ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Governor Larry Hogan has declared March 21-27, “Maryland Agriculture Week,” highlighting the important work that goes into producing food and fiber for people throughout Maryland and beyond. This week-long celebration coincides with National Ag Day on March 23.
“Agriculture is a leading contributor to the state’s economy, environment and quality of life,” said Governor Hogan. “Maryland agriculture has worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that our food supply chain remains intact, and has gone above and beyond to provide safe, reliable access to fresh, local food products.”
The past year has been a stark reminder of how important agriculture is to our daily lives. Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, Maryland agriculture has largely been able to adapt and ensure continuity of production. While this has been a tough year for all industries, agriculture has shown great resilience and ingenuity in its efforts to remain open as safely as possible.
Agriculture is one of Maryland’s top industries with an economic impact of $19.6 billion and 83,000 jobs across the state. The state is home to 12,429 farms on nearly 2 million acres of land. The average farm size in Maryland is 160 acres and 96% of the farms across the state are family owned. Maryland’s top agricultural commodities are poultry; grain; nursery and greenhouse production; dairy; and fruits and vegetables.
“This year more than ever, Maryland farmers have played a critical role in keeping food on our plates through unprecedented challenges,” said Secretary Joe Baretnfelder. “Maryland Agriculture Week is a great time to reflect and express appreciation for the commitment of the hard working men and women that continue to work the fields, tend to animals, and provide fresh, nutritious food for all.”
Secretary Bartenfelder will celebrate Maryland Agriculture Week by joining students from Hereford High School (Baltimore County) for a virtual panel discussion on March 23, where he and other industry leaders will discuss the important role agriculture plays in the economy and the exciting career opportunities available in agriculture.
See below for the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA’s) 10 suggestions to help citizens recognize National and Maryland Agriculture Week:
Watch Maryland Farm and Harvest on Maryland Public Television or online. The hit series, which recently wrapped up its eighth season, takes viewers on journeys across the state telling hundreds of stories about the farms, people, and technology required to sustain and grow agriculture in Maryland.
As products become in-season, serve a meal with local food or pack a local lunch for your children. Ask your grocer for local products or visit MarylandsBest.net to find out what’s in season and where you can buy local products near you. Maryland farmers grow and produce a wide variety of food, including fruits, vegetables, bread, cheeses, and meats for lunches and snacks that are available from farmers markets, grocery stores, and community supported agriculture (CSA) farms.
Check out MDA’s Manure Happens campaign. Learn about how and why farmers use manure as an organic crop fertilizer and soil conditioner. Manure Happens is a public education campaign that aims to help Marylanders understand how field-applying manure helps farmers with crop production, and outlines the scientific guidelines farmers follow to protect our natural resources from nutrient runoff.
Take It from Maryland Farmers: Backyard Actions for a Cleaner Chesapeake Bay. This helpful education campaign provides homeowners with information and tips from farmers that they can use to do their part to help improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The initiative offers a series of helpful fact sheets.
Plan your garden and repair lawns with certified seeds. Spring is almost here and now is the time to plan for your gardens and lawns. Be sure to get a soil test before fertilizing and check out the University of Maryland Extension’s Grow it Eat it website.
Visit a winery, brewery or distillery. Maryland is home to a thriving craft beverage industry with plenty of locally produced beer, wine and spirits to sample across the state. Did we mention March is also Maryland Wine Month?
Ride a horse. Sixty percent of the horses in Maryland are used for recreational purposes, while 40% are for racing. Visit one of Maryland’s 40 Horse Discovery Centers.
Meet a Maryland Farmer. If you can’t get to a real farm, visit My Maryland Farmers to learn more about the important work our farmers do each day, or check out the Maryland’s Best YouTube channel for a virtual farm tour.
Read a book about Maryland agriculture. Learn more about the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation’s 2021 Ag Literacy Campaign. This year’s 2021 ag literacy book is “Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish,” a children’s story that shares the importance of the dairy industry and teaches readers how ice cream is made.
Follow MDA on social media. The department shares industry updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. You can also connect with MDA’s Marketing Program, Maryland’s Best Agriculture, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Follow Maryland’s Best Seafood on Twitter.
For more in depth information about Maryland agriculture see the 2020 Maryland Agricultural Overview, compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Find fun facts about agriculture and more information by visiting the National Ag Day website.
–Megan Guilfoyle, Maryland Department of Agriculture