Some ‘sweet smell of spring,’ huh? (Editorial)

(March 31, 2015) On March 1, Maryland farmers, under current nutrient management guidelines, were permitted to begin spreading manure to enrich the ground in advance of spring planting.
Almost simultaneously, there appeared in papers across the state a large advertisement, placed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
The ad pictures two Holsteins in a field.
One is looking skyward, as if smelling something. In large letters across the page run the words, “Pardon Me,” (followed by) “is that the sweet smell of spring?”
A brief explanation follows, noting that farmers are not permitted to spread manure in the winter but now they can begin the task of “recycling” what has accumulated “as a valuable crop fertilizer.”
“It doesn’t smell pretty,” the ad advises, “but it goes with the territory.”
As more and more people invade farm country, that’s a “territory” they need to become familiar with, or at least come to expect, whether they are now living in a development hard by a farm field or simply driving down the highway on the way to the beach.
More often than not, that “sweet smell of spring” is shielded by a right to farm law.
On March 18, the 2015 Central Maryland Women in Agriculture Conference was held, at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, Md.
These conferences were begun in Maryland about 30 years ago after some farm women and a Cooperative Extension specialist attended a national women-in-ag meeting in Washington, and decided it would be 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 on the topic “Knowing Your Options with Neighbors”
“Values are changing and as is what your neighbors expect of you,” she said.
Ah, the sweet smell of spring.
People move into the countryside often not expecting the smells and sights and slow-moving farm vehicles they will encounter, Johnson continued.
“Maryland has aggressive right-to-farm laws to protect farmers but farmers need to be aware of the laws.
“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.
Farmers report that they have managed to forestall complaints by taking a one-on-one approach, talking to neighbors or communicating personally in one way or another that this is an environmentally approved recycling process and assuring them that that unmistakable odor goes with the territory and will be gone in a day or two.
It usually works, we are told.