McHenry sees bright future in Frederick County ag
By CARYL VELISEK
FREDERICK, Md. — “Frederick County is one of the top agricultural counties in Maryland. And farming in Maryland has a very bright future — because everyone needs to eat.”
These words from keynote speaker, Steve McHenry, executive director of MARBIDCO, Maryland-Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation, greeted the 70 plus in attendance at Frederick Community College for an agricultural conference held at the college on March 10.
The conference was entitled, “Growing Frederick County Agriculture, Strategies for Economic Viability,” and is a first-time effort of FCC to reach out to the agricultural community at large.
David Croghan, associate vice-president for Learning at FCC, told the audience that agriculture is an important heritage for the county and extremely important for the economy and business development.
Last week a group of organizers met and decided to hold another conference in the fall, though further details have not been decided.
Groghan introduced McHenry, who, after explaining MARBIDCO’s history and purpose, went on to say that farmers today feel threatened by the many regulations that are being thrust upon them.
“There are lots of challenges out there,” McHenry said, “but there is always going to be a market for your products. Agriculture has always adapted to changes.”
He noted some of the county’s history starting in colonial times when Frederick was part of what is known as “The Breadbasket of the Revolution, ”and continued through the state’s evolution in agriculture from tobacco, through dairy and the state’s emergence as a diverse producer of agricultural products including grains, livestock, vegetables, orchards and vineyards, the canning industry, fisheries, fertilizers and farm implements.
McHenry also touched on the number of farms, acreage and farmers in the state and how that had changed through the years.
In many sectors of the population, farming is not thought of as a business, but a lifestyle, he noted, and ag jobs tend not to be high paying jobs in the urban mindset.
In 2004, MARBIDCO was started to aid in developing agricultural industries and markets.
It took about three years to get funded, McHenry said.
“In short, MARBIDCO’s mission is to help Maryland’s farm, forest and seafood businesses achieve sustainable viability and profitability now and into the future,” he continues.
The first panel of the conference was moderated by Stan Fultz, of University of Maryland Extension, who noted that Frederick County is “close to 30 million people within a three hour drive,” referring to many who commute to the Washington D.C. area for work.
The panel included Anne Bradley, of the Frederick County Ag Land Preservation Program who was also panel moderator for the second panel on diversification.
Bradley spoke of the county’s history of more than 30 years in land preservation and the Critical Farms Program, giving information about qualifications for the programs.
Other panels were: “Strategies for Viable Business,” moderated by Colby Ferguson of the Frederick County Division of Business Development and Education, and Marc Scott of the Frederick County Workforce Services, who moderated the panel, “Creating an Agriculture Friendly Business Environment.”
Panalists included Michael Clevenger of BB&T Investment Services; Ginger Myers of the University of Maryland Extension staff; Bill Sauser of Miles and Stockbridge; Anthony Aellen of Linganore Winecellars; Chuck Fry of Rocky Point Farm & Creamery; Rick Hood of Summer Creek Farm, Mark Seibert of Clear Spring Creamery, Jim Aird of Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit; Ron Holter of Holterholm Farm, Paul Saul of Rolling Acres; Regina McCarthy of the Maryland Wineries Association, and Paul Stull of the Maryland Ag Commision.
Subjects covered were as varied as estate planning, how to turn the farm over to the next generation; farm diversification, the possibilities, how to get started, where to start and how to find new projects; and included hearing from others who have changed their operational model, and in the process, made their farm more profitable; where to go for information on the process, and current legislation affecting farms and farmers on the local, state and federal level and the potential impacts on the farming community.