BEL AIR — A capacity crowd of 150 people — a mix of farmers and community members — attended “Food, Farmers and Community: Opening the Dialogue,” March 16 at Harford Community College.
The half-day symposium focused on Harford County’s agriculture and food system and the advantages of buying local. It was the centerpiece of “Gathering at the Community Table: Celebrating Harford’s Farms and Food,” the first Harford Community College Scholar-in-Residence program, which focuses on the county’s rich food history and land stewardship.
After welcome remarks by Sharon Stowers, PhD, the college’s first scholar-in-residence; Dianna G. Phillips, PhD, president of Harford Community College; and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, Harford County’s interactive GIS agricultural map was unveiled.
The interactive map, the Harford Farm Finder, which may be found at alturl.com/6waxg, will enable the public to “buy local” by easily locating and finding information about Harford County farms and their products. The map was created by North Harford High School student Tabitha Sefa, with assistance from the school’s Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Magnet Program Specialist Greg Murrell and Harford County GIS Analyst Chelsea Broach.
Following the GIS Map debut, keynote speaker Julie Oberg, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, discussed how the entire community is a stakeholder in the success of farms.
Breakout sessions included “The Real Cost of Cheap Food: The Economic Challenges of Farming and Eating,” “Rooted in Our Soil: Buying Local for Our Community and Our Health,” “What’s Behind the Label: How Do We Understand the Meaning of Organic, GMOs and Antibiotic-Free Food?” and “Why is Agricultural Land Preservation Important in Harford County?”
Participants had the opportunity to tour the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation’s “Amazing! Maryland Agriculture Showcase,” which featured facts and interactive displays about agriculture in Maryland.
A locally sourced breakfast and lunch were served to participants. Breakfast included an egg and cheese frittata with local eggs from Andy’s Eggs and Poultry and cheese from Keyes Creamery, and lunch featured a choice of soups (chicken and rice or butternut squash), salads, sandwiches and an ice cream sundae bar courtesy of Broom’s Bloom Dairy.
“Once again, Harford County demonstrated why it is a wonderful place to live and work. Farmers and community members gathered to discuss with great civility and with mutual support critical issues facing our local food economy, for both producers and consumers,” said Stowers, the scholar-in-residence. “These conversations will continue, as follow-up focus groups are planned. The college is grateful for all who participated. It really was a special day.”
The symposium was chaired by Stowers, who is also a professor of anthropology and sociology at Harford Community College in addition to being a registered dietitian nutritionist. Committee members were Peggy Eppig, PhD, agricultural education specialist, Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation; Andrew Kness, agriculture extension educator, University of Maryland Agricultural Extension, Harford County Office; Sherry Massoni, assistant professor of business, Harford Community College; and Tony Wohlers, PhD, dean, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Harford Community College.
Sponsors of the symposium included Harford Community College, Harford Community College Foundation, Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development and Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation.
“Gathering at the Community Table” continues with a host of other events, including a chef challenge, Diced! Food Fight for Our Farmers, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. June 3 at The Vandiver Inn in Havre de Grace. Money raised will benefit the Harford Community College Foundation’s Harford County Farm Fair Scholarship. More information and tickets may be found at harford.edu/gather.
The Scholar-in-Residence program at Harford Community College is an opportunity for full-time faculty to shift from a teaching-centered role to one that is research/scholarship-centered while providing expertise to community organizations and still maintaining a full-time, active presence on the campus and within the community.
Harford Community College offers more than 80 affordable degree and certificate programs of study as well as a variety of noncredit community education and workforce development courses. Located on 352 acres near Bel Air, Harford Community College has been helping Harford Countians achieve their goals since 1957. For more information, visit harford.edu.