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Dayhoff: New agricultural scholarship program announced by MidAtlantic Farm Credit

During the "Positively Carroll" segment of the July 21 open session of the meeting of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners, Ralph Robertson announced a new agricultural scholarship program sponsored by MidAtlantic Farm Credit, a leading agricultural lending institution whose five-state territory is headquartered in Westminster.

Who better to make the announcement than Robertson, the former manager of the agricultural farmland preservation program in Carroll County?

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Robertson, who along with his wife runs a 400-acre crop farm near Westminster, formally retired from county government on March 25, 2015.

He continues to make a contribution by serving on the board of directors of MidAtlantic Farm Credit — where my wife has worked for many years. The website for MidAtlantic reports, Robertson's farming operation "includes contract dairy heifers, research cattle, and a cow-calf operation."

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According to an article in the Carroll County Times on April 1, 2015, by Michel Elben, "The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program began in 1977. Robertson was a full-time dairy farmer when he was appointed to the Carroll County Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board in 1985. He was soon elected chairman of the board and served two terms. ...

"In 2002, the county decided to hire someone to keep up with the ag preservation workload. Robertson, who had recently sold his milking herd and had more time on his hands, decided to apply for the job. Although Robertson officially retired as program manager on Dec. 31, 2013, he agreed to continue assisting his replacement on a contractual basis until the office was adequately staffed."

Robertson was quoted in the as saying, "I just hope I made a contribution to the well-being of the county." The article noted, "During his tenure, he helped preserve thousands of acres of farmland."

Years ago, in an interview for a series of articles on ag preservation by this writer, Robertson spoke for many when he stressed that it is just not enough to preserve farmland, we must, as a community do more to preserve the business of agriculture.

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These days, Robertson serves as the chair of the Farm Credit Foundation, a $3 million nonprofit foundation formed in 2015 to help advance the future of agriculture, and sponsor of the scholarship initiative.

A July 19 news release reported, "The Farm Credit Foundation for Agricultural Advancement will be awarding a total of $100,000 in scholarships to students who are planning to attend or are currently enrolled as full-time students at a college, university, or technical school, planning to pursue a career in agriculture. The deadline for all applications and supporting materials is January 13, 2017.

As for the preservation of the business of agriculture, Robertson calls to our attention that the Maryland Soybean Board recently carried an article in its annual report that predicted, "Over the next five years, college graduates with degrees related to food, agriculture, renewable natural resources or the environment can expect to see an average of 57,900 job openings annually — far more than the anticipated 35,400 graduates in those fields, the USDA reports."

"The future of agriculture is a bright one," Robertson said in the July 19 news release "There are more career paths in the industry today than ever before, and we're excited to see students explore these options. If we can help them achieve their dream of working in agriculture, whether as a farmer, a food scientist, or a veterinarian, we're happy to do so."

Applications will be accepted beginning September 30. For more information, call Sandy Wieber at 888.339.3334.

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