November 15, 2021
By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder
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
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
September 28, 2021
By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder
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
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
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 bit.ly/LocalFarmMD for more information and to apply. To request a paper application, contact Karen Fedor at 410-841-5773 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
August 26, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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:
- New York Times, “With a Sniff and a Signal, These Dogs Hunt Down Threats to Bees,” By: Tejal Rao (July 2018)
- American Kennel Club, “Mack the Bee Dog Sniffs out Trouble in Maryland’s Honeybee Colonies,” By: Stephanie Gibeaul (August 2018)
- NPR, “Keeping Bees Safe: It’s A Ruff Job, But This Doggy Detective Gets It Done,” By: Jodi Helmer (April 2016)
- USA Today, “Furry friends lend humans a helping hand,” By: Melanie D.G. Kaplan (May 2017)
For more updates on Mack and Tukka, be sure to follow them on Twitter @Mackbeedog.
National Dog Day.
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
By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder
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
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.
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.
June 28, 2021
By: Secretary Joe Bartenfelder
A shocking one in nine Marylanders do not know where their next meal will come from. Even harder to hear, nearly 200,000 of those Marylanders are children, according to Feeding America.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue of food insecurity and increased the need for food assistance programs.
Luckily, there are organizations like the Maryland Food Bank, and programs like their Farm to Food Bank Program, that are tackling hunger right here in communities across the state.
In its 11th year, the Farm to Food Bank Program works with Maryland farmers to provide food banks with access to fresh, local produce. The program does this by partnering with farmers to glean fields with excess crops, secure crop donations, and contract farmers to grow produce for local food banks.
As a farmer whose operation has participated in the program from its very beginnings, I know just how much of a difference this program makes in the lives of families every day. For those struggling to meet their basic needs, having access to nutritious and healthy food makes a world of difference.
Just this past month over the course of several days, staff members from the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Food Bank volunteers joined together in Hurlock, Maryland, to glean nearly 29 bins of collard greens, totaling more than three tons! These collards were taken directly from the field to the Maryland Food Bank’s facility in Salisbury, where they were weighed and distributed to local food banks and ultimately consumed by Marylanders who need it most only days later.
Gleaning events like these also help tackle another prominent issue our country faces — food waste. Every day in the U.S., an estimated one-third of our food goes to waste even as 35 million people go hungry. By having volunteers glean farmers’ fields for excess crops, farmers are putting left-over produce — that would otherwise go to waste — to good use.
Additionally, by contracting local farmers to grow produce, the Maryland Food Bank is securing the specific fruits and vegetables they need to nourish those they serve and simultaneously helping to strengthen our local food systems. This program is truly a win-win for Maryland farmers and our communities.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as need at local food banks continued to rise, farmers throughout the state stepped up. I have heard countless stories about the generosity of Maryland farmers, from dairy producers in western Maryland donating milk, poultry producers on the Eastern Shore donating chicken, and produce farmers donating fresh fruits and vegetables. I am proud to represent an industry that cares so much for their fellow Marylanders.
If any farmers are interested in participating in the Farm to Food Bank program, please reach out to the program coordinator Amy Cawley at email@example.com or 410-737-8282.
More information can be found on the Maryland Food Bank’s website at mdfoodbank.org.
June 10, 2021
Brood X periodical cicadas are hitting PEAK emergence in many parts of Maryland. This means millions of fully-grown winged adults are flying and blundering into things (and us), “singing” as loud as they can, and starting to mate.
What’s that loud buzzing you hear? It’s the sound of male cicadas earnestly belting out their love songs! In some areas, this ensemble chorus is being measured at 100 decibels – that’s louder than a lawnmower or low-flying jet!
What can we expect next? Mated female cicadas are laying eggs in small twigs of woody plants and mature trees. This will cause ‘flagging’ or browning of branch ends. Later this summer, they can be pruned out.
Spent adults are already dying and joining the piles of brown nymphal exoskeletons they shed earlier this spring. Adult periodical cicadas are expected to be gone by the end of June.
PRO TIP: Try adding cicada carcasses and exoskeletons to your compost to pile!
In late July-early August, after their parents are gone, tiny cicada nymphs will hatch, fall from the trees, and quickly burrow underground to harmlessly feed on roots. They will quietly live here for the next 17 years.
So take a big sigh of relief or sadness. We are more than halfway through the 2021 Big Brood X emergence!
Try to appreciate the fascinating, mysterious life cycle of these unique insects that are found nowhere else on Earth. Soon enough they will be gone, not to be seen again until 2038.
For more information, visit mda.maryland.gov/cicada.
June 1, 2021
By: Secretary Joe Bartenfelder
Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and with that comes all of the local, in-season produce that Maryland farmers and producers have to offer. An abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meats and other items are now available at farmers markets and farm stands throughout the state.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers shifted to buying food from local vendors. As we return to a new normal, the department encourages Marylanders to continue to support our farmers and producers by buying local. Whether you are planning for the first barbecue in over a year or prepping for a crab feast, think about purchasing Maryland-grown, produced, or harvested products first.
The department has made it easier than ever to buy locally. Use the recently published 2021 Maryland Farmers Market Directory to find a farmers market closest to you. For specific items, use the Maryland’s Best website — marylandsbest.net — to find local producers.
2021 Maryland Best Ice Cream Trail
Another way to buy locally is by participating in Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail. Back for its ninth year, the 2021 trail season officially starts this weekend. The Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail is made up of 10 on-farm creameries that sell their ice cream directly to consumers. The trail helps promote Maryland’s dairy industry, supports local farmers, and offers the opportunity to spend time on a working farm.
As you head to Deep Creek Lake, Ocean City, or anywhere else in Maryland this summer, there will likely be a stop on the ice cream trail along the way.
The trail spans 290 miles from Washington County in western Maryland all the way to Worcester County on the Eastern Shore.
Creameries on the 2021 trail include: Prigel Family Creamery (Baltimore), Nice Farms Creamery (Caroline), Kilby Cream (Cecil), South Mountain Creamery (Frederick), Rocky Point Creamery (Frederick), Broom’s Bloom Dairy (Harford), Keyes Creamery (Harford), Woodbourne Creamery at Rock Hill Orchard (Montgomery), Misty Meadow Farm Creamery (Washington), and Chesapeake Bay Farms (Worcester).
On May 26, I joined Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford at the Prigel Family Creamery to officially kick off the 2021 trail season happening now through Sept. 30.
Every year, the trail challenges the public to visit all 10 dairies in hopes of being named Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Champion Trailblazer.
This year, the department is asking our trailblazers to snap a photo or a selfie at each creamery and to submit them via email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to win.
Download the 2021 passport and start plotting out your path today.
Your Memorial Day cookout may have some party crashers this year due to the return of the 17-year Brood X periodical cicadas in parts of the state. Do not panic though, cicadas do not chew, bite or sting.
Their loud mating calls, clumsy flying skills, and the sheer number of them can be a nuisance, but they are not a threat to humans, pets, animals, and most plants. Even if your pet or animal consumes a few cicadas, they should be fine, just try to limit their consumption.
The department does not recommend using pesticides or insecticides to try to kill them — doing so will not be helpful in controlling populations and only poses a threat of harming other helpful, beneficial insects. A great way to dispose of cicada carcasses or exoskeletons is by adding them to your compost pile.
If you can, try to appreciate these remarkable creatures while they are here. They are seen nowhere else on Earth and appear for only six to eight weeks every 17 years.
At the beginning of the month, Gov. Larry Hogan even proclaimed May and June 2021 as Maryland Magicicada Months to celebrate the return of the Brood X cicada and to generate public awareness about these insects.
The cicadas you see today were born during the last emergence in 2004 and have been living underground until now. They will live above ground until the end of June when their life cycle is complete and the next generation retreats back below the surface. After this year, Brood X cicadas will not be seen again until 2038.
Even though Brood X cicadas may crash this year’s holiday cookout, our region is lucky to see their fascinating life cycle in action.
April 28, 2021
By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder
For my fellow farmers who live and work off of the land, every day is Earth Day.
Given our proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, water quality and resource conservation are always front and center for farmers across the watershed.
In celebration of Earth Day, I had the pleasure of hosting a virtual meeting with my counterparts from the bay states and federal partners from the USDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to discuss our shared priorities as we work toward our Watershed Implementation Plan Phase III goals.
This kind of collaboration is key to meeting the challenges facing our industry and the environment, which is why I am proud to announce that the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has become the first state agency to endorse the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action (USFRA) Decade of Ag Vision.
This is the first sector-wide movement to align a shared vision for the next decade centered on investing in the next generation of agricultural systems, restoring our environment, regenerating natural resources, and, in doing so, strengthening the social and economic fabric of America.
Maryland has long been committed to these principles, leading the nation in sustainable agriculture practices, including cover crops, no-till farming, and soil health initiatives.
Our department provides financial and technical assistance to farmers in installing best management practices designed to prevent soil erosion, manage nutrients, and improve water quality in local waterways.
The following programs have been working to help the state meet its WIP Phase III goals to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay by 2025:
Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share Program
This program provides cost-share grants for farmers to install various conservation practices.
In fiscal year 2020, MACS provided Maryland farmers with $32.8 million in cost-share grants. This investment contributed to the installation of 375 conservation practices on farms, nearly half a million acres of protective cover crops planted in fields, and more than 300,000 tons of manure hauled away from areas with high soil phosphorus levels.
All together, the MACS programs will prevent an estimated 3.5 million pounds of nitrogen, 24,500 pounds of phosphorus, and 13,150 tons of soil from entering the Chesapeake Bay.
Nutrient Management Program
This program ensures that farmers and urban land managers apply fertilizers, animal manure, and other nutrient sources in an effective and environmentally sound manner.
Maryland was one of the first states to require farmers to follow a nutrient management plan.
MDA is currently working with the University of Maryland on a comprehensive study of phosphorus loss risk tools, which will provide the most complete, current science available on soil phosphorus.
Healthy Soils Program
This program launched in 2019 to explore the co-benefits of soil health for farmers and the environment.
The program established and continues to promote best practices that contribute to the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, which calls for a 40% reduction of emissions levels by 2030.
Maryland is actually witnessing a reduction of around 49%.
Conservation Buffer Initiative
This is a pilot program that provides a new funding option for farmers who want to plant streamside buffers to improve the health of local waterways. In addition, these buffers provide wildlife habitat and sequester carbon.
Animal Waste Technology Fund
This fund provides grants to companies that demonstrate new technologies that provide alternative strategies to managing animal wastes.
Over the next decade, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has pledged to continue working with the USFRA and other leaders from across the agriculture value chain to accelerate bold action and realize our shared Decade of Ag Vision.
I look forward to working with all of our partners to continue making progress in enhancing, protecting, and restoring our natural resources. While agriculture is often identified as part of the problem, Maryland farmers have proved that we are an important part of the solution.
For more information on the Decade of Ag Vision, visit usfarmersandranchers.org.
April 1, 2021
By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder
For many Marylanders, March means cheering on the Terps in the NCAA tournament or celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. For my fellow Maryland farmers, March is the start to one of the busiest times of the year — planting season.
Farmers are hard at work from sunrise to sunset, preparing their fields for this season’s crops. Maryland farmers are required to use nutrient management plans to guide their use of when, where, and how fertilizer is applied. These plans help ensure that nutrients are being used by crops and not washed into local waterways.
Those of us that live in farm country know, and can probably smell, that farmers have begun spreading manure on their fields. Manure is an all-natural crop fertilizer and soil conditioner packed with nutrients that are essential for plant growth.
To protect local streams, Maryland livestock farmers store manure over the winter. As of March 1, they use the stored manure to fertilize their fields and improve their soil’s health, following state guidelines. The smell can be pungent, but it won’t last long. After all, today’s manure grows tomorrow’s flowers.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA’s) annual public education campaign, Manure Happens, is in full swing and helping educate citizens about how and why farmers recycle manure. The 2021 campaign focuses on how farmers protect local streams from runoff when using chicken and livestock manure. Farmers or citizens interested in learning more about this campaign should visit: www.mda.maryland.gov/ManureHappens.
With a flurry of activity happening in the field and an increase of farm equipment on rural roads, the department is working to remind motorists and farmers to drive with caution and share the road. Farmers must display slow-moving vehicle signs on the back of their equipment — this is the neon orange triangle emblem. When moving equipment, farmers should try their best to avoid traveling during high-traffic times and should travel during the day when they can be more visible. Remember to use turn or hand signals when making any directional changes. By being patient and extra cautious, we can ensure farmers get to their fields and motorists get to where they need to go. For other road safety tips, visit: www.findmedriving.com.
Every March, the agriculture industry celebrates Agricultural Literacy Week and National Agriculture Week. Agricultural Literacy Week promotes ag education in the classroom and highlights the important role the industry plays in our everyday lives. This year, I was asked to read “Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish” virtually to students at Galena Elementary School, Fallstaff Elementary School, and the Watershed Public Charter School. This book showed the children all about the dairy industry and how everyone’s favorite frozen dessert, ice cream, is made.
To highlight the efforts of Maryland’s agriculture industry, Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed March 21-27 as Maryland Agriculture Week. This year’s celebration ran alongside National Agriculture Week and coincided with National Agriculture Day on March 23.
On National Ag Day, I joined students from Hereford High School in Baltimore County for a virtual panel discussion where we discussed agriculture’s role in the economy and the exciting career opportunities the industry offers. Fostering the next generation of agriculture leaders is critical to the future success of the industry and something I feel personally passionate about.
After an incredibly trying year, celebrating agriculture and recognizing the people who have been working tirelessly to ensure we are all fed and provided for is more important now than ever before. For more information on Maryland Agriculture Week or for other ways to celebrate, visit: mda.maryland.gov.
February 28, 2021
By: Secretary Joe Bartenfelder
From Maryland’s 2021 Legislative Session to virtual events honoring Maryland farm families, just like on the farm, there’s never a slow day at the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).
Following an unprecedented 2020 legislative session that ended 11 days early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly convened on January 13 with lawmakers sitting behind seven-foot-tall plexiglass barriers, wearing face masks, and waving to their colleagues from a distance.
Though this year’s 90-day session looks much different in Annapolis, one thing remains the same, our department’s commitment to tracking and providing feedback on the bills that impact Maryland agriculture, our farmers, and the constituents we serve.
While much of the focus of this year’s session will continue to be on the COVID-19 pandemic, our department has submitted two pieces of legislation designed to further our ability to promote installation of conservation practices and to better address weed management priorities.
Senate Bill 344 – Agriculture – Cost-Sharing Program – State Cost-Sharing Funds. This legislation allows MDA to provide up to 100% state funding assistance, currently limited to 87.5%, for the implementation of certain high-priority conservation practices that improve water quality and provide other environmental benefits. MDA’s ability to provide additional funding assistance will be an important incentive for farmers to install these practices, helping the state reach its Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) goals.
Senate Bill 352 – Agriculture – Multiflora Rose Management – Repeal. This legislation repeals the Maryland Multiflora Rose Management Law. The state’s agricultural industry has this plant contained and under control, therefore the law is no longer needed.
More information on these bills along with others affecting the industry can be found on MDA’s website: mda.maryland.gov.
Celebrating Maryland’s Farm Families.
Around this time each year, Maryland farm families are recognized by the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame and the Maryland Century Farm Program. In 2021, the tradition of honoring deserving Maryland farmers did not stop. Both award ceremonies, though held virtually this year, acknowledged the hard work and legacy of Maryland’s farm families.
The Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame, the state’s most prestigious agriculture award, honors farmers with high standards of achievement and commitment to the industry and their communities. More than 50 families from around the state have been inducted into the hall of fame since its inception in 1991. In early February, the Cross Family of Prince George’s County was inducted by Governor Larry Hogan during the virtual Taste of Maryland Agriculture event hosted by the Maryland Agriculture Council. The Cross’ grow corn and soybeans in rotation with cover crops of hay and operate a farm store called R&D Cross, Inc. in Brandywine. They are leaders in their community and their family’s roots in agriculture date back to the mid-1800s.
Maryland Century Farms is a program within MDA that recognizes farms that have been owned and operated by the same family for more than 100 years. In total, 200 farms have received this designation. The following seven farm families were honored with video remarks from Governor Hogan in mid-February.
- Bish Farm, (Westminster, Carroll County), est. 1879
- East Farm, (Pocomoke City, Somerset County), est. 1916
- Hutschenreuter Family Farm, (Glen Arm, Baltimore County), est. 1919
- Margroff Farm, (Accident, Garrett County), est. 1901
- Noble Farm, (Federalsburg, Caroline County), est. 1857
- Shellcross Farm, (Centreville, Queen Anne’s County), est. 1916
- Stoney Cove Farm, (Cambridge, Dorchester County), est. 1920
The challenges of the past year have only magnified the importance of our local farmers and producers. I want to take a moment to congratulate the newest Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame inductee and the seven Century Farm inductees on their well-deserved achievements. A special thank you to each family for the decades of service they have provided to Maryland agriculture.
January 31, 2021
By: Secretary Joe Bartenfelder
For most Marylanders, the beginning of the new year serves as a time for reflecting on the past and setting goals for the future. The same is true for many of us farmers across the state.
Though there are less tractors moving about and no corn standing high in the field, Maryland farmers are hard at work across the state using the “off season” to continue to care for animals, wrap up last year’s business operations, and prepare for the upcoming planting season.
Many of us use this time to submit our Annual Implementation Reports (AIRs) that detail nutrient applications from the previous calendar year. For those doing this now, AIR forms can, for the first time, be submitted electronically and are due to the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) by March 1. Visit mda.maryland.gov for more information.
In terms of planning for the year ahead, farmers are drafting nutrient management plans and making critical decisions about planting season. This includes how, when, and where to fertilize crops. MDA is encouraging Maryland farmers who are able to apply phosphorus to consider making the switch from using commercial fertilizers to using poultry litter in their fields.
Poultry litter is a natural fertilizer that is rich in nutrients and micronutrients that promote soil health and produce strong, viable crops. Additionally, it serves as an excellent low-cost, slow release fertilizer for grain, hay, and organic-certified field crops.
MDA’s Manure Transport Program offers “FastTrack” grants that provide cost-share assistance for qualified farmers interested in using poultry litter for crop production and soil health. Currently, the “FastTrack” grants offer up to $22.50/ton for qualified farmers interested in receiving and applying poultry litter. New improvements to the program allow farmers to haul poultry manure now and apply for cost-share reimbursement later, making it easier than ever to make the switch from commercial fertilizer. Visit mda.maryland.gov/manure for more details.
This initiative is also an important part of the state’s efforts to reduce nutrient runoff from fields with high phosphorus levels and to protect the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Manure Transport Program allows farms with high phosphorus to ship their litter to fields in other parts of the state that are able to safely apply phosphorus.
The transport program is one of the most effective tools in our toolbox as we move forward into the final phase of implementation of the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT). The PMT is a crucial component of the state’s efforts in meeting Maryland’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) targets, which work to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Just this past month, MDA also launched the Maryland Conservation Buffer Initiative. A program that offers attractive incentive payments, easy sign-up, and more management options for farmers who want to plant streamside buffers to improve water quality. The enrollment period runs from Jan. 11-Feb. 5, 2021, and more information can be found on the department’s website: mda.maryland.gov.
For Maryland farmers living and working within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we encourage you to think about incorporating these soil health and best management practices into your operation this year.
MDA remains staunchly committed to working with our regional partners to protect the health of the bay and to make it as easy as possible for our farmers to do so, as well. Maryland agriculture is often looked to as the national standard for resource conservation and sustainable farming practices, and we look forward to continuing this legacy in 2021.