Community shares concerns at legislative breakfast
WEST FRIENDSHIP, Md. — Sponsored by Howard County’s agriculture organizations and held at the Howard County Fairgrounds, the Howard County Legislative Breakfast attracted state and county legislators as well as a wide spectrum of representatives from the agriculture community.
Although newly installed county executive Calvin Ball was unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts, all of the five new county council members did as well as four members of the incoming 12-member Howard County state delegation.
Howie Feaga, county Farm Bureau president, led off a series presentations with his version of the agricultural community’s “‘Top Ten List’ of concerns that we face every day.”
At the top of that list was “Neighbors” and the conflicts that have arisen over the years due to “the competition for land” between urban development and the agriculture community members.
Feaga also noted under his comments for “Liability and Insurance” that it “ties into the ‘Neighbors’ part, especially when they trespass on the farmlands and get hurt.” He also asked for greater understanding from the community when farmers are moving equipment between different fields, mentioning again that the pressures of urban development on “ag preservation parcels has clumped us into little islands and makes it difficult to lease land” in any sort of contiguous fashion.”
Joy Levy, administrator for the Agricultural Preservation Program and the next presenter, echoed the smaller parcel theme.
Quickly providing a brief outline of the preservation process, Levy said Howard County’s agriculture preservation parcels are “a definite patchwork because Howard didn’t have the restrictive zoning enacted in other counties who have set aside areas.” She added “the trend in the recent cycle (2013-18) is that the parcels being placed into preservation are smaller” than those from previous years and cycles, and that there are “less than a handful of parcels in the 100-acre size.”
James Zoller, the Agricultural Coordinator for the Howard County Office of Community Sustainability, began his presentation by enlarging on Feaga’s initial thoughts about “the conflicts between the community and farms” and the need to educate the community to ameliorate those misunderstandings and help each adapt to the other.
Zoller noted his Office “has a lot of platforms to increase education in the community, [including] the Roving Radish, a farm to table meal kit program which has been successful on a lot of fronts including agricultural.” Many of our programs are run almost all by volunteers,” continued Zoller. “We educate our volunteers and they become ambassadors for agriculture within the community.”
David Plummer, District Manager for the Howard Soil Conservation District, shared, “The Farmer’s Dilemma,” offering statistics from public government data to show the contrast in household economics of Maryland’s farmers with the median household of Maryland’s urban counties such as Howard and the state’s more rural counties such as Somerset.
He said the data can hopefully offer some insight into the challenges facing Howard’s agriculture community.
Kathy Johnson, director of Agricultural Business Development for the Howard County Economic Development Authority, also not only focused on some of the challenges facing Howard County agriculture, but also the need to find more opportunities to “keep the next generation in the mix.” She also cited the need both “to educate and encourage the public to buy locally” and “to continue to allow farms to diversify for the next generation.”
Following the presentations, many attendees expressed appreciation that the five county council members, all brand new to their posts, had attended.
“Even if they’re not having to deal with it [agriculture] on a day-to-day basis,” said Levy, “it’s still going to be something they’re going to see through legislative process.”
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925