A former Maryland governor will be the keynote speaker when the Christian Farmers Outreach holds its 30th annual luncheon on Saturday, April 1.
Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will speak about his faith and how it has influenced his life, including his marriage to his wife, Kendel.
Ehrlich's speech is just one part of the luncheon. In addition to the food, there will be music and testimony by others. The luncheon will be held at the Pleasant Valley Community Fire Hall, 2030 S. Pleasant Valley Road.
The Times spoke with Ehrlich about speaking at the luncheon and the role of agriculture in Maryland.
Q: Why did you decide to speak at the Christian Farmers Outreach luncheon?
A: Well, I was asked to do so by Mr. Wilson Lippy, who is very difficult to say no to. I've known him many, many years. We have been great friends, both my wife and myself. And when he asks you to do something, you try to do it.
Q: How does the message and the mission of the Christian Farmers Outreach reflect your own life?
A: Well, it does and it does not. I've never been a farmer, but it does in the sense of I represented agricultural districts in the state legislature and Congress. And so I learned a lot of ag issues. I spent a lot of time with farmers. Had, in fact, different groups or advisory groups in Congress, so I had an ag advisory group. I would obviously go to all the farmer events on Capitol Hill. And so I learned along the way, so when I became governor I was well-aware of the ports of agriculture in Maryland. And obviously, as a Christian, the group appeals to me.
Q: How so?
A: I love the message. I've been to many of these lunches over the years, going back many, many years. And it's always interesting and heartwarming to hear the individual journeys, and some are very emotional, as you know.
Q: So why support local Maryland organizations like this one?
A: Well, you just heard why. For three reasons. One, Wilson asked me so I'd do just about anything. Secondly, the farmers, I love to bring attention to the farmers and the importance of farmers and agriculture in the state of Maryland. And, obviously, third, the personal experience of these luncheons is always so powerful.
Q: But in terms of Maryland, how have you seen Maryland change in the years since you were governor?
A: Well, I don't pay close attention to Maryland politics any longer. I'm really more into Capitol Hill/national politics oriented, you know, do a lot of TV and all that and write books and all that stuff in Washington way more than Annapolis. But I do know the issue of conservation is huge. That inappropriate development in our outer suburbs impinges obviously on ag. We were pretty aggressive, I was pretty aggressive in Congress and purely as governor in trying to protect our farms. So I think probably development, and also, I talked a lot about the impact of agriculture on the Chesapeake Bay. I'd felt that the fishermen and farmers had been scapegoats in the past. I wanted to dispel that notion. We had a very popular Cover Crops [Program] provision in my Chesapeake Restoration Act, for example. And so I wanted to bring the farmers and the waterman who I think had been demonized to some extent in the past, I wanted them to be part of the solution and no longer demonized.
Q: Just in terms of farmers and agriculture, how has that remained a part of Maryland?
A: Just drive around. And you know the numbers obviously. I believe it's still the largest industry in Maryland. Although people don't believe it because they see, obviously, urban areas and development. But all you need to do is travel around western Maryland, the eastern shore, southern Maryland, northern Harford County, Carroll County, you see it. And I used to talk a lot about the jobs, particularly in the context of well, we're trying to bring gaming to Maryland. I thought, particularly, the horse racing industry was so important to our state. And that was really — as you know, one of the motivations behind my support for slot machines early on was to pump more money into the tracks and the purses in order to keep that farm business going, particularly the standardbreds, not just the thoroughbreds, but the standardbreds, as well.
Q: And now for the people who haven't been keeping up with as much, what have you been doing the past couple years?
A: Well, I'm at King & Spalding, which is one of the largest law firms in the world. And I don't practice law, but I deal with our clients around the world, so I do get around the world some. I just finished my third book tour, although I still have a few more book signing events around the world. I'm about three-quarters of the way through my fourth, and I hope to have that out in late fall. I think I'm going to complete the writing in the next two months. And so I'm very busy professionally. I'm not sure whether you knew, but I was a surrogate for President [Donald] Trump, so that kept me busy during the campaign. And my oldest son, who is 17, is a senior and a three-sport athlete, and my just-turned 13-year-old, youngest son is a three-sport athlete, so we spend a lot of time on fields and at games. Oh, also, for people, Kendel was a very popular first lady, she is back part-time as a drug court prosecutor in Annapolis.
Q: For people who are attending the luncheon, anything you can preview about what you'll be saying for them?
A: No, I'm just, listen, I think the testimonials are going to be more interesting than anything I have to say. I'm just going to speak a little about what I think should be expected of Americans, and we should be Americans of faith.