News from the fields, farms and beyond…
Joe Bartenfelder, secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, is joining with other state officials in the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that work is being done to preserve the food chain, producers and suppliers.
“We are in uncharted territory that may require some creativity and flexibility, but that is nothing new for Maryland farmers and growers," Bartenfelder said in a statement issued at mda.maryland.gov. "I am confident that our department, the agriculture community and allied industries will continue working together to overcome any obstacles we may face as we head toward planting season.”
Bartenfelder said all aspects of the state's food chain would get assistance.
"As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, I want to assure all of our farmers, watermen, producers, agribusinesses, wholesalers, distributors, consumers and the many other members of Maryland’s food supply chain that the state is working hard to continue business as usual with minimal interruptions," Bartenfelder said.
Future Harvest CASA is hosting a COVID-19 video call where you can hear and learn about how other farmers are dealing with the impacts of the virus on their operations.
It's scheduled for March 25 at noon. To sign up and to find out more go to futureharvestcasa.org
In its most recent message the group acknowledged the challenges ahead.
"We understand your usual ways of doing business have been upended, at least temporarily. We hope to help our community by amplifying opportunities this crisis presents and working to mitigate the challenges," the message reads.
All their events have been cancelled or postponed, except for the few that could be moved online including this video call and a webinar hosted by Chesapeake Foodshed Network on food safety in the midst of, and after coronavirus. That will be March 26. Register by going to https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_YRR46c7yTGqNbi0qAZ2uwQ?mc_cid=dcf69c7eea&mc_eid=96c3e9f733
The Cecil County Farm Bureau has a new date for its annual banquet according to Michael Kincaid, president of the AG organization.
”It will be held Aug. 22 at Rising Sun Banquet Hall,” Kincaid said. It’s the same venue, he said of facility connected to the Community Fire Company of Rising Sun , but on a Saturday instead of Friday, March 20.
Kincaid said Betty Moore made the new arrangements for the bureau, doing the delicate dance between the Cecil County Fair in July, the Maryland State Fair at the end of August, and all the busyness of farming in the summer.
"She tried to shoe horn it in," Kincaid said.
For more information check out the Cecil County Farm Bureau on Facebook.
The Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation is tucked into a Harford County park, nestled amongst fertile farm fields. However scenic the view, that's not where one goes to interact with the non-profit organization.
Much of what MAEF does is known collectively as "AG in the Classroom."
"We help teachers learn how to use the 'Ag in the Classroom' curriculum," said Suzanne Zilberfarb, executive director; a position she's only held since October. "There's a way to use ag anywhere in the classroom." That includes math, sciences, social studies and language arts.
MAEF also will come to a school and welcome students out to their mobile classroom for instruction. The unit will park at the school for up to a week and bring each grade level out for an experience.
"We want to teach the breadth of agriculture and the importance of agriculture in Maryland to their lives," Zilberfarb said.
They reach every grade, agriculture-based clubs such as Future Farmers of America and into college level courses including offering internships.
For the teachers it's usually a 6-week course, with two of those weeks in person, seeing farm practices and classroom objectives up close.
"With the coronavirus we have to figure out a way to get them to the farm," he said of the hands-on portion of the hybrid course. "Some teachers have never been to a farm."
Part of the instruction for the students includes an overview of the many jobs associated with agriculture; not all of which involve plowing, planting or livestock.
"There are 350 different careers in AG," Zilberfarb explained. "We've got an expanding number of AG education programs in Maryland."
The goal of MAEF is to make sure these students get the right education opportunities so that they may pursue a career path in farming.
Teachers in these programs have to also have a broad base of knowledge, even though some do not come from an AG background, she noted.
"They have to learn it all from the ground up," Zilberfarb said. "We give them support and we are always amazed at how many things we are involved in."
MAEF is an independent non-profit organization, funded in part by the AG Tags available through the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. That's the colorful orange and red tags with a barn in the corner.
Teachers, students and supporters can find out more about MAEF through Facebook, Twitter and InstaGram.
MAEF also does community events, including county fairs and festivals. Zilberfarb said while teaching the students is valuable, community outreach is also important.
"There are 12,000 farms in Maryland," she said. "We need to educate the public about agriculture in their daily lives."
If you have a farm related event, idea or story you’d like to share in AgriCulture contact Jane Bellmyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 443-245-5007