CALVERT — Following an outcry from the local agricultural community, county officials have abandoned their plans to eliminate the full-time agricultural coordinator job and combine it with another position.
The agricultural coordinator position has been vacant since Joanne Richart-Young retired in December after 17 years in the position. Originally the plan was to combine her position with an industrial coordinator position within the county’s Office of Economic Development. But that idea was abandoned after backlash from farmers during Monday’s Cecil County Young Farmer’s Legislative Breakfast.
During the breakfast, Jonathan Quinn, former county bureau president and regional district director for the state bureau, decried the elimination of a position at the county level devoted to the agricultural community.
“We need someone out there to help us,” Quinn said.
He appealed to the Cecil County elected officials at the breakfast held in the Calvert Grange Hall. Most of the council was present at the meeting including county council members Jackie Gregory, Bob Meffley and Dan Schneckenburger as well as County Executive Alan McCarthy.
Wayne Stafford, vice president of the Maryland Farm Bureau, said that breakfast gave them the opportunity to plead their case.
“We had them all there is what sealed the deal,” Stafford said. “The timing was perfect.”
Chris Moyer, the county’s director of economic development, was also at the breakfast, but left before the discussion about the position arose. He said Tuesday he thought the conversation would focus on issues at the state level. After learning of the discussion, Moyer said he met with McCarthy and Al Wein, county administrator, and agreed that the position would remain.
Moyer said he’s already notified Mike Kincaid, current president of the Cecil County Farm Bureau, and Stafford of the decision and will work with the farmers to craft a job description and include them in the hiring process.
Quinn said that description has already been drafted on their end.
“We’ve got something drawn up. It just needed some fine tuning,” he said. “We’ll have it to them before the week is over.”
Quinn, Stafford and Kincaid all agree there are specific issues facing Cecil County’s farmers that they feel needs a full-time, county-level representative. Among those concerns is the future of the almost 500 farms encompassing some 76,000 acres.
“There’s a lot of family farms with specific businesses,” Quinn said of the efforts to diversify and remain profitable. “That’s where your economic development comes in.”
After getting word of the change late Tuesday, Quinn was happy.
“They heard the farm community speak,” he said. “It’s amazing what you can do when you get to the right people.”
Kincaid was also elated, calling it a “smart decision.”
“(Moyer) saw the vast diversity of agriculture in this community and the need for an ag coordinator,” Kincaid said.
Moyer said his office “fully embraces the agricultural community.”
“And we want to ensure its continued success moving forward,” he added.
That forward movement includes increasing agricultural membership on the Economic Development Commission and forming an Agriculture Subcommittee. There would also be farmers at the table during the interview process for that agricultural coordinator.
“We’re going to work together,” Moyer said. “I don’t want any ‘us versus them.’”
At the breakfast, there was also a suggestion to get some of the newest agricultural representatives on the side of Cecil County’s farmers.
Delegate Kevin Hornberger (R-Cecil) noted that the operations licensed to grow and process marijuana are also farms, which should be embraced by the agricultural community.
“We need to get acquainted with the marijuana farms,” Hornberger said. “We need to be allies.”