After donating $100,000 to the Baltimore County Land Trust Alliance for its efforts to preserve farmland, the Maryland Agricultural Resource Council board of directors has unanimously voted to dissolve the nonprofit.
“I am pleased that we are able to make a significant donation to the Baltimore County Land Trust Alliance, a private group that works to support the efforts of local land preservation groups,” said Tom Whedbee, chairman of the MARC board, in a farewell letter Sept. 21. “The combined work of these organizations has had a huge impact on the future of agriculture in the area and needs to be continued.”
The board’s decision to dissolve the nonprofit came in response to changes in recent years, including the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks’ decision to take on all operations at the council’s agricultural center, and the restrictions placed on activities at the center due to the pandemic. The board also described a tenuous relationship with the current director of the county parks department, Roslyn Johnson.
This made it impossible for MARC to run programs like Farmer Stan’s Farm Tours, the preschool Sprouts program, and its other educational programs, Whedbee said. Although the agricultural center’s programs helped financially, MARC could not control the curriculum or the educators, and found the situation to be unsatisfactory, Whedbee said.
“We had long discussions about how we might continue,” Whedbee said. “Ultimately though, I think the remaining board members were disheartened and felt it was time to close the shop. Over our existence, we lost many excellent folks who became tired of the poor MARC-county relationship. For the current board, the last few years were the last straw.”
MARC’s operations came to a standstill, Whedbee said. The organization began discussing dissolution with the full board in April, and the formal vote was made on Aug. 30, Whedbee said.
MARC will donate its remaining funds to programs supporting its mission to educate the public about agriculture and the importance of land preservation, according to a news release from the organization.
The county, however, does not believe its relationship with MARC was strained, said Erica Palmisano press secretary forBaltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.
The Morning Sun
Palmisano said MARC’s contributions will support efforts to protect Baltimore County’s agricultural assets.
“We thank MARC for its decades of leadership and advocacy on behalf of Baltimore County’s agricultural communities,” Palmisano said in a statement. “The county has long shared the volunteer organization’s commitment to agricultural education, land preservation, and ensuring the long-term success of our farmers, and have appreciated the opportunity for robust dialogue about how to best accomplish these common goals. We are confident that MARC’s generous contribution to the BCLTA will help build on their legacy to support efforts to ensure that we can protect Baltimore County’s rich and diverse agricultural assets for years to come.”
MARC initiated the concept for the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park in Cockeysville, a working farm where area residents can experience agricultural life and learn about agriculture’s impact on everyday lives, according to the council’s website. As many as 10,000 schoolchildren toured the farm each year, according to a news release from the organization.
“The beautiful Ag Center facility would not exist without the vision, hard work and persistence of MARC’s founders,” Whedbee said.
MARC also facilitated the purchase of the property for county ownership and put 129 acres of the park’s 150-acresite into an agricultural easement.
“We feel somewhat better knowing that MARC accomplished a great deal,” Whedbee said.