Agriculture summit studies ‘value-added’ for farming
STEVENSVILLE — Today’s farmers have added a new phrase to their vocabulary that will hopefully spell prosperity in the future.
The new phrase is “value-added agriculture,” and it was the topic of a new summit presented by Grow Maryland and the Rural Maryland Council at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville on Thursday, Dec. 1.
Value-added products are defined by U.S. Department of Agriculture as having a change in the physical state of the farm product such as milling wheat into flour or making strawberries into jam. Also included in that definition is production in a manner that enhances a product’s value such as organically produced food.
The summit brought together almost 200 people for this inaugural event.
Janna Howley, co-director of Grow Maryland, was pleased with the event. “We are very appreciative of the people who came and spoke and shared their experiences as well as the attendees who came to learn more about valueadded agriculture or have agriculture valued-added already.”
The purpose of the summit was to raise awareness about the importance of this industry from an economic, land preservation, and quality of life point of view, she said. “We want to start a conversation about how to better support these kinds of businesses in our state,” she said.
The attendees included valueadded agriculture producers and small food businesses, state and county agency representatives, state and county elected officials, food and agriculture organizations, media and bloggers, and food policy organizers.
Speakers in the morning included Craig Beyrouty, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland. He spoke about the role of university and resources it of fers.
Joe Tassone of the Maryland Department of Planning provided an overview of the sustainability of farming and forestry. Dale Hawks from the U.S. Department of Agriculture talked about statistics.
Kevin Atticks of Grow and Fortify presented the Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s Value-Added Agricultural report. Grow and Fortify is a management firm developed to assist businesses and create and strengthen organizations in the value-added agriculture, ag-tourism and the food system sectors.
After the speakers, there was a panel of farmers who represented the face of Mar yland’s value-added agriculture. One of those farmers who spoke as Drew Baker, founder of Old Westminster Winery and Maryland Wine Cellars in Westminster, Md. Besides growing the grapes, his business makes and sells the wine.
In the afternoon, breakout sessions included innovation, law and liability, trends, and tourism as well as starting small and scaling up.
In one session, Susan McQuilkin from the Southern Maryland Development Commission spoke about the importance of relationships between businesses even if those businesses are different types.
“By cooperating with each other, you can gain customers that may not have otherwise visited your business. But together, you can create a cross-promotion synergy, benefiting each and ever yone,” she said.
During the summit, participants had the opportunity to sign up for a consultant to visit with them while the event was going on. One of those consultants was Ginger Myers, marketing specialist for the University of Mar yland Extension Office. She gave advice to Sarah Campbell of West River, Md., a new farmer who raises cows, pigs, and chickens.
“I learned about liability, licensing, and the logistics of the valueadded farm business,” Campbell said.
Besides listening to speeches and advice, the summit participants had the opportunity to write about value-added agriculture. There was a poster on the wall for people to write their comments.
Tara Boyle of Annapolis was one of those people who wrote on the poster. She is the former market manager of Freshfarm. She wrote, “I would like to see more people be able to grow it, make it, buy it, sell it, and use it from local agriculture,” Boyle said.
As for the summit in general, she enjoyed it. “It was just eye-opening, illuminating, in the impact value-added products do and can have on the local economic scene,” she said.
Value-added processing offers farmers the potential to capture a larger share of the food dollar. The farmer’s share of the consumer’s food shopping dollar has decreased from 46 percent in 1913 to just fewer than 20 percent in 2006, according to the USDA Economic Research Ser vice.
Grow Maryland is a new nonprofit organization formed to support and promote Maryland’s value-added agricultural producers, agritourism operations and small food businesses utilizing Maryland-grown ingredients.
The group provide resources to streamline the regulatory process, conduct educational outreach activities to county and state level agencies and elected officials, promote value-added enterprises, and work for better laws that support the agricultural and food communities.
Kelly Dudeck and Janna Howley, left and right, are co-directors of Grow Maryland which held a summit on the future of value-added agriculture on Thursday, Dec. 1, in Stevensville.