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State funding approved to study potential Harford agricultural center sites

Harford County has secured $150,000 in state funding to study potential sites for a county agricultural center, including a property near the intersections of Routes 1 and 136 in Street, shown above.
Harford County has secured $150,000 in state funding to study potential sites for a county agricultural center, including a property near the intersections of Routes 1 and 136 in Street, shown above. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Harford County has secured $150,000 in state bond funding to study potential sites for a future agricultural center.

Legislation earmarking the funding for the Harford County Agricultural Research and Exposition Foundation was approved as the Maryland General Assembly wrapped up its 2015 session Monday night. Western Harford State Sen. J.B. Jennings was the sponsor.

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Jennings, who lives in Joppa and also represents eastern Baltimore County, said he hopes the Harford County center will be modeled after the Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park, which is off Shawan Road in Hunt Valley.

Jennings said the Baltimore County center was built about eight years ago and has become a hub for county, state and federal agencies related to agriculture, as well as agricultural events, classes and seminars, even a farmers' market.

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"Hopefully, everything will be located in one spot and make it more efficient for farmers," he said of the proposed Harford County center.

Jennings said he was glad to work with Glassman, his former Senate colleague, "and get the money so we could get the ball rolling on the project."

Harford County administration spokesperson Cindy Mumby said the state money, which will be matched by the county, will be used to investigate potential sites for "a potential agricultural research and exposition center."

Mumby said the county owns land that could be used for the project, which could be a single building or a campus, but that land's suitability must be assessed before anything is decided.

"This is a project in the infancy stages," Mumby said.

She said the state funds will be contributed to the Harford County Agricultural Research and Exposition Foundation, which was set up through the county administration to obtain corporate donations and state and federal grants.

County Executive Barry Glassman has been seeking support and money for a center he expects will generate jobs and promote Harford's agricultural heritage.

"The overall vision is to build on our agricultural heritage to promote good jobs and business development," Mumby said.

She said the center, if developed, would initially have laboratory space, where students and researchers from Harford can coordinate with Aberdeen Proving Ground and conduct research on matters such as food safety and bioterrorism prevention.

"We have young people who go to college, they get degrees in STEM, and this would be an opportunity for them to use [their degrees] right here in Harford County," Mumby said.

Glassman also mentioned previously that should the site chosen for the center be large enough and centrally located, it could become to a regional exposition center, as well as the site of the annual Harford County Farm Fair.

At the very least, he said he would like to see some of the property should be used for a year-round farmers market with on-site kitchen facilities.

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