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TOP STORY, Sept. 2, 2014

Frys awarded lease of former Navy dairy farm

 

By JONATHON CRIBBS

Staff Reporter


GAMBRILLS, Md. — The vote’s in, and the Frys have it.
Anne Arundel County announced last Wednesday that Edwin and Marian Fry, owners of Maryland Sunrise Farm, will continue their management of the Naval Academy Dairy Farm with a new five-year lease.
The lease begins Jan. 1 and still requires final approval from the county council and the U.S. Navy, which owns the farm, the county said.
“We told (the county) that good stewardship of the land will be required by us if we get it,” Edwin Fry said.
The farm has been organic for 15 years, and the county is interested in continuing that. The Frys had to abandon organic practices on most of the farm after a persistent weed bank, invasive deer and erosion caused a series of issues, however.
The change upset some nearby residents and environmentalists who started a campaign to keep the farm in organic production.
Two vegetable areas remain organic, Fry said, but by the time their new lease is up, all of it will be organic or transitioning to that end.
To that end, Ed Fry, 67, said he’s also bringing a partner into the business: Luke and Alison Howard of Homestead Farm in Millington, Md.
“I was anxious to bring in a new partner because of my age, and they are folks that I think will add value to what we do over there,” he said. “They have vast experience with organic farming, and I think we’ll have a better partnership than what we had before.”
For several years, the Frys were operating the farm under short leases up to a year, which made it difficult to maintain a stable workforce and plan long term, Ed Fry said.
The Frys sublease the property from Anne Arundel County which is in the middle of a 30-year lease of the farm with the Navy, which used to use the farm to produce dairy products for the Naval Academy.
Under the new lease, 70 percent of crops produced and pastured must be transitional organic or certified organic by the National Organic Program by Jan. 1, 2018.
All of it must be transitional or certified by the end of the lease. The farm’s corn maze and pumpkin patch are exempt, however.
The county will charge $25,000 a year for the lease, which will increase by 2 percent each year.
Maryland Sunrise must also continue to maintain identified buildings, lawn care, security and insurance and let the Anne Arundel County 4-H Dairy Leasing Club use two buildings and part of the pasture acreage.
The county will conduct yearly progress reviews.
“From the beginning of this process, my administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to work with the community in keeping the Dairy Farm organic,” County Executive Laura Neuman said in a statement. “We have held town hall meetings, consulted experts and listened to citizens’ concerns, and have reached a decision that reflects the community’s input.”
The county received just two bids to lease the farm, one from the Frys.
About 10 producers toured the farm in April and they said they found it depleted and neglected.