U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced that the University of Maryland (UMD) College Park has been awarded a grant through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for their Maryland Collaborative for Beginning Farmer Success program to help beginning farmers learn about and establish successful farms.
The Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics of UMD will be awarded $845,850. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Mikulski fights each year for Maryland's agriculture, food safety infrastructure and agriculture research. Senator Cardin is a member of the Finance and Budget committees.
"Farming is Maryland's largest industry and it's important that our future farmers learn about the most up-to-date farming practices that will enable them to run efficient farms that also institute the best environmental practices," said Senator Cardin. "The University of Maryland has been a tremendous resource for current farmers and the Maryland Collaborative for Beginning Farmers will make sure our future farmers have the resources and knowledge they need to succeed."
"Maryland's number one industry is agriculture. This grant invests in our students by giving them the tools necessary to succeed in the field," Senator Mikulski said. "It supports Maryland residents with high-quality affordable food and it strengthens our local and national economy by creating sustainable jobs. I'm proud to fight for Maryland farmers in the federal checkbook."
The Maryland Collaborative has four objectives to reach their goal of preparing beginner farmers for a successful agricultural career. First, the University of Maryland Extension Educators will develop a curriculum for new farmers to encourage and enhance their interest and comprehension of the field.
Second, the program will offer workshops that bridge the gap between exploring the career to on-farm apprenticeships and mentorship. The program in this stage aims to increase the practical knowledge and skills of beginning farmers, so they can make informed decisions on whether to enter farming and what types of agricultural work is appropriate for their resources, abilities and location.
The third objective is to expand upon an existing new farmer training program managed by Future Harvest -- a Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. It will provide practical, hands-on shoulder-to-shoulder training for beginning farmers who will work on successful farms.
The fourth objective is to ensure long-term success through continued support. In addition, the FarmLINK program, developed by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission will be expanded to include a mentoring program while new farmers are in the process of leasing land and purchasing resources. Other tools will also be offered through this final stage including workshops, direct consultation, planning tools and production information to support farmers as they become established.