The Grow It Forward fund, a collaborative effort launched in 2020 at the Community Foundation of Howard County, recently received two grants totaling $35,000 of support. First, Grow It Forward secured $20,000 in state funding in the form of a Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund (MAERDAF) grant. Then this week County Executive Calvin Ball announced Grow It Forward garnered a $15,000 Rise to the Challenge grant.
The Grow It Forward campaign aims to help meet the needs of food-insecure communities in the fall/winter months of 2020-2021 while simultaneously supporting the economic recovery of small, local farmers. Established in early June, the initial goal was to raise support to secure an additional 80,000 pounds of local food for local food pantries.
Driven by state senator Katie Fry Hester, the partnership includes the Howard County Farm Bureau, Howard County Food Bank, Maryland Food Bank, and Howard County 4-H Extension. The Grow It Forward fund has raised nearly $53,000 to date, with an anonymous donor seeding the project with a $25,000 gift. The $20,000 MAERDAF grant will go to support contract growing and gleaning efforts. The $15,000 from the county will be used specifically to purchase food from local farmers.
Established in 2000, MAERDAF offers important financial support to rural-serving nonprofit organizations that promote statewide and regional planning, economic and community development, and agricultural and forestry education efforts. The Rural Maryland Council administers MAERDAF in partnership with the Maryland Departments of Agriculture, Maryland Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Maryland Departments of Business and Economic Development, Maryland Departments of Housing and Community Development, and Maryland Departments of Natural Resources.
Between FY 2001 and 2019, the MAERDAF program awarded more than $5.4 million in grants to 145 rural-serving organizations. For fiscal year, 2020 the RMC received 177 application requesting approximately $10,521,692.00 in funding and dispersed a total of $6,291,030 to eighty-three organizations. Many rural-serving organizations have been able to establish or continue programs and projects that have had a significant and positive impact on Rural Maryland because of the MAERDAF program. Moreover, the Fund has helped many nonprofits develop institutional capacity, improve grant-writing skills, and enhance the internal development of volunteer boards and staff.
Earlier this week Ball announced $1.5 million in Rise to the Challenge grants to 40 Howard County nonprofits, including CFHoCo. The Rise to the Challenge grants are funded through the CARES Act. “Howard County’s vibrant nonprofit organizations continue to give me hope – they show us every day that if we work together, we can tackle any obstacle. For many of the nonprofit organizations that provide vital services to our community, COVID has depleted their ability to fundraise – and forced needed in-person services online or to the sidelines,” said Ball. “Nonprofit staff and their organizations are known for being able to stretch every dollar and make it count – even in the best economic times. However, in times like these, when we are asking them, counting on them to do more with less, they need our help too. And that’s why we’re here today, to recognize these innovative non-profits who provide jobs, value, and support to our community, and ensure that they too are able to survive.”