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June 15, 2022

June is Dairy Month, Let’s Celebrate!

June is National Dairy Month and we continue to celebrate Maryland’s dairy industry and the farm families that operate them.  With over 42,000 dairy cows and 340 dairy farms across the State, Maryland’s dairy industry is thriving.  Maryland Dairy Princess Elizabeth Karides is providing some insight into all things dairy, including the incredible health benefits of milk, yogurt and cheese.   And don’t forget the 2022 Maryland Ice Cream Trail is open so get out and enjoy some farm fresh ice cream today! 

Kick Off the Summer by Celebrating Dairy!

By: Elizabeth Karides, 2021-22 Maryland Dairy Princess

In 1937, June was dubbed National Milk Month as a way to distribute extra milk during the hot Summer. Since then, June has evolved into National Dairy Month. Though it may sound silly to dedicate an entire thirty days to this food group, National Dairy Month gives us a chance to reflect upon the vital work dairy farmers do for our community and the environment. For starters, our farmers work 365 days a year to provide milk, an undeniably healthy beverage packed with 13 essential nutrients like calcium, potassium, zinc, and Vitamin A, to neighborhoods far and near. These nutrients are linked to immune health, bone and muscle health, reduced inflammation, and reduced risk of chronic diseases like osteoporosis. From milk, we get some other delicious, and incredibly nutritious, products like yogurt and cheese which are both excellent sources of calcium to keep our bones and teeth strong. In addition to providing our community nourishing foods, dairy farmers are also excellent environmental stewards. By incorporating buffer strips on their farmland to collect any manure or fertilizer-rich runoff before it enters waterways like Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, making use of robotic feed pushers to reduce the need for gas-powered equipment by maximizing feed, and utilizing equipment known as methane digesters which transform manure into a clean source of electricity to power their homes and farms, dairy farmers are truly dedicated when it comes to environmental stewardship. And given the fact that the U.S dairy industry’s carbon footprint shrank 19% between 2007 and 2017, the future of environmental protection through dairy farming seems bright. Not to mention, since practically all dairy farms are family farms, for farmers it is especially important to protect land, air, and water for future generations. So there you have it, the next time you are enjoying a cool glass of milk, a warm grilled cheese, or a refreshing scoop of ice cream later this Summer, think about the hardworking people who provided it. 

June 14, 2022

Maryland’s “Ag Tag”: Over 20 Years of Supporting Ag Education

By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder
Maryland Department of Agriculture

Published by The Delmarva Farmer on June 7, 2022 

The “Ag Tag” has been on our Maryland highways since 2001. Today, I would like to take a moment to celebrate this bright orange license plate that reminds us all of the importance of our great farmers. Created by the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation (MAEF) as a tool to raise funds for the nonprofit, the Ag Tag has succeeded wonderfully. The tags, which cost an extra $10 for motor vehicle owners, have raised more than $12 million in 21 years. You’ll see Ag Tags with everything from “MDA 1,” “YO SOY,” “AG TERP,” to “VINEGIRL” and “FRMCHIC”. All proud Marylanders who want to support our farmers and celebrate agriculture.

The Ag Tag funds support K-12 and post-secondary opportunities to increase agricultural education and literacy, including MAEF’s Mobile Science Labs, professional development programs for teachers, ag literacy book programs, & “Lab in a Box”; kits, garden grants, Maryland Future Farmers of America (FFA) and support for ag science teachers, and much much more.

MAEF was founded in 1989 by farmers and teachers with a goal of doing all they could to teach kids about agriculture. The organization has since taken off! MAEF celebrated 1 million students reached through elementary education programming in 2019, and kept right on going, even through the COVID- 19 pandemic, providing online resources through their website and social media, issuing grants for garden kits, offering Virtual Farm Field Trips, and reformatting Maryland FFA competitions to online platforms.

MAEF reaches Maryland children from Baltimore to Ocean City, from Dunkirk to Deep Creek Lake with learning experiences that explain where our food comes from and how farmers produce it. The organization’s three Mobile Science Labs offer 50-minute experiments that allow students to really dig into agriculture.

MAEF also offers classes for Maryland teachers that show them how to use agriculture to help young minds explore the world around them. The teachers are able to use agriculture as an experiential teaching tool for the state’s core curricula of science, social studies, life skills, mathematics and language arts, and craft their love for the Bay and nature.

The Ag Tag is succeeding for our state. It supports all of this and more. Ag students become better informed citizens who will shape our future with at least some knowledge of where their food comes from. As for me, I always have Ag Tags on my truck.

To learn more about MAEF or order your “Ag Tag” today, please visit :

June 10, 2022

MDA Secretary Visits St. Michaels Elementary School  

Students congratulated on agricultural project  

St. Michaels, MD (June 10, 2022) – Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) Secretary Joe Bartenfelder visited St. Michaels Elementary School on June 9 to recognize and thank 3rd and 4th grade students on their work throughout the year learning about Maryland produce, specifically strawberries.  

While speaking with students, Secretary Bartenfelder, a lifelong farmer and strawberry grower, discussed the history of the fruit in Maryland, what it takes to grow a good berry, and shared tips on what the students can do next season to ensure a bountiful harvest.  He also encouraged the students to enjoy all the produce that Maryland has to offer.  

“There is nothing like fresh Maryland produce,” said Secretary Baretenfelder. “Each season brings its own unique fruits and vegetables. As the strawberry season comes to an end, you can be certain there is another delicious summer crop to follow.” 

Secretary Baretenfelder ended his remarks with a presentation of a quart of fresh hand picked strawberries.  

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Follow Maryland Department of Agriculture on Twitter @MdAgDept & @MDsBest

May 25, 2022

MDA Secretary Attends William Still Interpretive Center Ribbon Cutting

Lt. Governor Rutherford and Still Family Members Officially Open Site 

DENTON, MD (May 23, 2022)Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford joined Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) Secretary Joe Bartenfelder at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the William Still Family Interpretive Center located at the Caroline County 4-H park. 

Over a decade in the making, the historical site marks the location of Sydney Still’s choice to leave two of her four child behind as she fled slavery. Sydney and Levin’s youngest son, William Still, went on to become the “Father of the Underground Railroad.” Markers leading up to the recreated cottage where the family once lived also tell the story of tenant farmers who lived on the property and the struggles they faced. 

During the event, hosted by the Caroline County Historical Society, Secretary Bartenfelder reflected on the life of William Still and the struggles his family faced. “It is truly an honor to be here with the direct descendants of William Still and learn about his life and the choice his mother had to make,” stated Secretary Bartenfelder.  “This is truly an important piece of Caroline County history coming to life.”

Following the program, Secretary Bartenfelder toured the one room cottage and spoke with descendants of William Still, including Valerie Still, and Dr. Alonzo Sexton and his son, Austin Sexton. 

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Follow Maryland Department of Agriculture on Twitter @MdAgDept & @MDsBest


May 24, 2022

Secretary Bartenfelder Announces “Unsung Hero of Maryland Agriculture” Award for April 2022

ANNAPOLIS, MD (May 24, 2022) – Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder has announced Max and Katherine Dubansky of Garrett County as the recipients of the second “Unsung Heroes of Maryland Agriculture” award.   

Owners of Backbone Farm in Oakland, MD, the Dubansky’s have been leaders of innovation in sustainable agriculture practices, from farm to table. They are also active in teaching the next generation of Maryland farmers through internship opportunities on their farm.  

“The Dubansky’s symbolize what hard work and dedication can do for agriculture,” said Secretary Bartenfelder. “I am honored to shine a spotlight on their accomplishments in Western Maryland and what they have done for the Maryland ag community. Our industry can remain strong thanks to farms like Backbone Farm and knowledgeable leaders like Max and Katherine. I thank them for their continued support.”  

The “Unsung Heroes of Maryland Agriculture” award was created to honor the contributions of Marylanders working in various roles in the farming and food production industries. The department is accepting nominations on a rolling basis. To submit nominations, please fill out this form or contact Denise Burrell at

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Follow Maryland Department of Agriculture on Twitter @MdAgDept

March 31, 2022

Secretary Bartenfelder Presents “Unsung Hero of Maryland Agriculture” Award for March 2022

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder presented the first of a new monthly award for “Unsung Heroes of Maryland Agriculture” to Danee Caulk of Dorchester County. 

“Danee Caulk is an outstanding example of the lifetime commitment shared by many Maryland farmers,” said Secretary Bartenfeder. “In fact, I’m told that Danee can often be found picking an acre of asparagus, all by herself, to this day! As a trailblazer for women in agriculture, a teacher, and a farmer, it is an honor for me to present Danee Caulk with the very first ‘Unsung Heroes of Maryland Agriculture’ award.”

Ms. Caulk was one of the first female agriculture students to graduate with honors from University of Maryland. She is a longtime horticulturist and teacher who also served as the first female field representative for produce company Green Giant. 

The “Unsung Heroes of Maryland Agriculture” award was created to honor the contributions of Marylanders working in various roles in the farming and food production industries. The department is accepting nominations on a rolling basis. To submit nominations, please fill out this Google form or contact Denise Burrell at

November 30, 2021

The 2021 Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Champion Trailblazer goes to…


After the COVID-pandemic canceled their family vacation to Disney, Bob and Sara Delkhoon looked for another adventure closer to home. That’s when they heard about the Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail and thought it would be a great way for them and their three daughters to see new parts of the state.

“We are so thankful that we chose to become ice cream trailblazers this summer. We explored our state, met some lovely Marylanders along the way, and made lots of memories as a family.” Sara Delkhoon

The Delkhoon family visited all of the 10 on-farm creameries on the Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail between June 5 and Aug. 30, 2021. Collectively, the family traveled roughly 1,050 miles around the state in their quest to be named the 2021 Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Champion Trailblazer.

As this year’s Champion Trailblazers the Delkhoon’s will receive a $50 gift certificate to the creamery of their choice, a copy of the children’s book “Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish,” the 2021 Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Champion Trailblazer trophy, and, most importantly, ULTIMATE BRAGGING RIGHTS!

Congratulations to the Delkhoon’s and thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail! It was one of our best seasons yet. 

Check out the Delkhoon’s trail log below! They shared details on each stop and included recommendations on their favorite flavors. 

Stop 1: Broom’s Bloom Dairy – Harford County, Maryland | June 5, 2021

Kicking it Off Right. The Delkhoon’s started their journey at Broom’s Bloom Dairy in Bel Air after soccer practice one Saturday afternoon in early June. Broom’s Bloom is already a family favorite as they had stopped there many times before for the “Cowman’s Repast,” a lunch special that includes a cup of soup, stew, chili, or mac and cheese, half a sandwich, and a small ice cream. 

Stop 2: Keyes Creamery – Harford County, Maryland | June 12, 2021

Rainbow Sprinkles Make Everything Better. The Delkhoon’s paid Keyes Creamery in Aberdeen a visit in mid-July. Bob and Sara both highly recommend their s’mores sundaes. The girls ordered cotton candy and cookie monster ice cream and even added rainbow sprinkles for some flare. Little did they know this was the start of the girls’ rainbow sprinkle obsession!

Stop 3: Kilby Cream – Cecil County, Maryland | June 20, 2021

Banana Split Streak Begins. On June 20, the Delkhoon’s visited Kilby Cream in Rising Sun. This is where Bob started his banana split kick. Sara thoroughly enjoyed the “Tractor Tracks” sundae. The girls continued their rainbow sprinkle crusade and this time paired their sprinkles with cookie monster and strawberry ice cream. They enjoyed the playground and the girls met a lot of new friends!

Stop 4: Prigel Family Creamery – Baltimore County, Maryland | July 3, 2021

The Local Favorite. The day before the Fourth of July, the family visited their local ice cream joint, Prigel Family Creamery in Glen Arm. The parents tried the banana split while the girls remained steadfast in their rainbow sprinkle taste testing. At this stop, the girls had the chance to help one of the farmers herd their cows towards the barn. They were clapping and cheering “let’s go girls, let’s go.” This has since become a family motto. Sara and Bob Delkhoon said, “we definitely need some practice herding our girls though.”

Stop 5: Misty Meadow Farm Creamery – Washington County, Maryland | July 4, 2021

Red, White, and MoOoo! On an impromptu trip, the family celebrated part of Independence Day at Misty Meadow Farm Creamery in Smithsburg. The trip out west did not disappoint. The family was pleasantly surprised by the entire experience! They loved petting the farm animals, riding the trikes, playing on the tires, and posing with flowers. Also, they said that their BBQ was amazing! Back to ice cream, the parents continued with the banana split tradition and the girls paired rainbow sprinkles with the blue moon ice cream. They also tried one of the Fourth of July sundaes. While out in Western Maryland, the family also did a short hike to Cunningham Falls. They described the excursion as a “nice little day trip” and said, “looking back, this was our favorite overall creamery experience!” 

Stop 6: South Mountain Creamery – Frederick County, Maryland | July 18, 2021

A True Dairy Farm Experience. In mid-July, the group headed out to South Mountain Creamery in Middletown. This was where they got to experience first-hand what working on a dairy farm is really like. Both of the girls had the opportunity to feed a baby calf! After working hard, the family enjoyed banana splits, birthday cake with rainbow sprinkles, and the creamery’s signature “Take Me Home Country Roads” sundae. After ice cream, the family enjoyed the playground and met another family who was blazing the ice cream trail as well. On the way out, they bought some fresh milk. The family described the chocolate milk as “to-die-for-delicious!” They now use the unique glass milk bottles to display wildflowers on their dining room table.  

Stop 7: Woodbourne Creamery at Rock Hill Orchard – Montgomery County, Maryland | July 31, 2021

Peachy Keen Day on the Trail. On the very last day of July, the family joined friends at Woodbourne Creamery in Mt. Airy. Here, the crew picked more than two dozen peaches at Rock Hill Orchard. The group recommends the peach, black raspberry, and Andes mint ice cream flavors. After ice cream, the girls ran off their sugar rushes on the playground.

Stop 8: Rocky Point Creamery – Frederick County, Maryland | Aug. 7, 2021

Hiking the Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail > Hiking the Appalachian Trail. In early August, the family did a very challenging four-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail — “picture a baby strapped to your chest and two toddlers wearing crocs, a tiara, and mermaid dresses hiking Weverton Cliffs.” Must have been quite the sight! After a long hike, they rewarded themselves with some treats from Rocky Point Creamery in Tuscarora. Flavors included: banana split, s’mores ice cream, unicorn ice cream, and mint chip ice cream with…you guessed it…rainbow sprinkles. Pro-tip: The family recommends the playground that has a huge John Deere tractor that has been transformed with slides and ladders for kids.

Stop 9: Nice Farms Creamery – Caroline County, Maryland | Aug. 28, 2021

Almost to the finish line! While on the Eastern Shore, the Delkhoon’s made a pit stop at Nice Farms Creamery in Federalsburg. Upon arrival, the family was greeted by the welcoming committee, the farm’s cats named Mittens and Snickers. The Delkhoon’s loved chatting to the third-generation dairy farmer who was working that day. Though Nice Farms Creamery did not offer rainbow sprinkles, the family still loved their classic ice cream flavors — vanilla and chocolate. Before departing, they made sure to buy some fresh milk. The milk was so fresh in fact, that it had been milked from the cows earlier that morning.

Stop 10: Chesapeake Bay Farms – Berlin, Maryland | Aug. 30, 2021

Last, but not least! The family ended their ice cream trailblazing journey at Chesapeake Bay Farms in Berlin. No rainbow sprinkles here either, but they really enjoyed their ice cream flavors lemon cookie and raspberry & cream. Grandmom and Pop joined them as they celebrated the end of their legendary ice cream trail season.

November 15, 2021

Maryland the Place to Be for Fall Agriculture

Photo Credit: Lancaster Farming

By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder

Published by Lancaster Farming on November 15, 2021

Buzzing combines harvesting this season’s grain in the field, customers filling their bags with fresh produce at the farmers market, students hustling into school before the bell, and horses thundering down the track at Laurel Park — this is what fall looks like in Maryland.

Road Safety During Harvest Season

Harvest season is an especially busy time of year for my fellow farmers who are working long hours to get their crops out of the ground so that families can have food on the table, fuel in the tank, and clothes on their backs.

With an increase of activity happening in our rural communities, we remind Maryland motorists to stay vigilant for slow-moving farm equipment on roads or highways. If you encounter any farmers while driving, please slow down, be patient, and when safe, pass with caution.

For farmers, we know that harvest season is particularly stressful and there is a lot going on. To ensure your safety and the safety of others, check your headlights, flashers, turn signals, and mirrors before leaving the farm.

Be sure the orange slow-moving vehicle emblem is visible and properly displayed. Try heading out during sunlight hours for optimal visibility and avoid traveling during high-traffic times. When driving, always use signals to identify directional changes, and pull off to the side when a car approaches behind you.

By being prepared, remaining cautious, and staying patient, we can all get to where we need to go safely during these hectic fall months.

Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week

Fall is one of the best times to eat local in Maryland. Farmers markets and farm stands are packed with in-season produce like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, chard, carrots, collards, eggplant, kale, onions, radishes, pumpkins, spinach, hard squash, sweet potatoes, and apples.

In addition to fall produce staples, Maryland seafood like blue crabs and wild-caught oysters are at their peak.

To celebrate the abundance of fresh ingredients available in Maryland and to educate students on where their food comes from, Gov. Larry Hogan declared Oct. 4-8 as Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week. In its 14th year, this annual promotion encourages Maryland schools to serve nutritious food from local producers and to educate students about Maryland agriculture.

This year, I attended a Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week event at Greenview Knolls Elementary School in St. Mary’s County.

As I walked the halls, evidence of the week’s lessons were displayed along the walls with thank-you notes to farmers and hand-drawn pictures of farm animals. During the event, I was blown away by the outdoor, hands-on learning stations geared toward teaching kids all about animal agriculture, nutrition, farming, planting, and more.

For lunch, the food service staff prepared dishes with ingredients from local producers and offered a slice of Maryland watermelon to every child.

As a farmer and Maryland’s secretary of agriculture, I was so encouraged to see the next generation have such an understanding of agriculture and appreciation for our producers.

Thank you to all the schools, educators, food nutrition staff, and students who participated in Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week.

Maryland Horse Month

The fall is an important time for our producers, and also for Maryland’s thriving equestrian sector.

Maryland is home to more horses per square mile than any other state, and the equine industry contributes nearly $1.3 billion to the state’s economy.

Throughout October, Maryland hosted three major horse events, the all-new Maryland 5-Star, the Jim McKay Maryland Million Day at Laurel Park, and the Capital Challenge Horse Show at Prince George’s Equestrian Center.

To recognize the importance of these events and Maryland’s horse industry, Gov. Hogan proclaimed October as Maryland Horse Month.

The Maryland 5-Star was held from Oct. 14-17 at the newly constructed Fair Hill Special Event Zone in Cecil County. Four of the world’s top 10 riders participated in the international eventing competition.

In its inaugural year, the event was a major success and helped cement Maryland as an equestrian powerhouse in the U.S. I am proud that our state is one of only two in the U.S., and seventh worldwide, to hold such a competition.

In closing, as we continue into cooler temperatures and shorter days, I wish all Maryland farmers a successful, bountiful, and safe harvest season.

November 8, 2021

Get to Know MDA’s 2020 Employee of the Year – Mary Darling

We sat down with Mary Darling, the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA’s) 2020 Employee of the Year, to chat about her experience serving the department and the State of Maryland for the past two decades.

What is your current job role at MDA?

Mary: “I serve as MDA’s Human Resources Deputy Director. I work in close cooperation with the HR Director to plan, direct, supervise, and coordinate the work activities of recruitment and selection, employee relations, reclassifications, compensation, training, employment services and management of positions, and data in the Statewide Personnel System (SPS).”

How long have you been with the department? 

Mary: “I have been with the department for 22 years. I started working at MDA in 1999. 

A little background, I am an Upstate New York farm girl. I grew up on a 300-acre dairy farm with a herd of purebred Holsteins. After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in Rural Sociology, I began my government career in 1980 with the New York State Department of Labor developing agricultural employment opportunities and placing workers in available jobs, working closely with fruit and vegetable growers who employed migrant and offshore labor. Following other jobs in state government, I moved to Maryland and was very happy to find my way back to my agricultural roots at MDA. I’ve always had a deep interest in the ‘people’ side of agriculture.”

What’s the best part about working for MDA?  

Mary: “Working with so many committed, dedicated employees who are also experts in their fields they are inspiring and I learn something new every day! On the Human Resources side, the best days are when I can provide clarity to rules and regulations and offer positive solutions to an employee’s issue making their day a little bit better.”

What’s your favorite memory of MDA?   

Mary: “Our employee chicken barbecues and crab feasts of years past. They were a lot of work, but so much fun and a true team effort.”

In a few words, how would you describe MDA?  

Mary: “Reputable, responsive, and not your “typical” state agency.”

What was your dream job as a kid?

Mary: “Not sure I had one! I entered college thinking I was going to be a veterinary technician. I started gravitating away from the technical courses and became more interested in the social and economic issues of rural life.”

What do you like to do in your free time?  

Mary: “I enjoy getting away from my home in the suburbs to visit area parks, where I walk and take nature photos.”

Advice to any newbies at MDA or future MDA employees?  

Mary: “Find a job you love, and pay close attention to your mentors and role models. You may not realize it at first, but these individuals will have a lasting positive impact on your career.”

Fun fact about yourself? (Something your coworkers might not know about you)  

Mary: “I love colored glass and used to make stained glass art pieces.”

What’s your favorite quote?  

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.” – Alice Walker

Watch the MDA Employee of the Year 2020 Announcement presented by MDA’s Deputy Director Julie Oberg.

September 28, 2021

States Call for Increased Investments in Chesapeake Bay Restoration

Photo Credit: Lancaster Farming


By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder

Published by Lancaster Farming on September 28, 2021

Imagine this — the year is 2025 and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals have all been met.

Agriculture has decreased sediment pollution by 80% of current levels. Smart conservation and best management practices are in place on farms across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Farmers are providing more food, fuel and fiber than ever before, while also protecting and preserving our natural resources.

This vision for the future can be possible through a coordinated multistate effort, strong federal-state partnerships and more federal funding.

That is why I joined my fellow agricultural leaders from five other Chesapeake Bay-watershed states at the end of August to urge the USDA to create the Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative.

I am happy to note that in recent weeks, leadership from state Farm Bureaus have also publicly shown their support for the initiative.

The initiative calls for $737 million in federal funding over the next 10 years to help implement proven, cost-effective conservation practices on farms throughout the watershed.

The project will target sub-watersheds that have the biggest impact on the Chesapeake Bay and provide the greatest sediment reductions. Funding will be used to offer financial and technical assistance to help farmers implement priority conservation practices.

These practices will not only improve water quality, but also will help us strengthen soil health and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a key factor in the fight against climate change. By implementing conservation practices now, we are ensuring that farming operations are also more resilient to the harmful effects of climate change in the future.

As a Maryland farmer myself, I know firsthand just how committed our state’s farmers and producers are to protecting the environment. Here in Maryland, 96% of our farms are family-owned and operated. Every farm family I know wants to ensure the land, soil and environment are better off for the generation that follows.

Voluntary conservation practices implemented by farmers work, and farmers are willing to install them, but more investments are needed to ensure that we continue building on our progress across the watershed. Data shows that as funding increases for cost-share programs, so do implementation rates of conservation practices.

Cost-share programs have worked in Maryland, but more needs to be done, especially for our neighbors to the north.

Pennsylvania is home to the Susquehanna River, the largest tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, and requires nearly 60% more funding to meet the estimated needs.

That is why it is imperative that we create the Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative and find funding to support it.

Over the past 30 years, collectively we have reduced nutrient and sediment loads by nearly half. Though great progress has been made, there is still much more work to be done.

Working together through federal-state partnerships, we can create a cleaner, healthier Chesapeake Bay and serve as an example of restoration efforts to others around the world.

September 3, 2021

This Labor Day Weekend Make Sure You Aren’t Harbouring These Pesky Hitchhikers

DOWNLOAD 🎧: MDA’s spotted lanternfly-inspired Spotify playlist for your Labor Day Weekend road trip!

It’s here! The final vacation before summer fades into fall and school drop-offs, endless sports practices, and afterschool activities pick back up. For many, Labor Day Weekend means trying to soak up the last few summer days and rays with trips to the beach, the lake, or the mountains. 

As you pack the car, van, camper, or trailer for your weekend getaways, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) asks that you check your vehicles for the spotted lanternfly. The spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest that has the potential to devastate over 70+ agricultural products. 

Labor Day Weekend Checklist:

  • Beach towels – ✅
  • Sunscreen – ✅
  • Bug Spray – ✅
  • Sunglasses – ✅
  • Blankets/Sleeping Bags – ✅
  • EZ Pass – ✅
  • Checking the car for spotted lanternfly – ✅

What to look for?

Currently the spotted lanternfly is in its adult life stage. At maturity they are 1 inch in length and appear with grey-brown spotted front wings and brilliant red and black hind wings. Their hindwings are most noticeable when they are inflight or feel threatened. Check out the photos below to see what to be on the lookout for!

Spotted lanternfly are known planthoppers and excellent hitchhikers. Latching on to and launching off of anything they can, it is especially crucial to inspect your cars and belongings for these bad bugs. 

What do I do if I find a spotted lanternfly?

Snap a photo and then squash it! Spotted lanternfly do not bite or sting, so go ahead and smash away. 

Report your sightings to the Maryland Department of Agriculture via this online survey. Your submissions will help us track spotted lanternfly movement around the state. 

Where are they now?

These pests originally appeared in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014 and have increasingly spread to 34 counties throughout the Keystone State and several more states on the East Coast.

In Maryland, populations of spotted lanternfly can be found primarily in Cecil and Harford Counties. These two counties currently have business and residential quarantine restrictions in place. Businesses that operate or move material within Cecil or Harford County must obtain a business permit. Residential permits are not required, but Marylanders in these counties are encouraged to survey their properties and inspect their vehicles for spotted lanternfly before moving any materials like cut wood, pallets, trailers, stone, boxes, etc. Use MDA’s Spotted Lanternfly Checklist to ensure your items are pest-free before you go. 

Outside these two spotted lanternfly hot spots, these insects have been found in the following Maryland counties: Frederick, Kent, Carroll, Baltimore, Howard, and Anne Arundel. MDA survey data has shown that spotted lanternfly populations have spread along major highways and travel routes, making it especially critical that vehicles are checked for the pest before leaving home.

Why are spotted lanternfly such a threat?

Though the preferred host of the spotted lanternfly is the tree of heaven, Ailanthus altissima, they also feed on valuable agricultural crops like grapes, hops, peaches, apples, blueberries, cucumbers, oaks, black walnuts, certain maples, eastern white pines, birches, willows, and many more. The spotted lanternfly feeds on sap from the roots of these plants and trees, causing damage to them in the process and leaving them more susceptible to disease. 

The spotted lanternfly also excretes honeydew, a sticky, sugary substance that enables the growth of black sooty mold that is harmful to plants and trees. Spotted lanternfly honeydew can also be quite a nuisance on outdoor furniture and other equipment.

Spotted lanternfly has the potential to impact wineries, breweries, fresh produce, lumber, nurseries, forestry, and other industries! According to PennState Extension, if not contained, the spotted lanternfly could cost Pennsylvania’s economy at least $324 million annually. 

Labor Day Weekend

With your help, we can slow the spread of this invasive pest and protect Maryland’s agriculture industry and our hardworking Maryland producers. Make sure you aren’t giving any unwanted hitchhikers a lift this holiday weekend and inspect your vehicle and items for spotted lanternfly when going to and from your destination. 

We’ve all got our eye on you spotted lanternfly!

September 1, 2021

Growing Markets for Maryland Products

Photo Credit: Lancaster Farming

By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder

At the Maryland Department of Agriculture, we are always looking for new ways to promote local agricultural and seafood products and to open new markets for our farmers and producers — both abroad and right here at home.

Statewide, the Ag Department is working to increase the use of local products served at Maryland institutions through the Certified Local Farm Enterprise Program.

This new program makes it easier for buyers from state institutions to identify local sources for produce and other food products.

The program is part of an initiative for state-run institutions, including prisons and public four-year universities, to purchase 20% of their food products from local farmers and producers.

The department is currently accepting applications for qualified farmers interested in participating in the Certified Local Farm Enterprise Program. Qualifying farm operations must have a nutrient management plan filed with the department to be eligible.

Farmers will receive notification that their farm is certified once their nutrient management plan is verified.

Once approved, farmers’ contact information, list of products, and certification number will be placed in the Certified Local Farm Enterprise Public Directory for state agencies to access. The Ag Department will ask farmers to update their directory information once a year.

Interested farmers are encouraged to visit the Certified Local Farm Enterprise Program webpage at for more information and to apply. To request a paper application, contact Karen Fedor at 410-841-5773 or

Promoting Maryland Products Internationally

Beyond our borders, the department is working to expand Maryland agricultural and seafood products to new markets overseas.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s International Marketing Program is gearing up for a new initiative with the Southern United States Trade Association to promote Maryland beer, spirits, seafood, and other ag products in Canada through a number of marketing and advertising activities.

Several Maryland beer and spirits brands will be strategically advertising to consumers in the Toronto area.

Additionally, Maryland seafood, beer, spirits, and other ag products will be showcased at the Restaurants Canada Show in 2022.

At the show, Maryland’s exhibit will include a cooking demonstration from a Maryland chef that features local products. In conjunction with the show, English and French marketing materials will be created to highlight Maryland products and how they can be used in different recipes.

Lastly, the department will host three Canadian chefs and three Canadian seafood buyers in May 2022 on a trade mission to meet with Maryland seafood suppliers and to tour seafood operations and restaurants. The trade mission will include menu development sessions with Maryland chefs.

These international marketing efforts are intended to drive consumer demand for Maryland’s iconic seafood and agricultural products, and increase exports to Canada.

Whether it is exporting Maryland beer to Toronto or using local products in a university dining hall, the Ag Department is proud to help provide more opportunities for Maryland farmers and producers to grow their businesses.

Published by Lancaster Farming on September 1, 2021

August 26, 2021

Pollinator Paw-tectors Save Beehives From Disease

MDA’s Chief Apiary Inspector (left), Tukka (center), and Mack (right).

The saying “not all heroes wear capes” cannot be more true than it is for the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA’s) two apiary disease detector dogs. Their names are Mack and Tukka and they have been working with the department’s Chief Apiary Inspector Cybil Preston to inspect commercial beehives across the state for disease. 

American Foulbrood (AFB). 

AFB is a highly contagious bacterial disease among honeybees that has the potential to devastate entire colonies. 

At MDA, our Apiary Inspection Program checks commercial beehives and certifies them as disease-free before they leave the state. Commercial beehives are often shipped around the country for use at farms that need help pollinating food crops like almonds, apples, avocados, grapes, and berries to name just a few. Certifying beehives free of disease before crossing state lines is a very important job. If local honey bees were to come in contact with a sick hive, it could wipe out native populations. 

Beehive Inspections. 

Luckily, our Chief Apiary Inspector Cybil Preston has the help of two four-legged friends that are well-trained in sniffing out AFB. One dog can inspect 100 beehives in just 20 minutes. In the same amount of time, a human inspector could only check about 1 hive. Mack and Tukka save the State of Maryland valuable time and resources.

MDA’s Chief Apiary Inspector Cybil Preston inspecting a beehive.

Human inspectors have to wear bee suits and must open hives to meticulously examine each frame for AFB. Additionally, human inspections can only take place when temperatures are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit so that the bees are not agitated and can contain their hive heat.

Fortunately, Mack and Tukka work during cold weather months, typically from November to March, when bees are dormant. This allows inspections to continue when human inspectors cannot. Performing the inspections while bees are less active also helps the dogs avoid bee stings. 

MDA’s Chief Apiary Inspector Cybil Preston with Mack and Tukka inspecting beehives for AFB.

During a normal inspection, Cybil will walk Mack or Tukka up to a hive. They’ll sniff the outside of a beehive and determine if AFB lies hidden inside. If they detect AFB, the dogs are trained to point their nose and sit. If not, they move on to the next hive. They are highly efficient and can detect very low doses of the disease. One dog can inspect up to 1,000 hives per month!

Mack inspecting a commercial beehive for AFB.

During warmer temperatures when Mack and Tukka are off duty, they are by no means slacking off. You can find the duo training with Cybil to make sure their detection skills are still sharp. 

Typically, Cybil trains the boys by hiding or throwing toys covered in AFB scent in different directions for the dogs to find. Associating scent detection with play is essential to their training. 

Note: AFB is not a threat to canines or humans.

Origin Stories.

From Left to Right: Tukka, MDA’s Chief Apiary Inspector Cybil Preston, Clark (brother), and Mack.

The department’s Apiary Inspection Program has had a disease detection canine on staff since 1982. Shortly after Cybil started her role as the Chief Apiary Inspector, the department’s previous canine and canine handler were ready to retire. As she transitioned into her new position, Cybil began searching for the department’s next bee dog. Serendipitously, she stumbled across a post about Mack in an online bee group she was a part of. Mack, a one-and-a-half-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, was abandoned living in a garage at the time and in desperate need of help. Cybil sprung into action and adopted him right away.

Cybil had other dogs in the past and was experienced in obedience and Good Citizen training. She had yet to train dogs in scent detection.

Seeking help, Cybil turned to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) K-9 Unit Commander Mark Flynn for guidance on scent training. Within 14 weeks, Mark helped Cybil teach Mack how to detect the scent of AFB through drills and games. Mack became certified by DPSCS for AFB detection in October 2015.

Tukka was adopted by Cybil in May of 2018 through the same process. He is a six-year-old Springer Spaniel with lots of energy. After 4 months of training, Tukka was certified as an AFB detector in December 2018

Mack and Tukka are currently the only two certified AFB detector dogs in the United States. Just last year, Mack and Tukka inspected 2,100 hives and found no presence of AFB. 

Local Celebrities.

Mack and Tukka are the department’s local celebrities and everyone’s favorite coworkers. Governor Larry Hogan is also a huge fan and even awarded Mack a Governor’s Citation in May 2017 for his service to the state. They’ve hung out several times since and had a recent run-in at the 2019 Maryland State Fair. 

Mack recieving a Governor’s Customer Service Award. From left to right: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, Maryland Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, MDA’s Chief Apiary Inspector Cybil Preston, and Mack.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, MDA’s Chief Apiary Inspector Cybil Preston, Tukka, and Mack at the 2019 Maryland State Fair.

Mack and Tukka were also featured on an episode of the Disney+ original show “It’s a Dog’s Life” last summer. The show shares stories of dogs doing incredible things. On season one episode five that premiered on June 12, 2020, Disney legend Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy and Pluto, interviewed Cybil and tagged along with our two doggy detectives as they performed some inspections.

In 2018, they were highlighted on an episode of the Maryland Public Television show Maryland Farm & Harvest during a special bee-themed episode. Watch their segment here.

In the News…

Mack and Tukka have made headlines over the years. Here, are some of their top mentions:

For more updates on Mack and Tukka, be sure to follow them on Twitter @Mackbeedog.

National Dog Day.

MDA’s two Apiary Disease Detector Dogs Mack (left) and Tukka (right).

As we celebrate National Dog Day, let us recognize the important role Mack and Tukka play in protecting our pollinators and agricultural production.

Nearly one-third of all crops require pollination for growth including most fruits and vegetables. Pollinators like honeybees, butterflies, hummingbirds, bats, moths, flies, and other insects help pollinate food crops that we consume. They are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat.

So let’s give a round of a-paw-lause for the amazing work Mack, Tukka, and Cybil have done to protect honeybee populations not just in Maryland, but all over the country!

August 9, 2021

Enjoy Your Summer Staples and Support Maryland Producers

Photo Credit: Lancaster Farming

By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder

Published by Lancaster Farming on Aug. 4, 2021

We are in the heat of the summer! Agricultural fairs and shows are happening around the state, watermen are busy pulling crab pots out of the water, and farmers markets are bustling with customers wanting fresh produce.

This time of year, Marylanders are enjoying their favorite seasonal staples like crabs, sweet corn, watermelon and more — all thanks to Maryland producers and watermen. To celebrate Maryland’s incredible bounty and to recognize the efforts of Maryland farms and seafood operations, Gov. Larry Hogan proclaimed July 17-25 “Maryland Buy Local Week.”

Throughout the week, Marylanders were encouraged to participate in the Buy Local Challenge by incorporating at least one locally grown, produced or harvested product into their meals each day.

This year, Maryland’s First Lady Yumi Hogan helped kick off the week-long celebration by sharing her pan-fried rockfish recipe using local seafood and other agricultural ingredients on an episode of her YouTube cooking show, Yumi Cooks. Later in the week, she also shared an original vegetarian dish, tofu buchim, that could be made using local ingredients.

Two more Maryland chefs joined in on the Buy Local Challenge and created unique recipes using local products. Chef John Shields, owner of Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen in Baltimore, created two delicious recipes, a refreshing watermelon gazpacho and a corn and radish salad.

Chef Jasmine Norton, owner of The Urban Oyster in Baltimore, shared two recipes that highlighted fresh Maryland seafood and supported local watermen. Maryland blue crabs was the key ingredient in her Chesapeake crab tower recipe, while the invasive blue catfish was the star of her blue catfish tacos.

Additionally, the department shared tips on how to buy local everyday of Maryland Buy Local Week. This included suggestions like visiting farm stands, participating in the Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail, visiting a Maryland pick-your-own operation and buying local craft beverages.

Though the 2021 Maryland Buy Local Week has come to a close, I urge Marylanders to buy local all year long. Maryland Farmers Market Week, happening Aug. 1-7, provides another wonderful opportunity to do so.

Farmers markets are a great way for consumers to buy fresh, nutritious produce and value-added products, while getting to meet the person who grows or produces their food. Head to one of the more than 100 farmers markets located in every county in the state and Baltimore City.

Along with in-season produce, many markets include vendors that sell items like local craft beverages, nursery products, baked goods, dairy products, eggs, meats and honey. Find a farmers market near your with the department’s 2021 Maryland Farmers Market Directory.

Living in Maryland, we are fortunate to have such an abundance and variety of fresh products available to us. Buying locally has tremendous benefits to entire communities and the state. When you spend your money on Maryland agricultural and seafood products, you are strengthening our local food systems, helping small businesses grow, and building up rural economies. Buying locally is also better for the environment and better for you.

July 25, 2021

Maryland Buy Local Week 2021 Wrap Up

That’s a wrap! As Maryland Buy Local Week comes to a close, let’s take a look back on all the festivities. 

Maryland Buy Local Week (July 17-25) and the Buy Local Challenge

Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed July 17-25 as “Maryland Buy Local Week” to support Maryland farms and seafood operations that continue to provide Marylanders with fresh, local products. 

“We are fortunate to live in a state that produces world-class agricultural and seafood products, and I encourage all Marylanders to join the First Lady and I in choosing Maryland-made ingredients,” said Governor Hogan. “Buying local puts more money back into the pockets of our farmers, watermen, and producers, allowing them to grow their operations, hire more people, support other local businesses, and reinvest in their communities.”

Throughout the week, Marylanders were encouraged to participate in the Buy Local Challenge by incorporating at least one locally grown, produced, or harvested product into their meals each day. The department encouraged those who participated to use the hashtags, #MDBuyLocal2021 and #BuyLocalChallenge, on social media. 

First Lady of Maryland Yumi Hogan and Maryland Chefs Participate in the Buy Local Challenge

To kick off Maryland Buy Local Week, First Lady of Maryland Yumi Hogan shared her Pan-Fried Rockfish recipe using local seafood and other ingredients on an episode of her YouTube cooking show, Yumi Cooks! She also shared an original vegetarian recipe, Tofu Buchim, that could be made using local ingredients as well. 

Chef John Shields, owner of Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen in Baltimore, created two original recipes for Maryland Buy Local Week and the Buy Local Challenge. One was a refreshing Watermelon Gazpacho and the other was a Corn & Radish Salad. Both were made with fresh, in-season produce from Maryland producers.

Chef Jasmine Norton, owner of The Urban Oyster in Baltimore, shared two recipes that highlight Maryland seafood and support local watermen. Maryland blue crabs are the key ingredient in her Chesapeake Crab Tower recipe. The invasive blue catfish is the star of her Blue Catfish Taco recipe. By eating blue catfish you are supporting Maryland’s seafood industry and helping control populations of this invasive fish in the Chesapeake Bay.

Tips on Buying Locally in Maryland

Buying Local All Year Long

Even though this year’s Maryland Buy Local Week and the Buy Local Challenge is ending, supporting your Maryland producers and watermen doesn’t have to! Continue to buy local all year long. Check to see what’s in season and when with MDA’s Maryland Seasonality Chart.

Buying locally benefits Maryland producers, strengthens our local food systems, and supports rural economies. Buying locally is also better for the environment and better for you. More info.

Find local products and producers on Find a farmers market near your with MDA’s 2021 Farmers Market Directory

We hope you had fun celebrating our Maryland producers and were able to see the amazing bounty we have right here in the Old Line State.

Contact Information

If you have any questions, need additional information or would like to arrange an interview, please contact:

Jason Schellhardt
Director of Communications
Telephone: 410-841-5888