Maryland State highway wildlife warning signs are different in Western Maryland than most of the rest of the state. There is a bear symbol next to the deer symbol! And of course I knew that farmers there have to deal with more snow and a shorter growing season, but was a little surprised to learn at the Agronomy meeting last weekend that mysterious circles in corn fields may be caused by bears!
I did enjoy the mountain views, the quaint farms quilting the valleys and talking with folks from this part of the state who seem to harken back to a gentler time. History is present whenever you turn onto Route 40.
Agriculture is a major industry in Garrett County with 95,000 acres of farmland and 677 farms according to the 2007 census and a total value of sales that would embarrass a number of flatter counties east of the mountains. As with most of the Agronomy meetings in the state this year, presenters warned of lower commodity crop prices. Extension agent Willie Lantz discussed ways for corn farmers to maintain profitability during challenging times.
At the Mountain Top Fruit and Vegetable Growers Meeting the following day, I got a chance to talk with a number of producers about the Beginning Farmer Success Program, Maryland FarmLINK, Mentor Match Program, Future Harvest CASA Training Program, etc. According to Willie, number of attendees was up from previous years. One of the display tables held resource information from the Garrett Growers Cooperative, a food hub supplying restaurants in the County. Participating farmers hope that the Coop will be an effective way to improve profitability by aggregating and distributing food to reach broader markets without leaving the farm.
Maryland is America in miniature, from the sandy beaches and coastal areas in the East to the mountains in the West. With the thick coat of snow and ice, I didn’t get a chance to see the famous Deep Creek Lake in its full splendor. However, I did get to see a mountain region with an agriculture community that seems to be doing OK.