Central Maryland Women in Ag warned ‘values changing’

Staff Writer

WEST FRIENDSHIP, Md. (March 31, 2015) — The 2015 Central Maryland Women in Agriculture Conference was held on March 19, at the Howard County Fairgrounds with 32 in attendance.
These conferences began in Maryland about 30 years ago after some farm women and a Cooperative Extension specialist attended the national meeting in Washington, D.C., and decided it would be a a great idea to hold the same type of meeting in Central Maryland.
Thirteen years ago, Howard County Economic Development took over the conference and has hosted it ever since.
The first speaker of this year’s conference was Mae Johnson of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, who spoke about “Knowing Your Options with Neighbors.”
“Values are changing and what your neighbors expect of you,” she told the audience.
People move into the countryside often not expecting the smells and sights and slow-moving farm vehicles they will encounter.
“Maryland has aggressive right-to-farm laws to protect farmers but farmers need to be aware of the law. The laws vary from county to county and what a farmer does can still end up costing a lot of money in court fees.
“Many neighbors don’t understand farmers have rights,” Johnson said, and these misunderstandings can lead to problems. Before you spread manure, let your neighbors know the process. People will forget what you do but they will remember how you make them feel.”
Leslie Hart, of Washington County Economic Development, spoke about being an “agvocate.”
“I love my job,” she said. “Part of being an ‘agvocate’ is you have to know your story and be someone who publicly supports and recommends a policy,” Hart said. “Agriculture is a modern dynamic industry. Farmers are some of the best environmentalists around.
“We take care of the soil, the water, our stock.”
But farmers are snobs, she said, in that they tend to hook up primarily with other farmers.
“You have to be willing to talk to anybody and everybody to tell your story,” she said.
Later in the program, Hart spoke about “Looking Out for Number One” noting that women are involved in so much they often overlook themselves.
After lunch, Alice Settle-Raskin talked about “Utilizing You Tube to Market Your Farm”.
Owner of her own business, Alices’ Agri-Maryland, she detailed how the power of You Tube, Facebook and Twitter can be harnessed to promote and advertise a business using videos and other advertisements.
Settle-Raskin demonstrated a ‘tool kit’ she uses to make the videos.
“Always be aware of your surroundings,” she cautioned, “when making videos at places like the farmers’ markets.”
She added in Howard County, interns available that will help make them for credits.
“Or you can do it all yourself,” she added.
Woodring emphasized in her afternoon presentation, that the time to borrow for your business is when things are good and not wait until things are looking bad.
“Don’t wait until you need a loan,” she said. “Start having conversations with your lender regularly beforehand.
“Find the right lender who does the kind of loan you need. Be prepared to answer questions. Start before you need a loan, understand what types of loans are available and know what you need.”
There are loans for all types of enterprises, she said. “Consider your bank as one of your advisors.”
Beth Woodring spoke extensively about “Funding Sources for Future Projects,” noting that there is a wide range of funding options available including loans to minorities, women, veterans and small businesses
Wrapping up the event, Zimmerman said, “Choose something you are passionate about. Include family in all discussions.
“Do your research and assemble a business management team.”
These might include family members, a lawyer, accountant, insurance broker and a mentor, she added.
“Find your niche and make it special. And think things through.”
Zimmerman talked about the need to take time to talk to legislators about keeping farming in the community.
She also emphasized the need to talk to neighbors, especially non-farming ones, and help them understand the importance of agriculture and what to expect.