News from the fields, farms and beyond…

Spring means farmers markets are also blooming in Cecil County.

Vic and Mary Priapi have launched one to begin May 4 at Priapi Gardens on Augustine Herman Highway in Cecilton.

Producers are welcome to participate for $5 a table every Thursday from 3 until 6 p.m. Vic said he’d like to have a good mix of produce so customers have variety. He adds this is not a flea market, but rather a place for growers and producers of local foods can shine and thrive.

Call 410-275-9438 for details or to sign up.

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A study funded by the American Farm Bureau Federation and Farm Journal Foundation finds that stagnated efforts at funding agriculture research and development is threatening the vitality of food systems in this country.

“The U.S. has always been a leader in agricultural innovation, but we’re at risk of losing that advantage by falling behind the rest of the world in research and development,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “This report shows the clear need for agricultural research to benefit not only farmers but our entire food system and every person who eats. The research will unlock the answers to growing more crops even as we face increasingly volatile weather, help to create a more resilient food system supply chain and provide food that’s higher in nutritional value. It’s the golden ticket.”

Authored by IHS Markit Agribusiness Consulting Group, the study found that food production needs to increase as much as 70 percent to feed the world population in 2050, but the United States support for those efforts is flat. At the same time, private sector funding has increased. The study also finds the U.S. lagging behind other countries including China, India and Brazil.

A call for more research across the board is needed in key areas including crop protection and breeding, animal health, disease and food-borne illness and climate change along with global pandemics.

“COVID-19 should be a wake-up call that more public research funding is needed to address unexpected shocks,” said Tricia Beal, CEO of Farm Journal Foundation. “The pandemic created huge challenges for agricultural supply chains around the world. It also showed just how quickly pathogens can spread. Increased public support for agricultural research is crucial for finding solutions to make our entire food system more resilient.”

To read the full report go to farmjournalfoundation.org

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It’s already popped up in Harford and Baltimore counties, so Cecil County residents are being warned by the Maryland Forest Service and Natural Resources Police to beware of tree trimming scams.

Specifically targeting senior citizens, these people are not licensed and demand payment up front for work that never gets done. For that reason, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is strongly suggesting people only hire licensed contractors who are trained to safely remove branches and entire trees.

Not only is hiring an unlicensed person risky, it also leaves the homeowner stranded in the event of damage or injury. Make sure to ask to see your contractor’s license.

To see a list of licensed tree professionals go to maryland.dnr.gov/forests

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Eating Smart & Moving More is a new, free, six-week virtual seminar being offered by the University of Delaware Extension Office, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. Choose the evening sessions, which run consecutive Tuesdays starting April 6 at 6 p.m. or go for the morning sessions, which begin April 13 at 10 a.m.

Those who complete the seminar will get a certificate and a recipe-filled calendar.

Topics include healthy eating and cooking for less, saving money at the grocery store, keeping food safe, being active, preparing tasty foods and meal planning.

Both sessions are identical. For more information on these free seminars contact Diana Oliver via email doliver@udel.edu.

To register for the evening sessions go here: https://delaware.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0Gvx6K4gs7FAtFk

To register for the morning sessions go here: https://delaware.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6lFDgF4Q0zkQVEO

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Think of it as “CarFax” for your farm.

If you grow any kind of produce on a large scale, your buyer may ask to see your GAP certificate.

GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices and having that certification means every step in your operation from preparing the soil to planting the seed to harvesting, packaging and transportation is done with food health and safety in mind.

“It’s kind of a license to sell,” said Angela Ferelli, agent associate in Food Safety for the University of Maryland. “The rules are similar in many ways to federal produce safety rules. Using GAP is a stepping stone to federal compliance.”

Ferelli said it’s a good program for beginners but she also sees experienced farmers taking the courses as their operations diversify.

GAP training focuses on the growing practices and covers such topics as harvesting and packing, but also worker safety issues including hygiene and illness.

Water and soil health is also a topic.

“We talk about how to manage irrigation water quality. A lot of folks work with creeks, ponds or a well,” she said. “We want them to make sure the well has a sanitary tap. We’ve seen wells housed in animal enclosures, which is not ideal.”

Those who complete the eight-hour online course get a certificate indicating they have GAP training. Farmers who take it a step further can get GAP certified with a free audit from the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

“With passage of the audit you get a certificate you can show to your buyers,” she said.

With the Maryland GAP in hand you can also pursue the U.S. Department of Agriculture certification known as Harmonized Good Agricultural Practices or HGAP. Ferelli makes herself available to help farmers write their first HGAP plan. Give her a call at 302-353-7159 or send her an email at angfer@umd.edu.

There are videos available to help as well. You’ll find them on the Plant Science Food Safety YouTube channel.

(PS...Plow Days got rained out last Saturday and Matt Stauffer with the Cecil County Farm Museum and Regional Agricultural Center Center said it’s unlikely it will happen this Saturday either because of wet fields.)

If you have a farm related event, idea or story you’d like to share in AgriCulture contact Jane Bellmyer at jbellmyer@cecilwhig.com or 443-245-5007

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