Agri­cul­ture sum­mit stud­ies ‘value-added’ for farm­ing

Record Observer - - News - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

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.

PHOTO BY CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

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.

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