After working at Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) for almost four years, I am heading back to Calvert County to serve as executive director of the American Chestnut Land Trust. I use my last blog post to provide my perspective on farming in Maryland.
First, I will confess that I was wrong about farming when I was involved in land preservation in Calvert for 32 years. I used to say that if you preserve land, then there will be farmers who step up and use it. I have since learned that food business trends, production surpluses and global trade agreements in the 20th century eliminated most profitable farming options on the East Coast.
I have concluded that if there is going to be farming in Maryland by the end of the 21st century, our citizens will have to care about and support farmers. The local food movement matters for jobs creation, food security and food safety and it should expand into other farming and forestry products if we care about our working landscapes and the Bay.
My next observation is that the tobacco buyout was the greatest thing that happened to Southern Maryland farmers. It enabled them to move out of an industry that was slowly dying and to look into other farming opportunities. More importantly, it created SMADC, with its dedicated, hardworking staff. The Commission, formed primarily of farmers but also Extension, economists and elected officials, has created farmer opportunities, branding and outreach that simply would not have happened otherwise. The successes are pretty amazing.
Obviously, none are going into farming to get rich. They care about food, they want to do something that is real and they are either fearless, or they simply want to raise food despite their fears. I have always been impressed by the resourcefulness of farmers and our newest farmers show just as much grit and resolve. And they are successful.
Through it all, I am convinced that with effective community support we can promote and maintain a successful agricultural economy, promote and maintain a strong, safe, and just society, and be good stewards of the earth.
The SMADC blog will be providing fresh new perspectives as Priscilla Wentworth takes the reins, working with other staffers to generate insight into trends affecting Maryland farmers. A masters degree in Communications from Georgetown University, experience working on farms and marketing for farmers and a native Southern Marylander, Priscilla brings passion and skills to the job!
Meanwhile, I will continue to consume food from Maryland’s bounty and support our working landscapes, while working to protect its rural resources. Borrowing Wendell Berry’s quote, “it all turns on affection.” If we have affection for our communities, the Bay ecosystem, our next generation and own health, we will all continue to support the kind of work that SMADC is doing to advance Maryland agriculture.