By: Shelby Watson-Hampton, Maryland Correspondent, LancasterFarming.com
NEWBURG, Md. — The 64 attendees of the first-ever Southern Maryland Grain Growers Workshop, held on July 10 in Charles County, Maryland, including veteran commodity farmers, new and beginning farmers, small agribusinesses, and value-added producers.
Gathered in the spacious barn on the lower field of Bunker Hill Farm, the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission thanked farm hosts Lynne and Chip Bowling for allowing them to use their multi-generational family grain farm for the evening workshop.
Bowling is not only an active farmer with over 2,000 acres in production but also chair of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and past president of the National Corn Growers Association.
The Grain Growers Workshop was a joint endeavor by SMADC and the University of Maryland Extension, with the goal to reach out to current and prospective grain growers in the five southern Maryland counties to provide them with information on local resources and potential new market opportunities.
“We are excited about the many marketing opportunities available to Maryland grain farmers — from growing grain for breweries, distilleries, local feed mills, bakeries and commodity markets, or for sale directly to the consumer,” said Ben Beale, a senior agent with the University of Maryland Extension stationed in southern Maryland, who focuses on agricultural sciences business management.
The workshop presenters were representative of participants all along the agricultural grain spectrum from growers, processors, buyers, feed store operators, bakers, chefs and more.
Topics discussed included growing grain for brewers and distillers, for specialty products, and for local feed; diversifying on- and off-farm income streams; resources for retiring farmers and young farmers; grain-growing challenges and assessments; high quality grain production; national grain outlook update; grain transport and storage; and drone technology with an on-farm demonstration by Rick Waffird of Unseen Aerial Drones.
An interactive digital survey held during the workshop and facilitated by Extension featured the conditions affecting markets and production this year, and farmers identified the top three issues most concerning profitability for their operations as wildlife damage, weather, and regulations, in that order.
Attendees were treated to a local southern Maryland country dinner provided by Hardesty Haven Catering that featured food from Walter Farm, Spider Hall Farm Store, Hardesty Haven Farm and Orchard, and Seylou Bakery.
A special treat was provided by Mully’s Brewery and Tobago Barn Distilling who provided samples of their products for after-dinner drinks.
“I’m glad to see SMADC offering information and opportunities to conventional southern Maryland agriculture,” said Susie Hance-Wells, a local grower from Taney Place Farm. “We have a lot of acreage in our area that lends itself well to grain. The panels at the workshop examined a wide range of possibilities and encouraged discussion. We need more of these forums, this was just the tip of the iceberg.”
“The Grain Growers Workshop was very well run and a great forum for the growers and distillers to meet together, and hear about the different issues and what the needs are on both sides for symbiotic success. This would be a great annual event,” said Ed May, a beginning farmer from southern Maryland.
Farm host Chip Bowling concluded with, “We were pleased to be able to host the first ever Southern Maryland Grain Growers Workshop for SMADC on our farm. I was encouraged by the diverse attendance and conversations among the veteran commodity growers, the newer beginning farmers, and those that use grain products for value-added production. Having everyone at the table is important for constructive dialogue and for the future of ag in southern Maryland. Overall, I thought the event went very well, and I look forward to attending similar ones in the future.”