2/15/2014 7:00 AM
By Laurie Savage Maryland Correspondent
GLEN BURNIE, Md. — Richard and Jan Edwards joined an elite group of farmers as they were inducted into the Maryland Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame Feb. 6 during the annual Taste of Maryland Agriculture event.
About 700 people showed up to Michael’s Eighth Avenue for the event, where members of the state’s agricultural industry got to mingle with legislators.
The Edwards family operates Oakland View Farms LLC, a 700-cow dairy located in Caroline County. Accepting the honor were Richard and Jan Edwards, along with daughter Jill and her husband, Scott Youse. Also in attendance from the family were daughter Julie Kimball, daughter Jana and husband Danny Hutchison, and grandchildren Patrick and Natalie Youse.
Ray Greenstreet, president of the Maryland Ag Council, said the state’s agriculture industry is a $17 billion economic engine.
“This room is full of hard-earned knowledge passed down through generations,” Greenstreet said.
The average Marylander is five generations removed from farming. Greenstreet said farmers need to preserve the right to farm and tout what they do.
“If Maryland agriculture is not taxed and regulated to death, our best days are ahead of us,” he said.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said farming must be profitable, sustainable, and farm families preserved in order to keep agriculture in the state. He has attended every Maryland agriculture dinner while he has been in office.
“I have met your chickens, I have met your cows,” he said. “Agriculture is the most essential industry in our state. Every five jobs in agriculture creates another three jobs around our state.”
He said the land and water are connected to one another by God and the good health of one depends upon the good health of the other. He applauded farmers’ efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay by saying their efforts have been “heroic, significant and impactful.”
O’Malley congratulated the Edwards family for their accomplishments, having began in the dairy farming business 73 years ago.
“Started out in 1940, when my dad moved to this farm as a sharecropper and got into growing hybrid seed corn, with the promise he could pay the farm off,” Richard Edwards said. The business was profitable, and his dad took cash to the courthouse and paid for the farm.
Since then, the 250-acre farm grew to 1,500 acres producing corn, soybean, alfalfa, grass hay, barley and wheat. Eleven irrigation systems cover 900 acres, and the farm plants about 600 acres of cover crops every winter. In addition, 434 acres are permanently preserved through agriculture land preservation easements. The farm has received the Maryland Dairy of Distinction Award.
The Edwards family has implemented many conservation projects through the years to prevent nutrient runoff from reaching the bay. The farm’s 24-foot buffer around ditches and tile wells add up to 26 acres. All contaminated water is channeled to a lagoon, and the latest conservation project is the addition of a bioreactor in an area where farm runoff water leaves the land.
Richard and Jan Edwards began operating the farm in 1975 after his father passed away. Jan Edwards, who grew up on a dairy farm in Wicomico County, met her husband in 1962 during a 4-H trip to West Virginia. They married in 1966.
“We’ve been a team ever since. That was 50 years ago,” Richard Edwards said.
The family has been active in community and church organizations, as well as agriculture and dairy organizations, and have received numerous leadership awards.
The modern era of Oakland View Farms began in 1994 when daughter Jill married Scott Youse, a dairy farmer’s son from Pennsylvania. Richard Edwards and Scott Youse became partners and enacted plans to expand the farm, install technologies to help the farm run more efficiently and implement conservation methods to prevent nutrient runoff.
Also during the evening’s festivities, eight organizations were presented with Maryland agriculture grants to help fund agricultural education projects. The winners were University of Maryland Extension Worcester County 4-H, $700 for a kindergarten farm visit day; Sukup Agri-Theatre at the Great Frederick Fair, $700 to improve the exhibit; Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, $650 for a children’s activity book; University of Maryland Extension St. Mary’s County, $650 for agriculture books and materials for school programs; Washington County Ag Literacy Mobile Classroom, $600 to complete construction; Patuxent River 4-H Center Foundation, $600 for classroom hatching projects; University of Maryland Extension Washington County 4-H, $600 for science-on-the-farm program; and University of Maryland Extension Cecil County 4-H, $500 for AGsploration teaching materials.
For more information on the Maryland Agriculture Council, visit www.mdagcouncil.com. A slideshow featuring the Agriculture Hall of Fame family can be viewed online at http://youtu.be/OBJFIK7nXhg.<\c> Photo by Laurie Savage
The Edwards family, owners of Oakland View Farm in Caroline County, were inducted into the Maryland Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame and were honored by Gov. Martin O’Malley. From left, Scott and Jill Youse; Richard and Jan Edwards; and Gov. Martin O’Malley.