MARC board votes to dissolve organization
COCKEYSVILLE, Md. — The Maryland Agriculture Resource Council, a Baltimore County-based nonprofit focused on enhancing the rural economy and fostering conservation of agricultural and natural resources through education, will dissolve after transfering its remaining funds to a county land trust and other areas that fit the council’s mission.
At an Aug. 30 meeting, the council’s board of directors voted unanimously to donate $100,000 to the Baltimore County Land Trust Alliance and subsequently cease operation.
According to a Sept. 21 news release from MARC, the decision was made in response to changes in recent years at the county’s Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park, where MARC was based, including restrictions related to the pandemic and the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks assuming all operations at the center.
“The board only made these decisions after much soul-searching and attempts at finding alternatives, In the end, however, the votes to dissolve MARC and to whom to distribute our assets were all unanimous,” said Tom Whedbee, MARC’s chairman of the board of directors, in a letter to supporters of the group.
MARC formed in 2004 as the Baltimore County Agricultural Resource Center Inc., shortly after a group of concerned farmers and others met and decided to work towards the acquisition and development of a centrally-located agricultural resource center.
The group located and arranged the financing for a 150-acre property on Shawan Road with the county retaining ownership in 2007 and preserved 129 acres with an agricultural easement.
The site became the farm park in 2010 and houses offices for University of Maryland Extension, USDA agencies, the soil conservation district and its farmland was used to demonstrate farming practices and hold agriculture related events and educational workshops.
In it’s news release, MARC listed some of its successes as operating a demonstration farm at the site until 2021, leading farm tours for as many as 10,000 school children annually and hosting Family Farm Day, which brought thousands of attendees to the farm park for agriculture education activities.
“I think people liked it,” Whedbee said of MARC’s programs. “It was well-received and well-populated.”
Whedbee said while MARC volunteers worked for years at the farm park in cooperation with county government, it pushed for a Memorandum of Understanding with the county to formalize the relationship, but each time the county transitioned to new administration the matter went unresolved.
“MARC never got an agreement in writing for what the purpose would be,” Whedbee said. “We never had a lease or an MOU or anything like that.”
When the pandemic hit, all MARC’s public programs stopped and as the county Recreation and Parks Department assumed control of the farm park’s activities, Whedbee said it became “quite difficult” to bring them back.
“It was kind of like a perfect storm and not in our favor, obviously,” he said.
Requests for comment from the Department of Recreation and Parks and the farm park were not returned as of press time.
Whedbee said board members grew discouraged by the challenges and left the group.
When Whedbee didn’t see any options for someone to take his place as chairman, he said he began to wonder if it was time to end it altogether.
“We lost a lot of good people and it was hard to get new members,” he said.
He said the board discussed moving to a different location but that proved to be not a feasible option.
“There was no unanimity on that,” he said. “And there wasn’t an obvious place the group could go.”
The Land Trust Alliance that will receive $100,000 donation, works to support other local land preservation groups and has helped to preserve 70,000 acres of farmland.
“The combined work of these organizations has had a huge impact on the future of agriculture in the area and needs to be continued,” Whedbee said in the news release.