Summer Brings New Ag Opportunities
By Secretary Joe Bartenfelder
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer fun season. Here at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, we plan to spend the summer celebrating and promoting our state’s top industry: agriculture. One of the best ways to do that is to get out and visit one of our state’s 12,400 farms! We are lucky to live amongst a wide variety of operations that grow and produce a diverse range of food and fiber. This presents a lot of opportunities to get out in the field with family and friends and learn something new!
Here are a couple ways our department will be supporting and celebrating our farmers in the coming weeks:
Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail
This weekend marks the official start of the 2019 Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail season. Now in its seventh year, the Ice Cream Trail has been one of our most popular promotions, aimed at promoting our dairy farmers and encouraging Marylanders to visit a working farm.
The trail includes nine Maryland dairies that produce and sell their ice cream directly to consumers. The trail stretches more than 290 miles from Worcester County in the east to Washington County in the west. The 2019 Ice Cream Trail dairies include: Prigel Family Creamery (Baltimore), 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).
You can pick up an Ice Cream Trail Passport at any of the participating creameries (or online at www.marylandsbest.net). Complete the Ice Cream Trail passport by visiting every stop on the trail and answering a question from each creamery by September 23. Send it in to us and you will be entered into a drawing to be named the 2019 Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail Blazer.
Dairy Risk Management Meetings
Speaking of our dairy farmers, the department is partnering with the University of Maryland Extension and United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to host three regional meetings for dairy farmers in Carroll, Kent, and Washington counties, June 12-14. The meetings will provide information on available risk management tools, including FSA’s Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program, and a new state cost-share program that will cover its premium costs for Maryland farmers.
Governor Hogan included $1.5 million in his supplemental budget to pay premium costs for dairy farmers participating in the new DMC program. The state program will cover Tier I production in 2019 (up to 5 million pounds of milk produced) at the $9.50 margin coverage level. Premiums will be paid directly from the department to FSA on behalf of Maryland producers. Farmers can begin signing up for the DMC program at their local FSA field office starting June 17.
Dairy farmers across the country have been struggling with low milk prices and high feed costs for years, and we want to make sure our department is doing everything we can to help Maryland dairy farmers through these tough times. I encourage all of our dairy farmers to attend one of these regional meetings and learn more about the risk management options available at the state and federal level.
Farmers Market Season
Another staple of summertime is the availability of fresh, delicious produce from farmers markets and farm stands across the state. Maryland agriculture is unique in its diversity. Our farmers grow everything from leafy greens to sweet corn to watermelons. With at least one farmers market in each county and Baltimore City, there is plenty of opportunity to get out and buy locally sourced goods directly from our farmers.
Farmers markets provide an important venue where farmers get to interact directly with the customer. There is a lot of misleading information out there about agricultural production and this is a great way to educate consumers on exactly where their food comes from.
For a full list of farmers markets across the state, visit MarylandsBest.net.