the establishment of the office to elevate the industry in Frederick County. Agriculture is Maryland’s leading commercial industry with an economic impact of over $1 Billion in Frederick County alone.

During County Executive Fitzwater’s first State of the County address on October 25, 2023, she announced the creation of the County’s first-ever Office of Agriculture as one of her key initiatives. Combining the Ag Business Development Team from the Office of Economic Development and the Ag Preservation Staff from the Division of Planning and Permitting would provide enhanced support by streamlining processes for farms and ag businesses.

Office of Ag ribbon cuttingFebruary 20, 2024, signified the official ribbon cutting and open house for the new office. Community members showed up in vast numbers to share their support, proving the positive impact of this change. The Office of Agriculture’s mission is to preserve Frederick County’s farming heritage, assist farmers in their endeavors and promote a thriving agricultural sector. Upon the announcement of Katie Stevens as Director to lead the Office of Ag, an Agricultural Strategic Plan was announced as the inaugural priority. The plan will focus on building the strength and economic vitality of the local agriculture, food and beverage industries. A team of professionals from Maryland company, ACDS, LLC., have begun collecting pertinent data surrounding the county’s agriculture industries, food and beverage processing, and local food system. This study will aggregate and compose data into a report outlining strategies and goals for the office into the future. Key components of the ag strategic plan will include the identification and analysis of resources and opportunities, a strength, weaknesses, opportunity and threat analysis and consumer demand profiles. Frederick County’s previous ag strategic plan was completed in 2008 and the landscape of the local industry has drastically changed since then.

Farm view

Staff is hopeful about the future of the new office and the opportunity for the expansion of resources and scope of work. Director, Katie Stevens shared, “The creation of an Office of Agriculture marks a pivotal step in Frederick County’s commitment to supporting Frederick County’s Agriculture community, the office will not only preserve our agricultural heritage but also preserve the farmer to ensure that farms can flourish.” As the county’s agricultural landscape continues to evolve, government, organizations and community members must all work together to preserve both Frederick County’s farmland and farmers. Preservation of the industry is imperative to sustain the beautiful rural landscape and help local ag businesses remain economically viable for future generations. Agriculture is a livelihood for local farmers and a lifeline for the community in providing access to fresh local foods.

Visit the Office of Ag website and view the County’s Office Spotlight video below to learn more about the new office. For the latest information on Frederick County agriculture, follow us on Facebook and Instagram and visit www.HomegrownFrederick.com to learn where to purchase local products, find farmers’ markets and craft beverage businesses and so much more!