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Farmers win long-term lease to stay at former Naval Academy dairy farm in Gambrills

The operators of the former Naval Academy dairy farm in Gambrills, who sparked debate earlier this year when they announced plans to cut back organic farming practices there, will get to stay on the property another five years, Anne Arundel County officials said Tuesday.

Edwin and Marian Fry, who have operated Maryland Sunrise Farm for years, were selected after County Executive Laura Neuman sought proposals to run the farm, which is owned by the Navy and leased to the county government.

The Frys will pay $25,000 a year to use the property, with a 2 percentage point annual increase.

Over the winter, the Frys decided to abandon some of their organic practices, and some neighbors raised concerns about the use of fertilizers and pesticides on the 856-acre property. Those concerns led the county to solicit other proposals for the farm.

The Frys have agreed to transition crops and pastures back to organic status over the term of the lease.

The farm's popular corn maze on Route 175, which has never been organic, will not be required to become organic.

Edwin Fry said he hopes to mend relationships with neighbors that were broken during the debate over the future of the farm.

"We're going to work proactively to be a positive member of the community," he said. "We had always tried to be that in the past, but the last six months have been focused on damage control."

More than 100 people attended a community meeting in February, and about 3,600 signed an online petition urging the county to require the farm to use organic methods.

The lease must be approved by the County Council and the Navy.

County Councilman Jamie Benoit, whose district includes the farm, said he expects neighbors will weigh in on the lease.

"There's absolutely no guarantee this lease will pass the council," the Crownsville Democrat said. "We'll see what happens."

Officials said there was one other bidder, but did not reveal the bidder's name or proposal.

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