A lack of infrastructure and resources available to farmers has long hindered the diversification of the agricultural economy in Maryland. For years, advocates for local farmers in Frederick County have been pushing for more processing and distribution facilities. Now, those same advocates are cheering County Executive Jan Gardner for including funds in the 2022 budget for a county food processing and fresh produce storage and distribution center. The new development will make it easier for farmers to focus on production instead of traveling long distances to access facilities and worrying that their yields will go bad before they are sold.
A few years ago, a survey of 60 local farmers conducted by Community Fare and Fox Haven Farm found that the absence of processing, storage, and distribution facilities was the biggest obstacle these farmers face in bringing food to market and expanding production. Fair Farms found this was a common theme amongst our partner farmers navigating the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, Frederick County is paving the way. As a response to food supply shortages in the beginning of the pandemic, Frederick Fresh Online was created by the Frederick County Food Council to provide an online marketplace connecting small farmers with consumers. “This volunteer-led effort has proven that with a modest level of infrastructure and support, Frederick County’s small farmers are ready and eager to deliver an absolutely dazzling and delicious bounty of food to local residents,” Community Fare’s Janice Wiles wrote in the Frederick News-Post.
We applaud Community Fare and the Frederick County Food Council for their advocacy for and investment in infrastructure for farmers. When farmers have the resources and tools they need to flourish, not only is the local economy strengthened, but so are the relationships between people, farmers, and the land. We hope more Maryland counties follow suit with increased infrastructure support for small-scale farmers and a commitment to nurturing a diversified agricultural industry.