Last week, I wrote that I would be attending the 2014 Maryland Land Preservation Conference and I promised to write a followup as a result of the session. The trip gave me the opportunity to visit one of my favorite Maryland towns (Frederick) and to accept an invitation to visit the Fox Haven Organic Farm and Learning Center.
Frederick boasts some excellent restaurants, many of which use locally-sourced food. I don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg, but Frederick also has the most organic farms in the state, many which sell directly to consumers and restaurants.
I arrived at Fox Haven Organic Farm at 7:15 a.m. to meet with the staff. I wanted to know more about their operation and they wanted to know more about Maryland FarmLINK, the Mentor Match Program and other opportunities to expand the local food movement. Fox Haven Organic Farms raises organic hay and vegetables, has planted over 75,000 indigenous trees to restore riparian buffer zones and create wildlife habitat and leases land for rotational grazing on 600 acres near Jefferson Maryland.
The Learning Center has youth programs, classes, workshops, and events for the public, as well as facilities to rent for weddings and overnight stays. We had a lively discussion about how they could help more aspiring farmers to get started.
Also, I learned that Frederick County already has organizations that aggregate and distribute local food. Hometown Harvest delivers local farm products door-to-door. South Mountain Creamery processes its own milk and uses 25 drivers to deliver milk and eggs and other goods to 8,500 homes throughout the region. They also source items from other farmers to expand the offerings that they take door-to-door. These types of secondary, or intermediated, sales really expand the reach of farmers and opportunities for more farmers to take part.
By 9:30 a.m., I was at the Claggett Center in Adamstown, where the Maryland Environmental Trust hosted approximately 200 Maryland land preservation experts from county governments, local land trusts and national land trusts. My session, Helping the Next Generation of Farmers Get Access to Farmland, was well attended. Ike Wilson, a reporter from the Frederick News Post attended the session and turned in this article: Land Preservation Conference Highlights the Need for Affordable Farmland and More Farmers.
At least partially because of the high price of land and equipment, most beginning farmers are attracted to small-scale vegetable, poultry or livestock operations. While such operations require less land, they have special needs many commodity farmers don’t have, such as access to water and housing.
We discussed the following ways that land trusts can help beginning farmers to get established, some of which a few land trusts are already doing:
- Sell or lease land trust lands to farmers, particularly beginning farmers,
- Consider using existing trust land for community CSAs or incubator farms,
- Be advocates for beginning farmers
- Help them identify farms with land suited for their farming needs
- Work with realtors to post properties suited for farming
- Be a part of the Maryland FarmLINK Team by helping to identify properties that may be suited for posting on the site for sale or lease.
Maryland Environmental Trust and the other attendees should be proud of their efforts to preserve nearly 800,000 acres of farmland in Maryland. A vision of Rand Wentworth, President of the Land Trust Alliance, includes, “We are all working for the day when . . .we have fresh, local food and strong rural economies. .” The work continues!