Harvesting the Region
Maryland has approximately 350,000 people employed in the agriculture industry, a number that exceeds the total jobs within any other industry in the state. Agriculture is Maryland’s largest commercial industry and contributes approximately $17B in annual revenue. Over 12,000 farms produce a diverse array of commodities including poultry, nursery and turf, seafood, dairy, corn, soybeans, and racing and pleasure horses.
Photos from recent EAGB visits (L-R): Local Homestead Products (LHP) Farm Market; Warwick Mushroom Farms; Fair Hill Training Center, Hydroponic Farming at LHP
With 2 million acres of farmland, the State, alongside many local jurisdictions, understands the need to protect this industry with aggressive farmland preservation programs. An emphasis on policies and programs such as efficient land management, environmentally sustainable processes, and the increasing use of technology to improve production are integral components of the economic development agenda for many jurisdictions, as well as the State, in recognition of the importance of agriculture to the State’s economy.
The University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is the land-grant University’s “cornerstone” college. The establishment of an Agriculture Extension Service expanded the teaching and research conducted at the University to those actually involved in the day-to-day work on the farms. Assistance through the Extension Service is available in every jurisdiction in the State, with areas of emphasis determined by the locality’s commodity such as grain crops, vegetable and fruit crops, forage crops and pasture areas.
The overarching goal of the Agriculture Extension Service is to improve animal and crop production efficiency and land management in the program areas of nutrient and water management, integrated pest, environmentally and economically sustainable production, and grain marketing. The Extension Service also facilitates the incorporation of technology and research underway in the College and throughout the University System to improve farming outcomes.
While there may be a perception that economic development is often focused on “vertical” development for housing, commercial tenants, and institutions such as colleges and universities, our local jurisdictions understand the importance of supporting and sustaining the health of their agriculture industry. The diversity that defines the agriculture industry is reflected in the diversity of commodities produced in Greater Baltimore. Some examples:
- Carroll County boasts a diverse agriculture industry that includes livestock, milk production, grains, egg production, and fruits and vegetables. The County’s Agriculture Extension Agents support the industry by providing technical and educational information to county farmers in order to keep them up-to-date on current methods of production. The County’s 145,000 acres in farming contributed over $110M in revenue from products sold in 2017, according to the latest statistics available from the USDA.
- In Cecil County, the Office of Economic Development’s Agriculture Division sees its mission to be the ‘Chamber of Commerce’ for the industry, promoting and enhancing all sectors through advising government on the importance of the industry and raising public awareness of modern agriculture’s production processes.
- The equine industry is particularly strong, with the market value of the County’s horses and ponies estimated to be $6.5M – the highest in the state and the 18th highest county in the country. The County has carved out a lucrative specialty in raising horses for racing and pleasure, with several larger Standardbred and Thoroughbred farms, and many smaller farms producing horses. The indirect impact generated by the equine industry is a key contributor to the County's economic vitality.
- Farming and Agriculture is the 5th largest economic driver in Howard County, with local agriculture sales topping over $200 million. Howard County’s diverse agriculture industry is 335 farms strong, with:
- Innovative and robust growth in landscape, greenhouse and horticulture enterprises
- A boom in agri-tourism and locovore food sales to consumers through farmers’ markets and other outlets
- More horses per acre than any other county in the U.S., along with boarding and training services
- Baltimore County has over 780 farms and 75,000 acres in farm production. Primary products include horses, corn, soybeans, hay, fresh vegetables, nursery plants and greenhouse crops. These agricultural operations contribute significant economic, environmental and aesthetic value to the County. The market value of the sale of all agriculture products exceeded $67M in 2017 (USDA Census). Baltimore County will also be the third location for Gotham Greens. This Hydroponic farming enterprise is developing a 100,000 sf climate-controlled facility at Trade Point Atlantic where they will use recycled water and renewable energy sources to grow produce for restaurants, grocers and other food services throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
- Harford County has been a nationally recognized leader in farmland preservation since 1977. With over 50,000 acres preserved for farming, there are currently over 76,000 acres in production, 70% of which are in use for growing crops and 12% used for pastureland.
- City-Hydro in Baltimore city is taking hydroponic farming to new heights – literally. This high-tech vertical farm has been established inside a climate-controlled shipping container, growing produce for local customers year round.
Modern farms and agricultural operations work far differently than those a few decades ago due to advances including the use of robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and drone technologies. Some examples of how technology is applied to agriculture:
- Agricultural drones can help increase crop production and monitor crop growth by using sensors and digital and thermal imaging to provide a more accurate picture of crop growth and production as well as monitoring irrigation. Drones can also assist in managing livestock through aerial imaging, literally counting heads in a fraction of the time it would take humans. Don't miss the November 21st event "Drones: Revolutionizing Agriculture in Maryland" and see how drones can play a role in the success of crops from pre-planting to harvest and beyond.
- Robotic technologies enable more reliable monitoring and management of natural resources, such as air and water quality. It also gives producers greater control over plant and animal production, processing, distribution, and storage. These technologies result in greater efficiencies and lower prices, safer growing conditions and safer foods, and reduced environmental and ecological impact.
- Hydroponic farming conserves water and reduces energy consumption, and also permits year round production of food products in climate-controlled facilities. Photo: Local Homestead Products in Carroll County
Cecil County’s Fair Hill is the new home to one of only seven CC15-L equestrian event competitions in the world. The Maryland Five Star at Fair Hill will bring an estimated 80,000 attendees to the Region per year with an economic impact of $15-20 million annually. Upgrades valued at $20-25 million began at the Fair Hill location over the summer to prepare for the event’s premier in 2020; it will reoccur annually thereafter. You may not know that Cecil is also home to the largest Standardbred horse farm in the nation: the 2,000+ acre Winbak Farm. It is no surprise that Cecil County is #1 in Maryland for equine value.
Photo: Rendering, Maryland Five Star at Fair Hill
The Agriculture Industry is the #1 industry in Maryland by employment with more than 350,000 jobs statewide (BEA &QCEW, 2017). The tradition of Maryland agriculture combined with the promise of new technologies positions Greater Baltimore as an innovative leader in the sector. Be updated on this important industry by reading EAGB’s newest Industry Profile where we shine the spotlight on Agriculture. Click here to view the Industry Profile.
The Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation
Today’s Agriculture Industry requires a steady stream of well-prepared, future-forward talent, and creating and fostering a workforce pipeline is critical from an early age. Have you seen or do you have a Maryland Ag Tag on your vehicle? You may not know about the work going on at the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation – the organization benefitting from 50% of your purchase of an ‘Ag Tag’ and 100% of the renewal fee – to directly fund agriculture in education. The Foundation’s mission is “to promote the understanding and importance of agriculture in our daily lives,” and their work to equip educators with the right tools (such as Ag in the Classroom teacher training), provide programming for school children (like their Mobile Science Labs), and promote career pathways in agriculture are increasing agricultural literacy and supporting the growth of the Region’s agriculture workforce. Learn more: http://maefonline.com/
OutGrowth is an organization unique to the Region that has re-thought the college internship experience. OutGrowth links students through a cohort-based model representing many of the Region’s colleges and universities to the business of farming with immersive, out-of-the-classroom competency building and experiential learning. Their programs – including Farm to Future and residential farm internships – place students with farms for real-world skill building. Students with majors in business, finance, marketing and communications build career competencies while also adding value to locally-grown businesses. Learn more: https://www.outgrowthtoday.org/
Just in case you missed it, here is a snapshot of news from the Region: https://www.greaterbaltimore.org/news/icymi-october-2019
To read the full EAGB newsletter online, click here: https://mailchi.mp/greaterbaltimore.org/harvesting-the-region