Women -- not only in Maryland but the United States as a whole -- are the largest growing demographic of farm owners and managers.
And like their male counterparts, women in agriculture need to have the right tools and know-how to make their businesses viable.
Enter the Central Maryland Women in Agriculture Forum was held at Howard County Fairgrounds on March 15. The all-day event, hosted by the Howard County Economic Development Authority, was titled Forging New Bonds between Field and Table and included topics such as "On Farm Food Safety," "Device Apps & Digital Resources for Farmers and Direct Marketers," "Top Ten Ways to Avoid Getting a Real Job," and "Why NOW is the time for Women Entrepreneurs."
The forum focused on creative ways to make a farm successful by introducing new ways to market products.
The Central Maryland Women in Agriculture Forum began about 8 years ago when several women from Howard County went to the MidAtlantic Region Women in Ag Conference in Dover, Del.
They left thinking local woman interested in agriculture could benefit from a similar event.
The forum aims to teach women about writing business plans, marketing their business, diversification of their agriculture enterprise and utilizing tools available to them.
Speakers for this year’s event focused on new techniques, applications and success stories on their farms.
There are many woman locally who are agriculture leaders and visionaries. Kathy Zimmerman, Agriculture Marketing Specialist with Howard County Economic Development Authority noted several of them:
Women like Martha Clark at Clark’s Elioak Farm and now her daughter Nora Crist [are active visionaries]. Linda Brown at TLV Tree Farm in Glenelg … [has] been a strong supporter of Howard County Farmers’ Markets… selling their meats, eggs and vegetables. Mitzi Jones with Bowling Green Farm Cheese [runs] the first dairy in Howard County to have cheese made from their milk. The other Martha Clark from Edgewood Farm … has been a strong advocate for agriculture in Farm Bureau, serving on Soil Conservation and other areas. Lynne Moore’s Larriland Farm is one of the largest pick your own farms in the state. She and her family have done a wonderful job going from a dairy farm to growing produce. Denise Sharp of Sharp’s at Waterford Farm is also another example of taking her family’s farm and starting environmental educational tours for school children. The list could go on as the women of agriculture in [our area] are ones to be proud of and have taken a strong stand to support the industry and develop strong businesses.
These and other such accomplished women came together for a day of lectures, camaraderie and learning.
Featured speakers included Stephanie Ritchie, Alternative Farming Systems; Karen Fedor, MDA; Shannon Dill, University of Maryland Extension; JoAnn & Ted Dawson, Fair Wind Stable; Julie Lenzer Kirk, Director, Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship; and Laura Neuman, CEO, Howard County Economic Development Authority.
Ritchie spoke about how to get started, and how to get resources when you are already running a farm, focusing on presenting the National Agricultural Library, USDA website Start2Farm.org.
The Central Maryland Women in Agriculture Forum is sponsored by the Howard County Economic Development Authority, Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation's Agriculture Department, Howard County Farm Bureau, Howard Soil Conservation, Maryland Department of Agriculture's Department of Agricultural Mediation, Risk Management and Education, and MidAtlantic Farm Credit.