Much has changed in Westminster and Carroll County since Grover Kinzy, the first Maryland Cooperative Extension agent, came to town on Nov. 10, 1916 — in part, as a response to the economic chaos in the agriculture community resulting from the market repercussions of World War I.
Kinzy's office was in the Times Building, across the street from the old Westminster fire hall on Main Street in Westminster. One of the first things Kinzy did was help start local 4-H clubs.
According to the definitive history book on agriculture in Carroll County — "Legacy of the Land" by Carol Lee — it wasn't an easy task for Kinzy.
"It was hoped that the special problems of wartime production would encourage farmers to turn to the extension service for help … but to project something in theory did not necessarily mean that it would happen in practice.
"Many farmers in Carroll County did come to rely on the new agent's expertise, but on the whole ... all sorts of difficulties plagued (Kinzy). He was held responsible for the bureaucratic problems that inevitably arose. Local suspicion of government programs offered problems more serious than administrative confusion."
Kinzy was followed by Frederick Fuller from 1918 to around 1925. One of the more fabled county agents, Landon C. Burns, served next until 1964. Today a park in Westminster and Burns Hall, part of the Carroll County Agriculture Center complex, is named after him.
The extension service survived and took hold. In fact, in 1992, when state funding of the support services that helped sustain agriculture was a problem, local community support for the extension service and the local county agents was not.
Tom Ford, the county agriculture adviser-consultant in the Carroll County office of the Cooperative Extension Service, wrote on Sept. 19, 1992, "The recent budget turmoil that has threatened the Cooperative Extension Service has brought an unprecedented outpouring of support from our clientele. When I started my tenure ... in 1982, I was placed under the excellent tutelage of County Extension Director Bob Jones. Bob instilled a certain work ethic in his staff.
"As the reigns of the … Extension Office have passed from Bob Jones to Walt Bay and now to David Greene, the one constant in our office has been our staff's undying loyalty to the people of Carroll County," Ford wrote.
Today, that loyalty remains, and the future of agriculture in Carroll continues to be promising — despite of the challenges.
Carroll agriculture is constantly adapting to changing technology, consumer demands, residential growth and rising land values — and is finding new markets and new ways to market itself.
When he is not stalking fresh fruit and vegetables at local fruit stands and farmers' markets, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.