Hoot bids farewell to Maryland agriculture


(Editor’s note: On Monday, Sept. 26, at a gathering at the Yellowfin Restaurant in Edgewater, Md., Lynne Hoot, founder of Maryland Ag Associates, an administrative and legislative watchdog firm for farmers and the agricultural industry, reflected on 35 years of service. The Delmarva Farmer asked Hoot to share her thoughts as she closes the MAA office in the basement of her Edgewater home and heads off with her husband, Jerry, as she says, to enjoy some adventures on her “bucket list.” She retires on Sept. 30. This is her farewell address.)

They say that times flies when you are having fun. …. And while it hasn’t always been a bundle of joy, my 35 years working with Maryland agriculture may be as close as it comes.
It has been a wonderful experience working with such dedicated farmers, district supervisors, agribusiness professionals, agency staff, legislators, and many other people whom I have met and worked alongside during these years.
I started my career here in the United States working at the Maryland Department of Agriculture as the executive secretary of the Maryland Agricultural Commission from 1981-1989.
My career then took a new path when I took on my first contract with Maryland Pork Producers Association to serve as their executive director on a part-time basis — and then Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, Delaware Maryland Agribusiness Association and the Maryland Grain Producers Association  all followed in the next year.
With MGPA I was asked to help organize a referendum to establish a grain checkoff program … and then the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board joined the ranks.
Out of DMAA the Mid-Atlantic Certified Crop Advisor Program developed to certify crop consultants through the American Society of Agronomy. Contracts with the final two organization came much later adding the Maryland Green Industries Council and CropLife American to the final eight. What all these agricultural organizations brought together was a need for part-time assistance to further their goals. I have been honored to play a major role with these organizations over the years. I have had the pleasure of working with every secretary of agriculture, being hired by Wayne A. Cawley in 1981 and later working with Secretaries Bob Walker, Lewis Riley, Bud Virts, Hagner Mister, Roger Richardson, Buddy Hance and now with Joe Bartenfelder. My working relationship with the first secretary Y.D. Hance was with his role with soil conservation districts. What great leaders we have had.
I remember the mid-’80s, when I was still working for MDA, when a group of us would travel across the state to introduce the new Chesapeake Bay Initiatives under Gov. Harry Hughes and Secretary of Agriculture Wayne Cawley, where Don Spickler, a Washington County district supervisor, challenged districts to take on the new responsibilities working with the farm community that were surfacing as a result of an EPA report on the Bay.
Who knew back in those days what a pivotal point those initiatives would become? At that time the districts had just a handful of state employees and played a minimal role in soil conservation and water quality.
Things are certainly different today. For the most part, districts did accept their new leadership role, and farmers stepped up to the plate and agreed to take strides and implement best management practices to reduce sediment and nutrient loss.
I am very proud of the accomplishment of Maryland agriculture and hope that my service to the industry has at least played a small part in bringing farmers to where they are today, as national leaders not only as individual producers like Chip Bowling, Chip Councell, Lee McDaniel and Jason Scott, but in their entirety for having the respect of the nation for remaining viable in spite of the regulatory platform you operate in today.
I believe that Maryland farmers have everything to be proud of and should open their doors and share their accomplishments. I regret that our concern about divulging information has been seen by our adversaries as having something to hide and in the long run, embracing transparency will help, rather than hurt, the agricultural community.
Over the years I have worked with many environmentalists who have welcomed open discussion and yes, there are the others, but they are slowly losing respect as people understand the harm that lawsuits and other anti-agricultural sentiments have done towards progress on the Bay clean-up.
I have had the pleasure of working with some producers since my first days in Maryland, folks like Drew Stabler and Bobby Hutchison, but it always amazes me about the young folk who step up to the plate, many who have been through the LEAD Maryland program, and who are now ready to take on the responsibility of leadership.
I meet very passionate and committed people every day; it is a quality to be proud of. When I made my decision to retire, it was with mixed feelings, I am not stepping down because of a loss of passion or commitment for the work of conservation districts and agriculture or because I no longer enjoy it; it is to undertake another passion of mine to travel, while Jerry and I still can dive oceans and climb mountains.
I feel very confident that with Lindsay Thompson taking on the role of executive director that agriculture will be served well and I am enthusiastic that with Marguerite Guare’s strong history and commitment and Danielle Bauer’s young enthusiasm, that the eight organizations I have served will continue to move forward and be strong organizations and I encourage them all to embrace change.
So, as I prepare for my retirement on Sept. 30, I thank you all for making my career very special as I celebrate our past 35 years together.