Sunday, March 18, 2012

This Week in Maryland Agriculture!

Even though its only mid-March, Maryland agriculture is starting to gear up for the 2012 growing season. Agriculture is Maryland’s largest commercial industry! …. Usually I get the response - “Agriculture? In Maryland?”  It’s true! Employing over 350,000 people, using 2.05 million acres, generating over $17 billion in revenue, Agriculture is a very important economic engine and environmental steward across Maryland’s landscape. Some readers may think of Maryland as being a predominantly urban state, and certainly portions of it are, but our agriculture is vibrant, diverse, and productive.

Here are some important statistics:

14% of Maryland’s workforce are involved in my state’s food and fiber sector:
ü      50% Wholesale or Retail
ü      20% Farm Production
ü      15% Marketing and Processing
ü      12% Agribusiness (tractors, equipment, seed, fertilizer)
ü      3% Farm Supply

Maryland Agriculture is often referred to as “America in Miniature”. This is due to the fact that farms in Maryland are as diverse as is the state’s geography which spans from the Atlantic coast to the Appalachia Plateau and the Allegany Mountains.  From sea level and the coastal plains where large open fields lend themselves to grain production to the Western mountains where pastures and cattle dot the landscape, agriculture is prominent in most of Maryland’s 23 counties. Our urban neighbors get to appreciate the bounty by visiting one of the 135 Farmer’s Markets! Click here for the Maryland's Farmers' Market Directory 

Not to mention the vast number of farm stands that dot the roads across the state where consumers can do Upick or buy fresh from the field produce and meat or dairy products. To search by category visit Maryland's Best Farm Directory Click on the "Find me local" tab, and you can type in the type of farm product you are looking for, your zip code, and search a database of farmers who are selling what you are looking for. Go to the recipes & tips tab, not only will you find some delicious recipes but you can click on the "What's ripe now?" tab and bring up a calendar that will tell you what farm products are in season when. Supporting your local farms provides you with fresh farm products and helps strengthen the local economy. 

From my birds eye view of about a 2-3 mile radius of my farm, here is what took place on local family farms over the last week:

  • My farm neighbors to the west harvested horseradish this past week. Yes, horseradish. Yes, it’s a crop. Yes, a farmer grows horseradish! (sort of like the blog I posted about all the things that agriculture does for football, you may not have considered that a farmer grows that horseradish you put in your shrimp cocktail sauce!)
  • My farm neighbor to the north posted a video on facebook that he was planting hay. We have a good hay market in this region between folks who have a few horses for pleasure to those who race horses at the Delaware tracks.
  • My farm neighbors to the north west have an organic grain and vegetable farm and run a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). They began spring plowing this week. They are nurturing vegetable seedlings and getting ready for the CSA & Farmer’s Market season.
  • My farm neighbors to the east are tree & nursery farmers. Yup, all those plants you landscape with? A farmer grew them! They were preparing ground for new tree seedlings and digging trees that are ready for sale to be used for landscaping around homes and businesses.
  • My neighbors to the southeast are dairy farmers. Although I didn’t check with them before I wrote this, I’m pretty sure they were busy milking cows twice a day in addition to preparing ground for spring crops.
  • My farm neighbors to the south are fruit and vegetable farmers. They are busy pruning fruit trees, mulching berry patches, nurturing vegetable seedlings in the greenhouse, and preparing ground for spring crops.
  • On our farm, we are busy pruning the vineyard expecting an early season because of the warm winter we have had. We also visited several vineyard sites for owners who have hired our vineyard management company to plant grape vines for them this spring. (Yes, Maryland has a winegrape industry! I promise to blog about that in the near future). We applied potash to fields that our soil tests told us were low in potassium.  We serviced equipment that will need to be ready for spring planting including trying to figure out how to operate the “Green Seeker” I blogged about in the “Good Ole’ Days”. We did “vertical tillage” which is a means of working the ground without actually turning the ground over, using what’s called a “no-till ripper”. My goal is to figure out how to use my video camera and be able to upload some of these activities as we get busy into spring farm work.

That's just what happened in my little corner of the state. So as you can see, Maryland agriculture is diverse. We have access to a large urban market in the Baltimore, DC, Philadelphia area, all of which are equal distance from our farm. Farming in Maryland is critical to the economy, critical to the environment, and critical to the consumers in this region who want fresh, local food choices. So when people say “agriculture”, Maryland may not be the first state that comes to mind, but it is an important part of our state’s fabric and vibrancy.

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