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Faces of Maryland Farming

Maryland is home to more than 12,000 farms, ranging from just a few acres to thousands of acres. From the mountains of Western Maryland to the sandy coastal soils on the Eastern Shore, our farm families run just about any kind of operation you can imagine. What they all have in common is a desire to be the best at what they do: growing the highest quality food, feed and fiber products for their families and yours.

“I farm because it’s in my blood. You get done planting a field and you turn around and the sun’s setting over the pattern of the crops that you’ve just planted and it’s a pretty rewarding experience to see all the hard work pan out and know that you’re helping to feed families throughout the Mid-Atlantic,” says Mike Harrison of Woodbine, Md.

Chip Councell is the tenth generation of his family to farm his land on the Eastern Shore, and he farms with his father and his son. “Other than my family, there is nothing more I treasure than this land,” he says.

To protect his soil from erosion, Eric Spates of Montgomery County plants cover crops and uses grassed waterways and buffer strips and using no-till practices. “We’re, I think, going to great lengths to try to preserve this natural resource that we have.”

“I don’t consider it a job,” says Greg Turner of Preston, Md. “If you want to do it every day, you get up and go.” He started farming with one acre in 1988. Today he farms 2,800 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, cucumbers, peas and potatoes, mostly no-till to save moisture and erosion.

”Living close to the land offers nourishment to the soul.” Diversification is key to success for the Fry family of Fair Hill Farm in Chestertown, Md. They raise Holsteins and grain crops and were inducted into the Maryland Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2013.

“It is our goal as farmers to be excellent stewards of the land,” says Linda Burrier of Union Bridge. In more than 50 years on their land, they have continually improved their land by adopting the latest environmental recommendations. “Yes the tractors are old, but yes the practices are definitely cutting-edge. We’re trying to stay out front.”

“By an outsider’s standards, our operation, which I don’t consider huge, would be a factory farm, by some people’s standards. We till 1,600 acres but it’s a 100 percent family owned operation,” says Jason Scott. “We don’t own all of the land, we do rent some land. Most farms out there are family farms.” The Scotts raise corn, soybean, wheat, barley and peas near Hurlock, Md.

“When we climbed the silo we could see seven fast food restaurants and the biggest outlet mall in the state of Maryland,” says Jim Weddle of Creek Bound Farm in Washington County, Md. That’s when the family farm decided it was time to make changes to their farm to provide for their own future and survive within the community that was springing up around them.

Agriculture is Maryland’s #1 industry, with an economic impact of $8.25 billion each year. Farming is an economic powerhouse that fuels our rural communities and the state’s economy.

Cover crops enhance soil health, recover unused nutrients and reduce erosion from wind and water. Maryland farmers plant more than 400,000 acres of cover crops each year.

Maryland farmers embrace innovation and technology to help them continually improve. Today each farmer raises enough food to feed 155 other people!