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Beginning Farmers in Maryland Share Their Stories

Beginning Farmers in Maryland Share Their Stories

SMADC recently completed a series of six stories showcasing beginning farmers in the Mentor Match program. The project highlights the rich diversity of Maryland agriculture that is evolving to replace the centuries-old, single-crop (tobacco) model, as well as the varied backgrounds of those embarking on new farm careers today. Highlighted farms range from a flower farm in inner-city Baltimore to a produce farm on the banks of the Patuxent River. Participants are varied as well. Some are young entrepreneurs building a first business. John laquintaOthers turned to farming mid-career.

Tomorrow’s Harvest is a project by SMADC designed showcasing the varied faces of new farmers in
Maryland and the value of mentorship in agriculture. Participants were drawn from Maryland FarmLINK’s Mentor Match program, whwalker marsh tha flower factoryich pairs new farmers, including farmers branching into new types of farming, with an experienced farmer with relevant expertise.

Programs like the Mentor Match are in place to keep farming alive in our region. It’s encouraging to see people choose farming as a career, not just young people, but those of all ages. The people in these stories are the future of farming, and they are all creative and smart, and really interesting to listen to.

Funding for the Tomorrow’s harvest project was made possible by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA, Grant #2012-49400-19552), as a state-wide grant issued to SMADC and partners. In 2017 SMADC will offer the Mentor Match program to beginning farmers in the 5 counties of Southern Maryland only. If you are interested in becoming joining the program, see the details in the link below.

We want to give you a sneak peak here on the blog before it gets released next week…


Read the stories HERE!

Note: We have the comment section of the blog turned off due to spam, but we welcome comments and questions to blog posts. Please connect with us anytime at or at 301-274-1922 x.1. 

Young Farmers Create Maryland Chapter of the NYFC

Young Farmers Create Maryland Chapter of the NYFC

Maryland FarmLINK posted a blog last year about an initial meet-up to identify interests from young farmers in thefl1 region. The meeting was to discuss forming a state-wide chapter of the  National Young Farmers Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting practices and policies that will sustain young farmers now and in the future. There was much interest and enthusiasm, so, following the event, the Maryland Young Farmers Coalition (MD-YFC) was born.

The Maryland Chapter is a networking and support group made up of young and beginning farmers in the region. To date, they have engaged with over 100 of their peer farmers from across the state. Founded to provide structure

young farmer mixer
The Maryland Chapter hosts Mixer events at local farms. The next mixer is Sunday, May 1st at Monnett Farms.

for social engagement, and knowledge sharing between members, the group is focused on online and offline collaboration. They host events, set up networking sessions at local conferences and meetings, and send updates via newsletters and social media about young farmer happenings. The first mixer was hosted last fall in Mt. Airy at Milkhouse brewery and StillPoint farm. The next mixer will be May 1st at Monnett farms followed by a farmer social at Running Hare winery next door.

Additionally, the Coalition raises awareness about young farmers through their weekly Featured Maryland Young Farmer posts using the hashtag #mdyoungfarmer.

A new initiative the Coalition plans to engage in this year are Crop Mobs! Crops mobs are fun, hands-on, educational experiences that help a grower complete larger projects. Farmers and community members come together on a specific day to tackle a specific labor-intensive project, whether it be reclaiming a field from weeds, harvesting sweet potatoes, or tying up garlic.  In part, it’s about community and camaraderie. Basically, a pay it forward event to help fellow farmers.

MD-YFC leadership team, Barbara and Meredith, at Rooting DC in March.

These workshops provide an opportunity to join together and support fellow growers while learning valuable skills from experienced farmers.

The Chapter is still formalizing their structure and membership, as it continues to evolve. They may undertake policy and advocacy work, focusing on initiatives that make it difficult for young farmers to succeed. Already members have been a voice for federal legislation and advocacy by representing the National Young Farmers Coalition campaigns, such as those focused on student loan debt, access to land, and food safety/FSMA rules. Learn more about this new group here.



Chesapeake region farm conference shares knowledge, strengthens relationships

Chesapeake region farm conference shares knowledge, strengthens relationships

What better way to kick off the New Year than brushing up on farm skills, and collaborating with other food system innovators. Last week was the annual Cultivate the Chesapeake Conference, hosted by Future Harvest- Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) – and as usual, it did not disappoint!

IMG_1006 (1)
Session on turning farm food seconds into value-added products.

Although there are many winter conferences and meetings, I always return home from this one with my farm knowledge acutely sharpened. It’s a good time to meet with people you don’t see often, drawing upwards of 500 attendees from all over the food system spectrum. While the focus is on sustainable agriculture in the Chesapeake, I find the diversity it pulls from incredible– from first-year to seasoned farmers, beekeepers to livestock producers, cut flower and organic growers (hosting workshops together), local food producers to public health workers, seed companies and agriculture organizations.

The real key to success, I heard noted during the workshops, was collaboration and honest feedback with other farmers. Speakers were willing to share books, articles, and lessons learned in the field. In talking with a fellow new farmer, Karyn Owens, after a session on seed varieties, she said, “it was inspiring to see farmers come together and discuss varieties that work for them, either producing large yields or having little disease pressure, while another farmer down the road or the next county over may have different soil or type of growing condition and they prefer another crop variety. But I took away the value of knowledge sharing and being open to trying new things, because you just never know!”

Mike Liker discussing ways to finding the optimal scale for your farm.

The high energy some of the farmers spread while sharing their knowledge was also notable. That can quickly become contagious in a room full of farmers, especially beginning farmers who are just starting out, and trying to make it through initial setbacks. Dave Liker of Gorman Farm, shared his experience with growing too fast. “Don’t take on too much too fast”, he stated, “instead keep gung-hoe working hard in the areas where you’re most passionate.” Listening is key. I heard a lot of, “I’ve been there, trust me, don’t do this, instead try this…” talk at the conference.

Sessions on composting with the ever-inspiring, young farmers of Moon Valley farm helped to consider the economic differences in making compost onsite and trucking it in, and a session on cover cropping provided effective ways to build better soil. I even sat in on a session with a food producer who is taking seconds from local farms and turning them into value-added products, while providing meaningful jobs to women re-entering the job market after incarceration. We heard from powerful keynote speakers, such as Dr. Ricardo Salvador, about leveling the field for farmers success and healthy food. Another Keynote (who considers the Chesapeake region home), Natasha Bowens, spoke about diversity in farming throughout history in America, which she wrote about in her new book, “The Color of Food.”

Young Farmer Meet-up.

Although insightful in itself, I was not just there to listen, but also co-host an interest gathering with the Wallace Center on food hub research, and the potential for Maryland. Maryland food hubs (new and emerging) attended, as well as farmers thinking about selling to food hubs, and farmers who currently sell to food hubs through Tuscarora Organic Growers cooperative, who also happened to be in the room. The discussion focused on where we are as a sector, food hub challenges, and how to keep the momentum going. The gathering provided feedback and information that will help shape a report due out in the spring on the market potential for Maryland food hubs.

Despite all this, I may have been most excited to help organize a young farmer meet-up during the conference with the Maryland Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee and the Maryland Young Farmers Coalition (a new chapter of the NYFC). Leaders and members of each group, along with other young farmers, came together to learn about how to get engaged and involved. Young farmer groups like these are important to the future of farming in this region that is losing farmers, and farm knowledge, at too fast a pace.

It seems evident (in this day in age) to network and share with peers. Remember to check Maryland FarmLINK and Friday’s Weekly Round-up email which includes upcoming conferences, events, properties, and news relevant to Maryland and regional farming.


Saving Family Farms in Maryland

Saving Family Farms in Maryland

photo5 (2)This week sure is the week of farm conferences and events!  We will report on some of them in the coming weeks, but this week we’ve revived a series of posts on “Saving family farms in Maryland”. The series addresses many of the challenges and opportunities we face in farming in Maryland, and will likely continue to face. Perhaps with a look back at them we can charge ourselves with a few new tasks as we make our way into the new year.

  1. Saving family farms in Maryland – access to land This post includes information about FarmLINK’s Property Exchange and other free resources like zoning maps and land preservation easements, as well as improving communication between young and beginning farmers and retired farm owners.
  2. Saving family farms in Maryland – infrastructure solutions Beginning farmers often have difficulty finding land that also has the infrastructure amenities they need. In this post common infrastructure needs are covered like water, fencing, housing (tiny house information included), and lease agreements.
  3. Saving family farms in Maryland – the right regulatory environment To dispel any hope of simplicity, no county zoning regulations are the same. Each is patterned to address citizen concerns, etc. but a table and links are offered in this post to help farmers sell value-added farm products and with agri-tourism uses.
  4. Saving family farms in Maryland – level access to markets How to create a level access to markets is the topic of this last blog which offers why consumers are demanding more local food and helpful solutions to obtaining access for farmers to sell in more places.


Beginning Farmers Unite at Mentor Match Meeting

Beginning Farmers Unite at Mentor Match Meeting

SMADC is delighted to be part of the Maryland Collaborative for Beginning Farmer Success which received a three year grant from the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. SMADC has supported the effort with enhanced resources on the Maryland FarmLINK website and managing the Mentor Match Program for beginning farmers.


This past Monday we held the annual Mentor Match meeting. Over 20 Maryland farmers came together around the table, farmers who are interested in helping one another grow the next generation of farmers. The Mentor Match program connects new farmers with experienced farmers in the region. The annual meeting is the one time of year that brings them all together to connect. The evening started with SMADC offering an overview of the program,  equipment available for rent, and the emergence of food hubs in the region. Paul Goeringer, University of Maryland Extension, followed with a presentation on farm labor issues, crop insurance and leasing laws in Maryland.

2015 mentees
Photo of some of the 2015 mentees! SMADC will be doing a similar set of stories of this group for the Tomorrow’s Harvest website in early 2016.

Most of the time was dedicated to the Mentees, who had the chance to network with each other (many for the first time) and share information about what they were up to on the farm. The mentees gave examples of how they worked with their mentors, and expressed appreciation for the ability to communicate with them often, and make connections that will last beyond the mentor program.

As the age of the average farmer continues to rise, programs like the Mentor Match are in place to keep farming– not just alive– but thriving in our region. There are many barriers for new farmers, such as high cost of land and having access to necessary infrastructure, which prevent many new farmers (and especially young farmers) from being profitable. A mentor to lean on, someone with expert knowledge and wisdom, provides the new farmer with information that can prevent a costly mistake or two in those first few years.  This was echoed around the room.mentor Match Food

Collectively, the group felt it was helpful to have someone to work with who has the same communication style, since farmers are constantly ‘on the go” during the season. One Mentor Match team told us they preferred to use texting and picture messaging while in the field. The mentee said he would send pictures of insect-ridden crops to his mentor, and the mentor said she would send the same photo right back, providing assurance that, “don’t worry, I’m dealing with it too! And here’s an idea of what you can do about it.” The mentee shared that these situations gave a quick and helpful solution, but also some encouragement. Others also mentioned that living close to each other was a bonus, allowing them to take advantage of bulk purchasing and shared equipment.

Menu featuring organic produce from Jug Bay (’15Mentor), Good Fortune (’14Mentor), and Prickly Pear (’15Mentor) farms, and local meat and cheese from P.A. Bowen farm and eggs from Locust farm.

And, I have to mention the catering for the event because, well it’s exactly what this meeting was about– helping local farmers. Pineapple Alley Catering made us chili (one veggie and one beef). The produce, meat, and cheese came from three of the farmers sitting in the room that very night, which the caterer could identify by first name. It stands to reason, that if we are going to be meeting to talk about the food we are growing, we should carefully consider the food we are consuming at that meeting too.

The feedback from the meeting was what we had hoped– many of the farmers had formed valuable connections through the program that now allows them to share community resources with each other. If that’s not one way of building a stable regional food system, I don’t know what is!

For more information on the Collaborative beginning farmer program led by University of Maryland Extension, and our other partners, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Future Harvest CASA, visit the Beginning Farmer Success website. The grant funding has come to an end; however SMADC is excited to be able to continue to fund the Mentor Match program in 2016 for farmers who are farming in the five counties of Southern Maryland. To apply to be a part of our Mentor Match Program in 2016 or just to learn more about it, click here.

Tomorrow’s Harvest: Beginning farmers share their stories

Tomorrow’s Harvest: Beginning farmers share their stories


SMADC has launched a new webpage called Tomorrow’s Harvest showcasing a series of stories about farmers in SMADC’s Mentor Match Program. Eight mentee farmers of the inaugural program agreed to share their stories in hopes that their experiences will be useful to others just beginning the journey.

Cathy Tipper, of Roberts Roost Farm and 2014 Mentee, rinses a cluster of bright-green sorrel just picked from the field. click the photo for the full story.
Cathy Tipper, of Roberts Roost Farm and 2014 Mentee, rinses a cluster of bright-green sorrel just picked from the field. Click the photo for Cathy’s story.

As the age of the average farmer continues to rise, programs like the Mentor Match are in place to keep farming alive in our region. High cost of land and necessary infrastructure to get started prevent many new farmers, and especially young farmers, from being profitable. During their time in the program, mentees work with an experienced mentor farmer who agreed to help grow the next generation of farmers in the region. The mentee visits the mentors farm and vice versa. They are encouraged to call the mentor with questions and occasionally the mentor contacts the mentee to see how things are going.

“I was trying to find more experienced people so I don’t make the same mistakes, especially as I’m scaling up…That’s one of the reasons to have someone in your region versus the Internet. The Internet doesn’t ask you how you’re doing. It doesn’t empathize,” Emma Jagoz of Moon Valley Farm says of her experience with the Mentor Match. “I wanted to be in the program forever.”

Generations ago, a parent or neighbor who lived on the adjacent farm could answer the questions of a new farmer. Today, the parent of a new farmer may not have farmed, the closest farm might be miles away, and a farmer with experience in a specific crop might be several counties away. A mentee can lean on someone with expert knowledge and wisdom, providing the new farmer with information that can prevent costly mistakes.

"The [mentor] made sure I had everything ready to go for market." --Jackson Webb, Mentee
“The [mentor] made sure I had everything ready to go for market.” –Jackson Webb, Mentee. Click on the picture to read Jackson’s full story.
“It has been such a joy to learn about and work with our farm mentees. They exhibit a passion for growing food and a quiet resolve to make a difference in their communities. Through the Mentor Match Program, mentees learn about tricks of the trade from a farmer experienced in their line of work, while mentors get to see farming through new eyes. The matches often form great relationships where both parties learn something,” said Greg Bowen, former Maryland FarmLINK Director at SMADC.

The beginning farmer stories are available online here.  The next round of stories will be added in the fall. If you are interested in the Mentor Match program, we have  rolling application process for mentees, you can fill out the form here. Contact us at or call 301-274-1922 x1 to become a mentor!


Maryland FarmLINK continues to gain ground building connections for the region

Maryland FarmLINK continues to gain ground building connections for the region

As we move into fall, it marks a good time to look back and reflect, as Maryland FarmLINK just finished the year-end report. FarmLINK helps aspiring farmers locate farmland and find mentors and partners. FarmLINK provides a forum for all farmers to exchange and ask questions, and provides information such as where to find equipment for rent, workshops, land, and general farming news. The popularity of the website continues to grow with visits to the site increasing 134%, to 124,000 in FY’15 and we are thrilled to see so many farmers engaging. We believe that many farmers and local food producers are using FarmLINK as their main resource for updates and information in Maryland.

This is important because within the next 20 years, 75% of the Maryland’s farmland will change hands. The average age of a principal farmer in Maryland is 59 and the average age of the former tobacco farmers is well into the 70s. Add to that, less than 5% of Maryland farmers are under 35 years of age. If we want to continue to build upon local food systems, we must help to grow the growers.

Growing new farmers

Couple farmers, Ross and Leah, article about the mentor match program. (Click to view article)

Access to land remains a top concern, as land values in Maryland are nearly three times the national average. Also, most farmland offered for sale is sold through a realtor, but realtors are not always familiar with the unique characteristics of selling farmland, and may not be not aware that FarmLINK exists. Many beginning farmers consider leasing farmland to be the most feasible way to start. This past year, we were happy to see several new farmers make leasing arrangements through FarmLINK. Our hope is to connect all types of farms:  large-scale farm operators, hobby farmers and beginning farmers looking for their first farm to lease or own.

Furthermore, new farmers who did not grow up on a farm lack access to experienced farmers who can act as mentors. FarmLINK’s Mentor Match program pairs experienced farmers (mentors) with new or transitioning farm owners/operators (mentees) for one-on-one training, advice and interaction. To date, over 46 applications have been received and 17 matches have been formalized.

A recent example, is a couple who signed up for FarmLINK for the property exchange and mentor program. They stated their specifications and were then linked up with Yates Clagett, a Prince George’s County cattle grazier, who had a vacant tenant house and a few small fields that had been laying fallow since the days of growing tobacco.
The mentor program will continue for the southern Maryland region in 2016, you can sign up here. In efforts to foster continual learning, FarmLINK is excited to announce a developing series of mentee profiles, which will be showcased online in October.

Outreach to all Maryland farmers

FarmLINK maintains a current calendar of upcoming seminars, workshops and other educational opportunities around the region which averages 30-50 listings at any time.  in 2015 staff expanded on the resource section which provides tutorials on soil analysis, planning and zoning information, farm equipment for rent, a guide to acidified foods, a realtor guide (and list of realtors familiar with selling farmland), and others.

The blog continues to receive 3,000 to 9,000 views per month. The Facebook page is growing as a news source and a place for people to communicate real time (viewers increased 60% in 2015). The Twitter feed posts the top tweets per week on current farming stories and events around the state and country (increased by over 100 followers this year). The Weekly Roundup is sent by email on Friday morning and highlights the best of the week on FarmLINK (over 1500 subscribers, you can sign up here).


Maryland FarmLINK is gaining traction as a web tool and resource to help farmers get access to land or expand their operation. As we’ve mentioned before, a website is just a tool—but it can be an important vehicle that leads to one of the largest investments a farmer makes—his/her land and farm operation. The support of many has been critical to building the capacity of farmers in the region and strengthening networks to improve success. There is still much work to be done, but the future of farming has a chance in this region— we must keep it alive!


Interview: Farmer, Susie Hance-Wells, Part 1

Interview: Farmer, Susie Hance-Wells, Part 1

As part of the weekly blog post series, Maryland FarmLINK will begin to feature an interview with a farmer or local food advocate occasionally.

The first interview is with Susie Hance-Wells of Taney Place farm in Calvert County. The farm recently started a new retail venture called Battle Creek Beef.

Maryland FarmLINK: Will you tell us about yourself?

Susie: The farm has been in the family since 1800. I was born and raised here on the farm. I am the 8th generation and my son just had a little boy who is the 10th generation on this farm. We are vested in this land and want to make it as sustainable as possible so that it can support each generation with fulltime farmers. I always wanted to be outside and farm with my dad since being a young girl. Susie Hance-WellsWhen it was time for me to go to school I decided to go to University of Delaware and study agriculture. It was 1973, and I was the only girl in a lot of my classes. My advisor told me women could not be farmers and I had to pick a career that woman could do. So I started in agriculture journalism, which was very interesting, but I quickly realized that it was not for me. I switched over to focus on livestock management and agriculture education.

I came home to the farm in 1977. My dad was the Maryland secretary of agriculture at the time so he wasn’t always available to be on the farm and the farm manager here was leaving. My dad asked if I could stay through the summer to manage the farm until he could find somebody else. I said that was fine and turned down the job offers that I had. One month led to the next, I started getting my own cattle, my own tobacco crop. I started vesting myself into the farm and then I didn’t want to leave. It was not a conscious decision at that time that I was going to stay home and be a farmer. It just happened.

Maryland FarmLINK: Will you tell us about your new venture, Battle Creek Beef, and what you grow and produce on the farm?

Susie: We own 320 acres here and we lease another 400 acres. The farm has traditionally been a tobacco and livestock farm, but the main source of income was always tobacco. We transitioned from tobacco before the buyout, and came up with new ways to keep the farm sustained. I have done cattle, sheep, feeder hogs, all of which were sold to specialty markets or individual consumers. We have also boarded horses over the years, up to 35 at a time, and built an indoor arena. We boarded horses for 18 years, which gave us that cash flow to do some innovative things on the farm, like upgrade our equipment.BCB16

Recently, my son came home to farm and we made the decision to transition away from horses. We looked at a range of different options, but the one we were most set up for was cattle. We already had our fields fenced, automatic waters, feeders, the silo and our cattle barns were established. We decided that cattle seemed to have the least amount of investment to start the new enterprise, Battle Creek Beef. We sell beef by the cut now and at a farmers market. We sold our first cuts this past July. We also purchase from a farm we have a close relationship with in Southwest Virginia. He supplies what we cannot yet produce. We are up to 20 cows here on the farm and we hope to get up to about 35 cows. Anything over that we need, we plan to buy through our friend who will sell us his weened calves. We do this because it is important for us to have the same genetics, but we realize that it will take us anywhere from five to ten years to get to that scale on our own. Lastly, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. Soy beans, wheat, hay and corn are currently raised here on the farm. We also breed Labrador retrievers.

Maryland FarmLINK: Do you have any tips or advice for new and beginning farmers?

I used to be a young and beginning farmer [laughs]. Dad and I farmed together for a while but then he stepped back. He was good about letting me try new things. When I came home, I thought I knew it all. I had been to school for 4 years, I was going to tell him how to farm! And I quickly realized that what was in the books has to be mixed with practical experience. I realized that by listening to the older farmers, and learning from their experiences, that is ultimately where you really gain as a farmer.

I think that would be the advice to new and beginning farmers. Do your research, but use the knowledge that the seasoned farmers have. Seek advice from them, it can save you a lot of heartache and money. The new ideas are great, and combined, the two can make a very progressive farm. I have made a lot of mistakes, and farmers can learn from those. They can also learn from the successes that I have made from making those mistakes. BCB2It is very important to be educated and keep up with the newest innovations, but then to also go and talk to people. If you are going into chickens, go talk to those chicken farmers and see what they have done. More than likely, if they are still in business, they are doing something right.

You also ask me about advice to young farmers. If you have an idea, do not give up! Anything is possible if you are willing to put the hard work in. A lot of times the older generation will say, and my father was no different, “that’ll never work” or “you don’t want to get into that”. If you really believe that it could work, and you can do a business plan and show that you can make this happen, you can make that dream come true.

This post is part of a two-part interview. Coming next week, Susie’s perspective on creating a better food system and the role of agriculture in local communities.

Wildlife. If you can’t beat them, join them

Wildlife. If you can’t beat them, join them

By Priscilla Wentworth and Susan McQuilkin, SMADC

Increasingly farmers are up against wildlife management for both crop damage and food safety. As  wildlife habitat areas near production fields are being cleared, we are dramatically changing farming landscape. Across the U.S., researchers are now realizing that eradicating habitat around farm fields is not necessarily making food safer from pathogens. For example, it has been noted that farms which cleared away wildlife habitat, after the west coast spinach scare contamination, E. Coli becquote.wildlife.on.farmsame more common.

There seems to be value in living with the natural vegetation of the land and using it to your advantage in farming. For a while it seemed agriculture moved away from this model and we still see buyers demanding unrealistic food safety standards.

Perhaps, finding ways to coexist might ultimately be the best way to preserve wildlife and ensure farming practices that promote stewardship of the land. How might we best coexist with the true owners of the land, the creatures of the wild?

A few promising practices to deter wildlife

  • planting low-risk crops between leafy green vegetables and pathogen sources (e.g., grazeable lands)
  • buffering farm fields with noncrop vegetation to filter pathogens from runoff
  • attracting livestock away from upstream waterways with water troughs, food supplements, and feed
  • creating secondary treatment wetlands and high-intensity grazing operations
  • exposing compost heaps to high temperatures through regular turning to enhance soil fertility without compromising food safety
  • maintaining diverse wildlife communities with fewer competent disease hosts (For these tips and more from this source see here and here.)

Producers of vegetables and fruits may also consider planting low-risk crops (requiring cooking before consumption) like corn and sweet potatoes as buffers along perimeters where wildlife graze and enter the fields. And reserve the middle sections of the fields for the high-risk crops (most commonly consumed raw) like tomatoes or textured surface vegetables such as broccoli that can host harmful bacteria. More information about high-risk and low-risk crops from Maryland Department of Agriculture can be found here.deer

Additionally, fencing, hoop houses, high tunnels, and greenhouses – although not the perfect solution – can help to minimize exposure of crops to pests and wildlife. Additionally, a landowner or agricultural lessee of a farm, may request that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) investigate damage caused by deer for the purpose of having the Department reduce the deer population in the area. Factors such as time of year and deer population are considered for crop damage permits.


For many farmers keeping food safe is a precarious balance between realistic, achievable safe agricultural practices and the need to be profitable, or at least break even! Producers of vegetables, fruits, and livestock are not the only farmers experiencing profit loss from wildlife damage.  Some in the Maryland agritourism industry are intentionally planting food “sacrifice areas” or “food plots” for deer to protect their corn mazes and agricultural education plots. Many farms depend on these seasonal sales for year-round survival.

Where we seek to upset the balance of nature we often create bigger problems as a result, so it behooves us to find ways to live alongside the wildlife while keeping our food safe and farms profitable.

Is America ready for “share-farm”?

Is America ready for “share-farm”?

We have all seen the trend toward larger farms, especially for commodity crops, dairy and tractorlarge-scale poultry operations. Closely related to that trend is the loss of younger farmers, particularly in the types of farm sectors that require major investments to start. Simply said, if you don’t inherit a large-scale operation, you can’t afford to buy the farm, or even the equipment to farm. The logical, long-term outcome of those trends is either corporate ownership of all such farms or the end of the industry, especially in places like Maryland with high land values.

bfsWith a grant from USDA, University of Maryland Extension initiated a Beginning Farmer Success program in 2012 to help new farmers get started. Extension also collaborated with two non-profits: Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission which initiated a Mentor Match Program and Future Harvest CASA, which utilized the funds to enhance its Beginning Farmer Training Program.  These programs have been successful, particularly for vegetable, fruit and small-scale poultry producers. Both non-profits hope to continue to assist beginning farmers even after the grant period ends August 31st.

However, neither program has been able to help beginning commodity farmers or large-scale livestock farmers to get their start.

In the UK, a new program is getting started called  share-farm, a national “matching service’ to bring retiring farmers together with aspiring new entrants. The goal is to create a pilot farm business matching service for young or new entrepreneurs seeking land and joint ventures with owners who have land to offer.

Such a program would be very useful in the U.S.! Who is ready to take the lead?



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