Maryland FarmLINK posted a blog last year about an initial meet-up to identify interests from young farmers in the 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
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.
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.