2/16/2013 7:00 AM
By Laurie Savage Maryland Correspondent
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Taste of Maryland Agriculture event drew 700 attendees, including agricultural leaders and a record number of legislators, following a move to a new venue.
The celebration, hosted by the Maryland Agriculture Council and held Thursday, Feb. 7, shifted from Glen Burnie to the Loews Hotel downtown to be closer to legislators during the General Assembly session.
In addition to food sourced from local farms, a highlight of the evening was the induction of the Fry family of Fair Hill Farms Inc. in Kent County into the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame. The family is the 44th recipient of the recognition.
The family owns and leases 1,350 acres in Kent County and an additional 800 acres of Maryland Sunrise Farm LLC in Anne Arundel County. Edwin R. and Marian Fry farm the land with their son, Matt, his wife, Megan, and another son, Chuck. Chuck is married to Kathryn Fry. The elder Frys also have a daughter, Amanda, married to Lt. Col. David Halla.
“We’ve had a lot of diversity over the years. That’s been one key to being successful,” Edwin said.
The Frys milk Holsteins and Brown Swiss and raise Angus beef cattle, grain, hay and vegetables. They also do facility rentals and agritourism, and a portion of their acreage is certified organic.
Edwin Fry gave much credit to the generations before him, particularly his father, who died last year. Fry said as a farmer, he is charged with protecting the soil for generations to come.
“We have seven little rugrats. This is what I talk about, sustainability,” he said, referring to his grandchildren.
Marian Fry said she enjoys being able to wake up to weather changes every day and feeling a connectedness to the land.
“Congratulations to you and your family, we salute you,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “To all farmers, thank you for what you do day in and day out.”
The state’s agriculture industry employs 350,000 Marylanders and is the state’s largest commercial industry. Agriculture is making great strides in restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
“Maryland farmers are meeting, and in many cases exceeding, bay milestone markers,” O’Malley said.
If urban runoff and stormwater management efforts matched those of the agriculture industry’s efforts, the bay would be reaching cleanup goals much faster.
“Thank you for leading the way,” O’Malley said.
The governor also announced soil conservation staff in the state will increase from 85 to 114 positions.
The state is making the right decisions to make farming more profitable and sustainable into the future so farmers will ensure the children of all Marylanders do not look out over parking lots in the future, he said.
Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance said the agriculture industry contributed $600,000 toward a 13-part series of half-hour shows on Maryland Public Television. Filming begins this summer, and the series will run next fall and winter.
The series will focus on Maryland farms and “tell the story that’s not getting out,” Hance said.
Also as part of the evening’s festivities, eight organizations received Maryland Agriculture Council grants totaling $5,000 to use for agricultural education projects.
Eagle Scout candidate Riley Lieber received $400 to develop raised garden beds at Kent County High School to educate students about food production. A $600 grant was awarded to the Harford County Envirothon for student education focusing on biodiversity, sustainability and conservation. The King Barn Dairy MOOseum received $800 to develop a robotic milker exhibit and related educational activities. The Maryland Dairy Princess Association will use a $450 grant for resource boxes for princesses to use when visiting senior citizen facilities.
A $500 grant will assist the Maryland FFA Foundation in purchasing a display to gain exposure and grow a donor base. The Prince George’s County Extension Advisory Council received an $800 award to promote a community gardening event that will allow participants to network and learn from one another. A tractor safety training and certification weekend will be hosted with a $650 grant by the University of Maryland Extension Upper Shore Cluster. The Washington County Ag Expo and Fair will educate the fair-going public with educational signage for the livestock barns purchased with an $800 grant.
The council announced a new Excellence in Ag Education and Advocacy Foundation to help fund the grants that allow the council to touch broader audiences with the stories of Maryland agriculture.
For more information on the foundation, visit www.maef.net. A slideshow of the Hall of Fame inductees is available at http://youtu.be/9Eh4OhyhCRE.