Baltimore County Agricultural Studies


Monkton, MD, April 22, 2009 - North County Preservation, Inc. (NCP), a regional not-for-profit education and research organization dedicated to supporting rural life in Baltimore County, today announced the availability of its report: Rural Baltimore County Agricultural Profitability Study and Action Plan.

The purpose of the report is to provide a road map of priority initiatives that can improve the profitability of agricultural operations in Baltimore County. A primary tenet of the study is that profitability in agriculture is a key support feature for the future preservation of agriculture. Furthermore, the growth of this industry can significantly impact Baltimore County by, among many reasons:

  • Increasing the attractiveness of farming as a career and creating job opportunities,
  • Enabling farm owners to keep prime and productive land undeveloped for present and future production,
  • Promoting public health through access to fresh locally produced food, and through the ability to better control food security, and increasing the quality of life of all residents.

To set the stage for identifying priority initiatives, the study first outlines the overall strategic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the local agricultural sector, and the key characteristics of each of its major components: equine, field crops and forage, horticulture, produce, dairy, livestock and poultry.

The study then provides an analysis of the market potential for agricultural-related products. The Baltimore County and the greater Baltimore-Washington area both have per capita income levels greater than the US average. More importantly, as a determinant of local food purchases, the level of education and association with an urban lifestyle suggest strong opportunities for expansion in direct market sales, horticulture, and pleasure equine.

Another key input to the study is a description of policies implemented in other mid-Atlantic counties that have successfully promoted the growth and profitability of their agricultural sector, and contributed to the prosperity of their local communities.

The final recommendations of the study fall within three broad focus areas:

  1. The Agricultural Development and Marketing Focus Area targets: improvements in access to local and regional markets; expansion in the capability of individual farms to integrate small processing, retailing, and agritourism; improving brand image; business development support services; and agricultural infrastructure growth.
  2. The Training and Education Focus Area targets: recruitment and training of future farm operators and leaders and identifying sustainable and reliable sources of skilled and unskilled labor.
  3. The Public Policy and Regulation Focus Area targets: land use, environmental, health, and transportation policy support needs that are intended to bring local conditions in line with regional competitors.

The study also includes an update on four of the recommended initiatives that are actually in progress:

  1. Creation of the Chesapeake Region Agribusiness Development Corporation, to serve as a development support agency for agricultural and food related projects in Baltimore County and the surrounding region (e.g., new business "incubation", expansion of agribusiness finance, targeted business development).
  2. Development of an electronic marketing system to support the expansion of local food sales (including a full suite of transaction related options ranging from transaction settlement to logistics and inventory management)
  3. Implementation of a Baltimore County Farm Internship Pilot program as a means to leverage the transfer of knowledge from existing farmers to a cadre of beginning farmers, addressing topics ranging from agricultural production to marketing and business management.
  4. Development of policy support documents to guide land use policy discussions as local land use experts review issues such as arbitration policies for neighbor disputes, and guidance on supporting on-farm value-added and distribution.

The study, launched by Alice Chalmers, Vice-President of NCP, was led by an Executive Team that also included Baltimore County Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board chairman David Greene, NCP board member Cathy Tipper, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Baltimore County director David Martin, Baltimore County Agricultural Economic Development liaison Chris McCollum, Baltimore County Agricultural Land Preservation program director Wally Lippincott, MidAtlantic Farm Credit and Baltimore County Farm Bureau representative Keith Wills, Baltimore County Farm Bureau representative Mike Turley, University of Maryland Extension economist and associate professor Jim Hanson. Phil Gottwals, of ACDS, LLC, provided the research and consulting services.

This project was made possible with the financial contributions of the following individuals and organizations: Baltimore County Agricultural Advisory Board, Baltimore County Economic Development, Baltimore County Farm Bureau, Dark Hollow Farm, Finch Services, Lippy Brothers, Maryland Horse Breeders Association, MARBIDCO, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, NCP, Jeff Roberts, and USDA Rural Development.

North County Preservation, Inc. (NCP) focuses on gathering and distributing fact-based information to encourage responsible development and preservation, providing education on the history and unique resources of the area, performing studies on land use trends, and promoting long-term solutions to increase agricultural sustainability and to protect open space.

Download The Rural Baltimore County
Agricultural Profitability Study and Action Plan >>

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