First-ever EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator for Black farmers launches in Maryland, sponsored by CareFirst

The American Heart Association, supported by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst), is launching a business accelerator that is, for the first time, focused on farmers.

EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ – Maryland Black Farmers is an effort to identify and support Black farmers in Maryland, create business solutions to social and economic challenges impacting communities that the American Heart Association serves, and increase access to healthy foods.

Selected candidates will receive training in business and brand storytelling, work with a cohort of other Maryland Black farmers, and share their story at an in-person event in February for a chance to receive $72,000 in grant funding.

“Many Black entrepreneurs and farmers center social justice in what they do,” said Rhonda Ford Chatmon, Vice President of Community Impact for the American Heart Association, Baltimore and Greater Maryland division. “They have the potential to change behaviors, expand access to resources and improve the long-term health of all people in Maryland.”

Through the Accelerator, the American Heart Association and CareFirst seek to reduce the disparity of Black farmers’ representation and economic participation in Maryland’s agriculture sector, increase economic opportunity for Black farmers in the state and improve access to healthy food.

“At CareFirst, we recognize that members of communities across the mid-Atlantic region face various challenges when it comes to managing their health, many of which require access to resources outside of clinical settings,” said Lester Davis, Vice President and Chief of Staff for CareFirst.

“For example, someone’s ability to access healthy food options can directly impact their health, potentially leading to the development of chronic conditions. Not only does this program seek to address physical health through nutritious food, it intends to create economic opportunities for underserved and under-resourced areas throughout the region.”

Maryland Black farmers can apply through the EmPOWERED to Serve website. Applications will be accepted through Monday, Oct. 2. Training will take place November through January, and the finale will be hosted at CareFirst’s headquarter office in Baltimore during American Heart Month in February 2024.

The EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator is a national American Heart Association program that provides social entrepreneurs, startups and businesses focusing on health impact the tools and support to grow and scale. Through this opportunity, the Association provides business training, grants and a lasting connection to our organization.

For more information about the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ – Maryland Black Farmers, visit: