Fall Farm Features
By Secretary Joe Bartenfelder
As we wrap up the growing season and move into harvest, I am happy to say that the weather has been much kinder to us than it was last year. After record setting rains in 2018, we have had a much more manageable 2019. I hope our good fortune with this year’s weather translates to a prosperous harvest season for farmers across the state and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
Harvest season means lots of combines, tractors and other farm equipment moving about Maryland highways and roads—especially in our rural communities. Our department is working with the State Highway Administration to urge motorists to use caution when approaching farm equipment on roadways. Farmers are legally allowed to operate on public roads, which is sometimes necessary when moving between farm and field. Our top priority here is making sure everyone is able to get where they are going as safely as possible.
Fall also brings an increase of traffic to our rural areas, as many families from suburban and urban areas come out to visit the many farms offering a variety of agritourism attractions: pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides, fall festivals, and much more. This is a great way to spend some quality time outdoors with family and friends and while learning a little bit about Maryland agriculture.
On the topic of educating others about our industry, I was honored to visit Denton Elementary School on Thursday where we celebrated the kick-off of 2019 Homegrown School Lunch Week! This is an annual promotion in conjunction with the Farm to School program that aims to increase the amount of local products in school meals and educate students about where their food comes from.
Many kids outside of the farm community grow up thinking their food comes from a shelf in the grocery store. I am very happy to see programs like Farm to School and Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation (MAEF) making an effort to erase that misconception.
At the kick-off event in Denton, I joined leadership from Caroline County Public Schools and the Maryland State Board of Education to speak with students and join them for a lunch featuring local products. After lunch we had a chance to visit one of the MAEF mobile learning labs, and had the privilege of reading to
In my role as Secretary, agricultural education has been one of my main priorities. As new generations become further and further removed from the farm, it is important that make sure they understand the importance of our industry. Farmers provide the food and fiber we need to survive.
In addition to emphasizing the important work done by our farmers, I like to remind young people of the many career opportunities available in agriculture—it goes far beyond being a farmer. We need bright young folks to work as soil conservationists, agronomists, plant health specialists, and so much more. Technology has totally changed the way most industries operate, and that includes farming. Farmers and ag professionals rely on drones to scout their crops, many farmers rely on social media to market their products.
These kinds of opportunities are often overlooked when people think of agriculture as a profession, and it is important that we changed that misconception.