Aiming at farms for the future in So. Md.
Friday, Feb. 27, 2009
The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission recently released a publication titled "Farms for the Future."
This report briefly outlines the statewide and five countywide programs the commission has developed to help transition Maryland's original tobacco-based economy to new modes of productivity.
In 2000, with great foresight, the state of Maryland made a powerful decision to assist one of its oldest industries, an industry that restores clean water to our aquifers, purifies the air we breathe and brings food for our sustenance. That industry, farming, once formed a noble backbone of our economy. National health concerns, dwindling markets and pressure from land developers threatened to eradicate the face of farming in Southern Maryland forever. Recognizing that we faced a tremendous and irreplaceable loss, the Maryland legislature put in place a plan to balance development and farming.
This decision will have a profound impact on Maryland's future. We can ensure that our nation's children will enjoy the simple pleasures of a hay ride, savor the flavors of a fresh-picked peach and reap the greater benefits of cleaner air and water.
But for all of this, we'll need to continue to work hard to build a strong and vibrant farm base that is adaptive and responsive and a nation of education citizens who understand that supporting farms has benefits reaching far beyond fresh food.
As you turn the pages of this publication, I hope you'll gain a deeper understanding of how the choices that we make every day — choices as legislators, as county officials, as citizens, taxpayers and consumers … impact the future of our environment, our food security, our economy. The publication is available to view online at www.somarylandsogood.com
I challenge all Marylanders to consider what makes this area great and to vow to protect it. Take the Buy Local Challenge in July, to get out and visit a farmers market, take your family to visit a farm and meet the people who make all of this possible … and I ask you to support agricultural land preservation with your tax dollars so farmers of the future have land to farm.
The choices we make today will impact not only our own lives, but those of our children and our children's children. Once a farm or field is paved over, there is no going back. If we are to keep our nation's independence, assure safe food, and preserve our environment, we have to work together … today.
The choice is ours.
Christine L. Bergmark, Hughesville
The writer is executive director of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission.