For farming in Harford County to survive, the county must help its 650 or so farms better connect with the local marketplace, help farmers deal with new regulations, and better educate residents about the importance of farming.
Those are the major conclusions in a new plan to assist Harford farmers into the next century, said William D. Amoss, the county's agricultural planner.
The plan -- the work of Mr. Amoss, an eight-member Agricultural Task Force and more than 100 county farmers -- makes a number of suggestions for the county.
One of the biggest is to aid Harford farmers in better connecting with the local marketplace. That means fruit and vegetable producers holding more farmers markets, and more farmers getting their produce into local stores rather than selling it to a wholesaler, he said.
Mr. Amoss already is working on one suggestion -- to publish a directory that will tell potential customers how and where to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and other farm products.
In addition, the plan calls for Harford to help set up a federally-inspected slaughterhouse to allow farmers to sell fresh cuts of meat directly to consumers.
If more beef, pork and other meats could be raised and sold locally, consumers would benefit from cheaper, fresher meat, and more jobs would be created, Mr. Amoss said.
Another suggestion is to publish a booklet of local, state and federal regulations as a guide to help farmers to continue to operate or expand while complying with new laws.
Many suggestions came from farmers, said Mr. Amoss, who raises beef cattle in Fallston. Farmers thought it important to educate the public about farming. To do that, they want changes in the county education curriculum.