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Kevin Dayhoff: Ag preservation in Carroll County reaches a 75,000-acre milestone

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners will celebrate a landmark in the county’s successful agriculture preservation program on Oct. 16 at the Carroll County Farm Museum.

The county “reached a milestone in fall of 2020 by preserving 75,000 acres, 75% of its 100,000-acre goal,” according to the Carroll County Times. That milestone will be marked at the farm museum event, which is being held in conjunction with the Fall Harvest Celebration.”

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The celebration will include bus tours of nearby preserved farms and a commemoration ceremony. The celebration was postponed to this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Times said.

In 2004, I reported that Carroll County’s very successful Agricultural Land Preservation Program is a frequent topic of discussion. Supporting agriculture helps preserve the rural character of Carroll County and the well-being of those associated with this traditional way of life. .

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It is important to not only preserve agricultural land, but also the businesses that will help maintain that land. That is why such things as the Oct. 16 celebration, the Carroll County Farm Museum, the annual Carroll County Fair, and the 52,500-square-foot Danele Shipley Memorial Arena play such critical roles.

“Chris Heyn, director of the Department of Land and Resource Management, told county commissioners … the county’s agricultural preservation program is one of the top in the nation. ‘It’s a fantastic program that provides economic benefit to our agricultural community and helps support the growth of what is really the number one industry in Carroll County,’ ” the Times reported in July.

It was over a year ago that Bernard Jones, a community leader and Carroll County Land Trust board member, first called to my attention the outstanding progress made by the land trust and the success of ag preservation in the county.

Deb Bowers, who worked for Carroll County Ag Preservation for 30 years, was also helpful in putting this discussion together, along with many others.

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According to its website, the Carroll County Land Trust “is dedicated to preserving the agricultural, rural and historic character of Carroll County by accepting and maintaining donated easements, assisting landowners through various easement processes and advocating for the preservation of land and protection of the rural and historic character in Carroll County.”

The website continues: “Beginning in 1980 and through the year 2019, by sheer dedication and perseverance, this achievable goal resulted in 73,000 acres of land being permanently preserved. …”

In an article I wrote in The Baltimore Sun in 2004, I explained that much has changed in Westminster and Carroll County since the 1800s, and agriculture has not been exempt. One thing, however, remains the same. Agriculture is the number one industry in Carroll County.

In a July 2004 interview, then-Carroll County Agriculture Marketing Specialist Gabriel S. Zepp cited some rather impressive numbers that help quantify the importance of agriculture in Carroll County.

In 2002, there were 1,058 farms in Carroll County. In 1997, the market value of all agricultural products sold in Carroll was $92 million, which had an $845 million economic impact on the county’s economy. As Carroll County continues to change, the importance of agriculture to Westminster and the county is only increasing.

In an email interview in July 2004, Zepp said, “With potential new developments in domestic and international markets, the future of agriculture in Carroll County is promising. Carroll agriculture must be willing to adapt to changing technology, markets, consumer demands, residential growth and rising land values to ensure growth in agriculture. New marketing techniques including the use of cooperatives, networking, directories and the internet will improve the agricultural economy and revive the rural community.”

The Oct. 16 celebration “will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ... at the Carroll County Farm Museum and is free to the public. The bus tours will begin around 10:30 a.m. and are expected to last about an hour. There will be two buses with limited space available, and individuals must register in advance online,” the Times reported.

“Brenda Dinne, special projects coordinator for the department, pointed out the county’s six-member agricultural preservation committee has been working to increase public awareness of the milestone. The celebration will be accompanied by an educational campaign promoting the benefits of preservation to the community and the importance of public support for ‘growing’ preserved land acreage to attain the remaining 25,000 acres. …”

(In full disclosure, I retired from farming in 1999. I raised nursery stock on a small farm in Patapsco and over the years served on a number of local and state agriculture advisory boards.)

Find a brochure on the 2018 agricultural preservations programs here: https://www.carrollcountymd.gov/media/2083/brochure-2018-edit.pdf.

For more information, contact Carroll’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program at 410-386-2214 or CCAgPres@CarrollCountyMD.gov, or contact the Carroll County Land Trust at 410-848-8247 or write to the trust at: Carroll County Land Trust, Inc., P.O. Box 2137, Westminster, MD 21158.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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