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Executive Kittleman updates farming community on agriculture initiatives at annual roundtable

Executive Kittleman updates farming community on agriculture initiatives at annual roundtable

February 15, 2018

Media Contacts: 
Deidre McCabe, Director of Strategic Planning and Communications, 410-313-4023
James Zoller, Agriculture Coordinator, Office of Community Sustainability, 410-313-2056

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – A new restaurant certification initiative and a high school agricultural science program were announced today at County Executive Allan H. Kittleman’s annual roundtable with farm and business owners. 

Kittleman discussed these and other ongoing agriculture initiatives with more than 40 farmers and business owners at his annual roundtable held at the Howard County Fairgrounds.

“These sessions are important because I hear directly from farmers about what the obstacles are and how to better support their efforts,” said Kittleman. “We’ve discussed ways to improve relationships with nearby residents and how to make farming more profitable. Some of the suggestions have led directly to efforts like our Farm Academy and the Agriculture Subcabinet.”

Since taking office three years ago, Kittleman has been committed to assisting local farmers and helping preserve the county’s agricultural heritage. He started the agriculture roundtable to open dialogue about initiatives to support the health and vitality of farming in the county.

James Zoller, the county’s Agriculture Coordinator, announced a new program to be launched in March called “We are HoCo Fresh,” which will certify county restaurants that purchase specific amounts of produce, protein and other products from local farms. Restaurants meeting the goals will be able to display and advertise the certification.

Zoller, whose position was created by Kittleman within the county’s Office of Community Sustainability, also gave an update on the county’s Roving Radish program, which provides locally sourced produce and meat to county residents and a reliable market for county farmers. In December, the Roving Radish received the “County Innovation Award” from the Maryland Association of Counties at its winter conference.

Kathy Johnson, Agricultural Development Manager with the Howard County Economic Development Authority, announced a new agriculture science curriculum to be offered to high school juniors and seniors at the county’s Applications and Research Laboratory beginning in the fall. Announcement of the curriculum, which will be part of the school system’s honors program, was met with a round of applause.

Members of Kittleman’s Agriculture Subcommittee provided a vision for supporting the industry going forward and answered questions from farmers. Topics raised this year included curbing deer and geese populations that are destroying crops, the future of the agricultural preservation program, relationships with non-farming neighbors and building tenant houses on farm land.

“Farmers in the county are a very small group. We sometimes feel outnumbered and ignored,” said Lynne Moore, owner and president of Larriland Farm in Woodbine. “These sessions are really good for us. The County Executive recognizes our needs ….  We can only keep working to broaden education and exposure” to increase support for the farm industry. 

“This is our chance to get our questions answered and voice our opinions,” said Kelly Hensing, who owns Hensing Hilltop Acres in Dayton. “We feel much more included in the community now. This has made agriculture more important.”

One fourth of the land in Howard County – approximately 40,000 acres – is farmland and agriculture is the fifth largest economic driver for the county with more than $200 million in sales annually.  

County departments included in the Agriculture Subcabinet include: the Office of Community Sustainability, Department of Planning and Zoning, Agriculture Land Preservation Program, Howard County Soil Conservation District, Maryland Extension Services, Howard County Economic Development Authority and County Administration.

Proposed initiatives of the subcabinet focus on four areas – unifying and coordinating the efforts of various county agriculture programs; supporting projects that help local farms remain profitable; educating the community about the needs and challenges of farming operations to increase community cooperation; and ensuring thoughtful, supportive legislation is in place to govern property and farming rights.