Carroll County's city slickers met its farmers yesterday on a tour of seven farms sponsored by the county extension agency.
Carroll County Farm Bureau, the Carroll County Ag Commission and Central Maryland Farm Credit also sponsored parts of the tour.
"This tour was designed to show the diversity of agriculture in Carroll County and the diversity on individual farms," Carroll County extension agent David Greene told the bus load of bankers and business people.
Tour sites included an organic vegetable farm in Union Mills, a nursery and greenhouse operation in Taneytown and an aquaculture facility in Hampstead, in addition to the traditional cattle and crops.
Organizers said they also wanted to show local bankers, who seem reluctant to lend money to farmers, that Carroll County agriculture can be a viable and lucrative investment.
"I've [borrowed money] from Central Farm Credit, because they understand the problems farmers have to go through," said Carroll Eaves of Sunnybank Farm in Taneytown, echoing a refrain sung by other farmers during the day.
"The other banks are too chicken to take the chance."
The farmers said Farm Credit offers them operational loans to purchase supplies, such as seed, and 10-year fixed-rate mortgages. Many banks offer only five-year fixed rates, they said.
Participants also saw some of the recent, large financial investments in Carroll County agriculture.
County Fair Farms in Westminster spent $3.6 million to start its 125,000-chicken laying operation, and Steve Warehime spent about $80,000 on a latex-lined manure pit for his contract hog operation in Taneytown.
"Contract operation" means a group of investors pays a farmer to keep hogs or chickens on his land. At County Fair and Warehime's, the animals belong to the company, which pays any maintenance costs, and the farmer makes the capital investments.
County farmers also stressed their dedication to preserving the environment.
"I have the plans from 1935 when [my father had] this farm contoured as part of a conservation plan," said Norman Sellers, whose farm was pictured in 1985 on a commemorative envelope honoring the 50th anniversary of conservation planning in the United States.
The Sellerses are one of two families in the county that have conservation plans dating back that far, said Doug Valentine of the Soil Conservation Service.
"I work to make sure I do things according to the standards," Mr. Warehime said of his nutrient-management practices. "It helps the [Chesapeake] bay and it helps me, because what runs off into the bay doesn't do me any good."