By: Christine Bergmark, Executive Director, Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission
Looking back over 15 years of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, I am filled with pride. We, the farmers, consumers, visionaries, staff and volunteers, have accomplished so much. Sixteen years ago, few could have envisioned Southern Maryland agriculture without tobacco. But the new crops, new markets, farm innovations, and consumer demand that followed gave hope with each fresh planting season that agriculture was and would continue to be vibrant in Southern Maryland.
New industries have flourished. Who could have imagined that our wineries would take hold? That the Buy Local Challenge we created would have been picked up in so many other states? Who in 1999 could have seen that countless consumers would be willing to pay a little more for great locally produced meats? And that agritourism would teach a new generation of children about food and farms?
We at SMADC held fast to the vision, but never could we have imagined that the new markets would be so welcoming. With a staff of 4, sometimes 5, and volunteer commissioners numbering 17, we were nimble, responsive, forward-thinking and in some ways, a laboratory for innovation for the state.
Now, as SMADC enters a new era, I encourage you all, one last time, to realize how the choices that we make every day –as legislators, county officials, tax payers and consumers- impact the future of our farms. I urge you to continue the good work that has helped evolve our farms and agriculture towards a great future.