Agriculture and Planning Conference
June 7, 2019
Olivia Vidotto, APA Maryland Southern Maryland Representative
A one day conference was held in southern Maryland on the struggles and efforts between farmers, the governing regulations and the lack of regulations for different types of farming. The farmers are reinventing how farms are used, promoting many different types of events on farms, planting vineyards, experimenting with new crops along with building wineries, beer gardens and other different ideas than what has been typically found on farms in the past.
Most jurisdictions are lacking sound regulations to address these changes and sometimes the existing regulations conflict or don’t allow what is being proposed. Diversity is important for the farmer along with the proper regulations to promote this fast changing environment while keeping agriculture and farms thriving.
The expert speakers started with Michelle Cable, the Executive Director of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, who spoke on different ways the state is working with farmers and legislation to provide diversity. Greg Bowen, current Executive Director of the American Chestnut Land Trust, delved into the history of farming and loss of farmland along the east coast. Also, how farming changed in the 20th century and is changing again in the 21st century. He then went into the importance of promoting agri-tourism and ways that the planning office can promote the retention of agriculture in each jurisdiction. Next, Shelby Watson-Hampton, Director of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC), presented the different programs that they are working on with local farmers and the new and exciting things that are coming to southern Maryland.
The event was held at Serenity Farms and Bernie Fowler, Jr., gave an overview of how the Farm4Hunger program came about, how it is more than planting fields with crops and providing food to those in need, but beyond that, how it is touching lives in a way that is deeper and more lasting than anyone imagined. The afternoon was spent touring parts of the farm, participating in team building exercises, and testimonials from those working on the farm and the impact it has had on them.
Quite a few of us continued on to the Running Hare Winery, sat back in the beer garden to relax and go over the conference. It was great to look around and see how Running Hare was a good example of what we discussed during the day. Beyond it having vineyards and being a producer of award winning wines, they do wine tastings, host beautiful weddings in a building that looks like it is from Tuscany, have local musicians play during the week, food trucks set up regularly and they promote fundraisers and other events there. We also chatted about other events for APA to look into and just relaxed while enjoying the local wine/beer. All in all, not a bad Friday and definitely a good start to the weekend.
2020 will mark the 3rd annual Agricultural and Planning event that will be held at Serenity Farm. We hope to have these great speakers back with us and also to add a few new speakers for next year. We are also looking into providing more credits for this event starting next year as well.
This event for the last two years has surprised most that attended as it is so different. It’s held in a building on a farm, the speakers are amazing individuals who are experts in the world of agricultural and not to give too much away, the afternoon is never what anyone expects as it becomes emotional, moving, and thought provoking. Intrigued by that last part? Plan on attending next year. You will not be disappointed!
This event is planned and prepared by Olivia Vidotto, APA Maryland Southern Maryland Representative.