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Introduction

 

Welcome to the Maryland Beginning Farmer Success Newsletter. 

The Maryland Beginning Farmer Success Project provides new farmers with resources and contacts to be able to explore enterprise options, refine ideas, develop plans and strategies, and implement their farming practice. 

Each month our newsletter features events, training and resources to support farming initiatives throughout the state.  Plus, a Beginning Farmer Success Interview Series that spotlights and celebrates Maryland farmers, industry professionals, and projects that aim to support Maryland agriculture and Beginning Farmer Success!

In This Issue: 

  • Online trainings & Courses
  • Food & Farm Safety Resources 
  • Upcoming opportunities for Urban Farmers
  • New urban and small acreage cover crop grant 
  • Farmer Field School
  • Monthly Webinars
  • October Events for new and existing farmers
  • Save the Date
  • Interview Spotlight & More!

Trainings, Courses & Workshops

 Maryland Farmer Success Online Course

This summer, the University of Maryland (UMD) is partnering with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and USDA to create a four-module online training course, Maryland Farming Success. The online training course is separated into four modules designed around preparing farmers for success by providing information about available USDA programs and creating the ability for participants to have a successful business plan, including - mission and goals, enterprise budgeting, risk management, and legal risk management. For more information on the Maryland Farming Success learning course, or to REGISTER, click here, FREE. This material is funded in partnership by USDA, Risk Management Agency, under award number RMA21CPT0011599.

 

SOLAR WORKSHOP SERIES - Annapolis Friends Meetinghouse

Annapolis Friends Meetinghouse | 5:30 PM -7:30 PM October 3, 2022
​Explore Solar Opportunities for your Home, Farm, or Business through an Upcoming Solar Workshop — various dates and locations If you’re interested in using solar electricity to power your home, farm, or business, then please join an upcoming session.
Location: Annapolis Friends Meetinghouse 351 Dubois Road, Annapolis, MD 21401

REGISTER FREE

 

SOLAR WORKSHOP SERIES-Baltimore County Ag Center

Baltimore County Ag Center | 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM Oct 5, 2022
Explore Solar Opportunities for your Home, Farm, or Business through an Upcoming Solar Workshop — various dates and locations If you’re interested in using solar electricity to power your home, farm, or business, then please join an upcoming session. 
Location: Baltimore County Ag Center 1114 Shawan Road, Cockeysville, MD 21030

REGISTER FREE


For more information, or if you need reasonable accommodation to participate, please
contact Drew Schiavone (dschiavo@umd.edu, 301-432-2767).

 

Maryland Advanced Grazing Workshop with Ranching for Profit

OCTOBER 20, 2022 TO OCTOBER 21, 2022, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This advanced grazing workshop is designed for producers looking to transform their operation into a profitable business with less work and stress. Workshop attendees will dive deeper into the principles behind farm economics and increasing farm profitability, giving you the tools and insights you need to improve your business.

Location: University of Maryland - Western Maryland Research & Education Center, 18330 Keedysville Road, Keedysville, MD 21756

REGISTER  Cost: 2-day Workshop $150.00; One day $100.00 (purchase ticket for either Thursday or Friday)

Upcoming Opportunity for Urban Farmers

USDA financial Assistance Program For Urban Agriculture and Small Farm Operations.
They want to hear from you!

In August we spoke with Bill Tharpe, the Program Administrator for Urban Agriculture/Small Scale Farms for the Maryland Department of Agriculture from the USDA. He is requesting that urban and peri-urban produces  participate  in a questionnaire to support the development of their financial assistance program to support urban agriculture and small farm operations. This is an opportunity to help shape programs that aim to support urban and peri-urban produces needs. 

Urban Agriculture and Small Farm Program Questionnaire 

Small Farms Conference

If you have always wanted to travel to the UMES Small Farms Conference, this year UMES has funds to cover the costs for Maryland/DC urban farmers to attend (registration AND travel). If you are interested in a scholarship to attend, please fill out this survey. 



Request for urban ag proposals for Baltimore City-owned land

UME’s urban ag extension agent, Neith Little has informed us of some exciting news for urban farmers

‘There has been a very exciting development in Baltimore City land access for urban agriculture. 

Historically, many urban farms in Baltimore City have gotten started on Adopt-a-Lots through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). But in recent years, DHCD has clarified their Adopt-a-Lot criteria to state that Adopt-a-Lots cannot be used for for-profit businesses, and that community garden applications “will require additional vetting and site plans.” The guidance is silent on Adopt-a-Lot eligibility for non-profit community farms that have more food distribution and sales activities than a standard community garden. 

DHCD and Department of Planning staff have been working hard for two years to identify city-managed land that they can offer for urban agriculture use. AND THEY HAVE DONE IT!’ 

Please see the below information from their press release:

Department of Housing and Community Development, in partnership with Department of Planning, is pleased to release the City of Baltimore's first Request for Proposals (RFP) specifically for urban agriculture proposals — which can be from for-profits, non-profits, or individuals — for one or more of four potentially available city-owned sites (with a variety of sizes and conditions) scattered throughout the city which we are seeking to either lease or sell for new urban agriculture projects.

DHCD is hosting a virtual pre-proposal conference Wednesday, October 5, 2022, at 4:30 p.m., to provide details on each site, proposal submission criteria, and timelines. Register now.

All submissions must be received electronically by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.

Read more and apply. 

Urban & Small Acreage Cover Crop Grant

News from Annapolis MD- Governor Hogan Announces Launch of Small Acreage Cover Crop Program to Support Urban Agriculture Initiative Aimed at Helping Historically Underserved Farmers and Communities

To read more Click HERE

The Small Acreage Cover Crop Program is funded by the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund and managed by the MDA’s Conservation Grant Program. Growers who want to apply for these grants should contact Bill Tharpe, Program Administrator for the Small Farms and Urban Agriculture Program, at bill.tharpe@maryland.gov or 410-841-5869. For additional information, please visit the website

Food & Farm Safety Resources

Are you welcoming visitors to your farm or considering starting up an agritourism venture or hosting Pick Your Own (PYO) opportunities? Does your farm host short term farm workers or volunteers to harvest? Do you need signs to remind visitors of handwashing and other positive behaviors?   

 

The MDA food Safety Assurance Program offers signage to remind visitors of handwashing and other positive behaviors. 

This narrated PowerPoint is a good compilation of produce safety practices for those folks who are short-term on the farm.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and the Produce Safety Rule (PSR) both encourage food safety awareness on the farm for all visitors, volunteers, gleaners, and workers.

The operations that offer PYO opportunities can also post their food safety policies on their websites as visitors often go there to find out what is ripe for the picking. 

 

Monthly Webinars

Maryland Beef Webinar Series: Utilizing Crop Residue as a Forage Source
OCTOBER 11, 2022, 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM  REGISTER FREE

Women in Agriculture 2022 Wednesday Webinars.

Offered the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. They are FREE and open to all!  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2022-wednesday-webinars-tickets-170324907383 .

Mid-Atlantic Women in Agriculture | 12:00 PM October 12, 2022 

Agriculture Leases with Paul Goeringer

Mid-Atlantic Women in Agriculture | 12:00 PM October 26, 2022 

Regulatory Decision Trees for Value-Added Foods with Megan Todd and Sarah Everhart

Farm & Extension Tours & Events

Garden Smarter Go with the Flow: The Utility of Volunteer Plants 
(In-Person & Zoom) OCTOBER 1, 2022, 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM CALVERT LIBRARY PRINCE FREDERICK

FREE

2022 Women in Ag Fall Tour
OCTOBER 7, 2022, 8:30 - 2:15 PM Women in Ag and Annie's Project enthusiasts come together to tour the St. Michaels, MD area. Cost: $20.00 per person for the tour to include lunch at The Crab Claw Restaurant
Farm Alliance of Baltimore teaching farm in Farring-Baybrook city park
10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, 
October 8th Free

Pasture Walk at Fiddlers Folly Farm 

OCTOBER 12, 2022, 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM FREE
Family Fall Harvest Festival
OCTOBER 14, 2022,
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM  
FREE

2022 Annual Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference - Crowne Plaza Hotel in Annapolis

OCTOBER 28, 2022 | 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM

No one needs to tell you as a farmer or agriculturalist that your job is often faced with numerous challenges. Don’t let understanding agricultural and environmental laws be one of them! Learn more and REGISTER

Questionnaire 

We want to hear from you!
We are inviting farmers and aspiring farmers to complete a short survey to assess the interest in aquaponics and future educational programming in aquaponic methods. Your responses will support research and agricultural training. 
Your responses are confidential.
Request for responses by October 7th. 
Thank you for your support. 
https://go.umd.edu/aquaponics

Save The Date

 

November 7th: Harvest and Postharvest Practices for Improving Apple Fruit Marketability: Fruit Quality and Safety

February 2nd to April 6th: The Maryland Beginning Farmer program is launching a successful course starting on February 6 2023. This program is designed for those who are considering or in the beginning stages of starting a farm as a business. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of topics including; business planning, marketing, crop production, livestock husbandry, soil health, pest management, food safety, regulations, and certifications. Additional elective resources will cover more specialized topics, such as organic production, urban agriculture, and direct marketing to local customers.

Farmer Spotlight

The University of Maryland Extension talked with Steve McHenry, the Executive Director of the Maryland Agricultural and Resource Based-Industry Development Corporation or “MARBIDCO”, to learn more about two land acquisition programs they are offering,  and to demystify agricultural conservation. 

Beginning Farmer Success Interview Series 
 

 

This series spotlights and celebrates Maryland farmers, industry professionals, and the projects that aim to support Maryland agriculture and Beginning Farmer Success!  

This month we are featuring two Next Generation Farmland Acquisition Programs offered to beginning farmers by the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO). The original "Next Gen Program" and "SANG," the Small Acreage Next Gen Program, give financial assistance for purchasing farmland while also preserving land for food and fiber production.  

Thank you for speaking with the Beginning Farmer Success Program about the Next Generation Farmland Acquisition Programs. These programs have a dual purpose: supporting beginning farmers to help buy farmland,  and preserving land for the longevity of agriculture in Maryland. Can you tell us more? 

 

Thank you very much for this opportunity to discuss our Next Generation Programs. Access to land and access to capital are the two foremost challenges that beginning farmers face.

The Next Gen Programs help to address both of these challenges. The program assists a beginner farmer with buying their first farm by advancing a percentage of the farmland's fair market value at the real estate settlement. At the same time the program places the land on a path to become permanently preserved through a deed-restricted agricultural conservation easement.
 

There are two Next Gen programs; what is the difference, and how do they work?

The programs work a bit differently because of the acreage size requirements and type of easement instrument that is used at the real estate closing when the land is transferring ownership. The original program requires a farmland purchase of 50 acres or more, unless the farm is contiguous to an already preserved farm property. MARBIDCO brings 51% of the fair market value of the land only - not the improvements on the land - to a real estate settlement table to purchase an option to buy the permanent conservation easement. Meaning MARBIDCO becomes the temporary conservation easement holder with this option contract purchase, and the farmer brings the remaining 49% of the land purchase price (plus money for any improvements such as a house) to become the farm’s owner by working with a commercial lender (a bank or farm credit association). 

After the settlement, we give the farmer seven years to sell the conservation easement to a permanent conservation easement holder such as  the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, the DNR Rural Legacy Program, or a County Easement Preservation Programs, or whatever agency wants to hold the permanent conservation easement. The hope is that the Beginner Farmer can sell the permanent conservation easement for more than what we advanced when they bought the farmland, so more than 51%. Ideally, more than 54%, because MARBIDCO would get repaid the 51% it advanced, plus another 3% to help cover our administrative costs. For reference, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) Program can potentially pay up to 75% of the land's fair market value. After MARBIDCO is repaid, the balance of the permanent easement sales proceeds are retained by the farmer.  

 

How many farms have been purchased since the inception of the program? 

 

We have funded 36 Next Generation farm purchases during the first five years that the original program has been operating, and two years for the newer SANG program. So we consider the program pretty successful. Some original Next Gen Program farmers have already sold their easement to a permanent easement holder, and those funds that have been repaid have revolved back into the Next Gen program fund for future farm purchases.

 

What happens if the farmer is not able to sell after seven years? 

 

If, after seven years, the farmer cannot sell the easement for more than what we have advanced, they have two choices. They can pay us back plus accumulated interest, or more likely, we close on the easement and donate it to one of the permanent conservation easement holding agencies. Most likely we will donate the easement to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation because the Next Gen Program was originally designed to work with MALPF, which is a unit of the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). But a permanent conservation easement has also been purchased by a county government in one instance.

 

Have any farmers had a problem selling the easement to a permanent holder? 

 

We are five years into operating the original Next Gen program now, so we haven't hit the seven-year mark yet with the first group of easement option purchases. We are anticipating one or two may have a problem. However, it is important to note that the participating Beginner Farmer received just over half of the value of the land to the settlement table to help them buy farmland they would not have been able to buy otherwise. And, the land is permanently preserved, so in reality it is still a win for all involved. The farmer wins and society wins.  We certainly want the farmer to benefit as much as possible though, but that is potentially a risk of receiving “only” 51% for the permanent easement sale.  

 

Before discussing participation requirements, tell us about the Small Acreage Next Gen Program. 

 

Many Beginning Farmers want to buy farms of less than 50 acres in size, so given that demand, we developed a new program two years ago with acreage requirements of a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 49 acres. Again, we are bringing a certain amount to the real estate settlement table, but MARBIDCO is in effect buying the permanent conservation easement when the property is transferred to the beginning farmer. We have been bringing between 30% to 50% of the fair market value to the settlement table in the projects we have assisted with so far. The dollar figure is based on the number of development rights being extinguished. For example, one development right being extinguished starts at 40% and it goes up from there to 60% for five developments. Also, starting last year, if the farmland does not already have a conservation easement and also does not have any development rights, we can now advance 30% towards the farm purchase. Because MARBIDCO is not a permanent easement holder, we then donate it to a permanent conservation easement holding agency after the farm purchase has been completed.

 

How does MARBIDCO know who is going to hold the permanent agricultural conservation easement?

 

So it varies between the two programs. With the original Next Generation Program, we are contractually purchasing an option for the permanent easement, and providing the Beginner Farmer several years to sell the actual easement to an agency that holds and administers permanent easements. Since there can be no residential or non-agricultural commercial development on the property in the meantime, MARBIDCO has in effect placed a temporary easement on the property. And we do not specify at settlement who the permanent conservation easement holder is going to be (since we don’t know this yet).

 

With the SANG program, we work with the county to figure out what entity is able to take and hold the permanent conservation easement, and we draft the easement document to fit into the parameters of that permanent easement holder to legally administer the easement. Very often, it has been MALPF, but our last SANG project actually involved the participation of a private local land trust since the property was not eligible for MALPF.

 

So in the SANG program MARBIDCO is buying a permanent conservation easement, not “an option”, to help beginning farmers navigate getting onto farm properties less than 50 acres. 

 

That’s right, we provide an opportunity for small farmers to get onto land that the MALFP program cannot buy an easement on due to the smaller farm size, or perhaps also because the soils do not meet MALPF’s quality standards. When we bring the down-payment money to the settlement table, we are basically preserving this property forever. After settlement, we donate the easement to a permanent easement holder. With SANG, we base the amount we pay for the easement on the number of acres and the number of development rights being extinguished. We can pay up to $4,000 per acre (based on an appraisal). Also, we are discussing with some counties the possibility of bringing supplemental money to the table moving forward. It hasn’t happened yet, but we are in discussions currently. For the original program, we pay a flat 51% of the farmland market value which is used as a down-payment to help buy the property.

 

So for clarity,  besides the acreage requirements and the percentage of the fair market value MARBIDCO advances, the main difference is that for the Original Next Gen program the farmer is responsible for selling the conservation easement to a permanent holder within a prescribed amount of time, and with SANG, MARBIDCO purchases a permanent conservation easement outright and then donates the easement to an agency that holds and administers permanent easements? 

 

Yes, that’s correct. And, as I mentioned, with the original Next Gen program we do not know who the permanent easement holder will be when we go to settlement, and with the SANG program we do.

 

Once the property is put into a permanent conservation easement, who is the official land owner? 

 

The farmland remains in private ownership, and the beginner farmer now owns and has title to the land. An agricultural conservation easement is a deed restriction where only farming activity and food and production are allowed on that property. Still, the property remains in private ownership, so if and when the landowner dies, the property transfers to others as specified in the owner's will. But the land is still permanently protected for agricultural uses only.

 

What about forested land? On the website it reads “helping to secure a viable future for Maryland's agricultural industry by preserving working farm and forest land for future generations”, can you clarify for farmers currently looking for land? 

 

As with other agricultural land preservation programs, we view agricultural land and woodland as both being eligible as rural working land. More than half of all farms in Maryland also have woodlots and/or timber stands on them. Woodland is considered to be a component of agricultural land and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service classifies both agricultural and woodland soils in a manner that relates to the soil quality and productivity potential. Also, the 2017 USDA Census for Agriculture found that approximately 16% of the agricultural land that was surveyed in Maryland was actually woodland. But there is also other privately owned forestland in Maryland that was not picked up in the Ag Census.

 

Does the woodland need to be in production? 

 

Well, the forested areas may or may not be in production, per se, either as livestock forage areas or for timber harvesting, for example. If there is significant wooded acreage on a property, MALPF would require a forest stewardship management plan be developed for the property. Timber can certainly be harvested on properties having a conservation easement, following the guidance provided in the forest stewardship plan. The forest products industry is still very important to Maryland’s economy and forestry activity provides a potential source of income for farmers.

 

How is MARBIDCO defining a beginning farmer and what is the criteria to quality? 

 

We are targeting Beginner Farmers in these programs and use a definition similar to USDA’s of 10 years or fewer in farm management or operation. 

The Next Gen farmer must also want to farm the land actively and can't previously own a certain amount of land. The goal of the program is to get beginning farmers onto the land for the first time, not to help existing farmers to expand. Beginner Farmers are the priority with these programs. There are limitations around how much farmland the applicant can own before they apply. It is 10 acres for SANG and 20 acres for the original Next Gen program.  
 

How does the process begin for applying for one of the Next Generation programs?

 

It starts with the Beginner Farmer knowing what particular farm property they want to purchase. You don't get pre-approved in the abstract for these programs. The farmer must have a seller willing to sell the farmland, and the property cannot already be subject to a permanent conservation easement. 

So once a farm that is for sale has been identified, the Beginner Farmer will want to make sure it is eligible for a permanent future agriculture easement. This is where the staff at the County Agricultural Land Preservation offices will be of assistance. We have found the staff at the county offices to always be very helpful, and really these folks have been key to the success of this program. The Agricultural Land Preservation staff are usually (but not always) housed in a county's planning and zoning department, and the MARBIDCO truly relies on their help during this process. The county staff actually completes two of the five forms that need to be submitted with the formal application.

So the next step after finding out from the county that the land does not currently have a permanent conservation easement, but could have one in future, is to enter into a purchase contract with a farm property seller. We very strongly recommend that the closing date for settlement be at least six months in the future after the date that the contract for sale is signed. There are many steps needed to conclude a Next Gen Program transaction.
 
A commercial bank or farm credit association is always involved in a Next Gen project transaction to finance the rest of the money needed to complete the farm purchase, so the farmer will need to qualify for a commercial loan. Applicants must bring forward certain required financial information, as well as a farm business plan. The plan doesn't have to be fancy; it just needs to be clear. UME has an excellent program; the Rural Business Enterprise Center is great for finding sample farm business plans and thinking about how to structure a farm operation.
 
Once the applications have been received by MARBIDCO, we have a committee of experts that reviews them. We originally set the program up to rank the applications using several criteria to help us determine which could be funded. Thankfully though, so far anyway, we have been able to fund all the eligible requests that we have had to date. We have had great support from the Maryland General Assembly for this program too.
 

Are you seeing any challenges with the program?

The biggest challenge we are seeing today is the increased demand for rural property purchases. This has largely been caused recently by the pandemic and people wanting to move to the country. There has been a lot of competition for the smaller farm properties. We advise the Beginner Farmers to try to convince a seller to pick a real estate closing date at least six months out. There are several steps involved in completing a Next Gen program project, and it takes more time than with an ordinary farm purchase that normally happens with a bank or one of MARBIDCO’s loan programs. The fastest we have ever facilitated a Next Gen project closing  was in  just under five months, from start to finish, others have taken six or seven months. The farm property seller really needs to be willing to wait to get to closing.

Thank you for taking the time to help beginning farmers navigate these programs. It is a great opportunity for farmers seeking to buy their first farms and to be a part of a conservation legacy in Maryland. Allison Roe is the direct contact for the Next Generation programs and can be reached at aroe@marbidco.org
 

One more question before you go. Your degree is in political science, how did you come to agriculture and working with rural communities? 

I actually grew up in suburbia, so I didn't have any rural background for the first 18 years of my life. I went to Saint Mary's College of Maryland, which was in a very rural area at that time.  After college, I moved to Annapolis to work for the Maryland General Assembly. Soon thereafter, I became a lobbyist for the Maryland Municipal League, where for 12 years I worked closely with small communities all around the state. It was there that  I really gained an appreciation for the needs of rural communities. Later, I had a chance to become the Executive Director of the Rural Maryland Council. That was 24 years ago, and I spent nine busy years there. I have been working with state legislators and around state and local government basically my entire professional life. 

A lot of my work has involved policy matters concerning agricultural development. One of our initiatives at the Rural Maryland Council was to establish an agricultural financial authority in Maryland.  This work initially began in 1999, but it took until 2004 to get the State Legislature to formally create MARBIDCO and another three years to get some initial funding. So today, we are celebrating 15 years of MARBIDCO being in operation. I was hired as MARBIDCO’s first Executive Director in December 2006, so I am coming up on my 16th year. And I am very fortunate to work with such a great team of professionals in our small office in Annapolis.

Congratulations,  and I think it is notable  that you have devoted your career to serving the rural citizens of Maryland. Thank you for your service. 
To learn more about the  “Next Gen” and SANG programs visit their website HERE

 

You can read more about Taxes and Land Preservation: general information about some aspects of tax issues associated with land preservation. 

The University of Maryland Extension strives to provide the most current research-supported, environmentally friendly methods for growing food, ornamentals, livestock, and native plants in Baltimore City and throughout the state.

Are you looking to grow your agriculture business idea?

Cultivating Entrepreneurship is our Coaching Assistance Program that provides conversations to help you launch or grow your business idea. The University of Maryland Extension has trained business coaches that know the ins and outs of agriculture and food-related businesses. An entrepreneurial Coaching session is free of charge, and all individuals interested in growing their businesses are invited to participate.

Free Therapy Services for Farm Families

COVID-19 Resources

https://extension.umd.edu/programs/agriculture-food-systems/program-areas/integrated-programs/farm-stress-management/covid-19-resources
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