Queen Anne’s County Economic & Tourism Development (QACETD) hosted its first Field to Table event celebrating small agricultural entrepreneurs on June 8, 2023. For the last three years, the department has supported over 25 local agricultural businesses by providing micro grants of up to $10,000 to assist with marketing, implementing capital improvement projects, and/or conducting research through a grant fund made possible by Upper Shore Regional Council and the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners. The Field to Table event showcased the grantees’ products and connected the ag entrepreneurs with local business and community leaders.
“We’re incredibly proud of the fact that Queen Anne’s County has a thriving ecosystem of farmers and producers that are creating such unique, accessible, high-quality products,” said Rebecca Clark, the County’s Economic Development Coordinator. “What better way to celebrate them than to give our local business and community leaders the opportunity to hear their stories, sample their products, and enjoy a thoughtfully curated dinner made with products they cultivated or produced? Every one of the grantees participating tonight and the local businesses we brought in to make the evening special are contributing to the economic vitality of Queen Anne’s County. They each play a role in making it a better place to live.”
Several of the grantees have developed partnerships with one another, resulting in a multiplier effect of the funding they received. One such partnership is between Oksana Bocharaova of Oksana’s Produce Farm and David King of King Mushrooms. David is able to utilize space in Oksana’s commercial kitchen to produce value-added products that he can take to his thriving farmers market circuit, and for a small fee this access offsets a portion of Oksana’s cost to lease the commercial space.
The county’s five breweries – Big Truck Farm Brewery, Bull & Goat Brewery, Cult Classic, Patriot Acres Farm Brewery, and Ten Eyck Brewing – recently joined forces to share knowledge and resources as the Queen Anne’s County Brewers Coalition. The group used their most recent micro grant to collectively educate county residents and beyond about the history of breweries and the science of alcohol manufacturing through marketing of their Hop On: QAC Brewery Tour.
“This partnership and the ability to get to work with all of these different people and organizations has created something that not a lot of others can say they have. Queen Anne’s County is really unique,” said Jacob Heimbuch, co-owner of Bull & Goat Brewing and Old Courthouse Distillery.
The ag entrepreneurs and their products featured at the Field to Table event included: Blue Heron Farm (strawberry jam), King Mushrooms, LLC (Lions Mane mushrooms and tinctures), Mindful Acres (microgreens), Oksana’s Produce Farm (carrots and pickles), Quillen Farms (wagyu beef), SunKissed Flower Farm (flowers for the tables and an make-your-own bouquet station), Tidewater Organics (flour for dinner rolls), Tomahawk Farms (flowers and jam), Where Pigs Fly Farm (chicken, eggs), Love Point Winery, Patriot Acres Farm Brewery (goat milk soap) and each of the County’s breweries.
To complement the featured products, Chef Alicia Boyd of Humble Hearts Catering & Events curated and coordinated a lovely dinner for the attendees. Justin Crew of AP Speakeasy tended bar, serving beer, wine and spirits from QAC breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Michael Waskey Music performed, and Caroline Phillips photographed the event. All of the event vendors were also from Queen Anne’s County.
The event was originally set to take place at Godfrey’s Farm in Sudlersville, Maryland, but the air quality that day prompted a shift to an indoor venue. Kennard African American Cultural Heritage Center opened its doors to event goers and provided a beautiful, light-filled space to host the combined farmer’s market and dining experience for the evening. There were over 60 people in attendance at the event, including representatives from Senator Cardin’s office, Senator Van Hollen’s Office, Delegate Steve Arentz, Commissioners Jim Moran and Jack Wilson, the Queen Anne’s County Economic Development Commission, Upper Shore Regional Council, Chesapeake College, UMD Cooperative Extension, and Maryland Department of Commerce.
“What started out as a small idea with these micro ag grants became a collaboration between three counties and has turned out to be wildly successful. We even won an award at MACo for outstanding innovation,” shared Susan O’Neill, Executive Director of Upper Shore Regional Council.