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Schmidts’ responsibilities growing beyond farm
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
SUDLERSVILLE, Md. (Feb. 9, 2015) — Responding to calls to expand their leadership roles in Maryland agriculture, Hans and Jennie Schmidt are having to make adjustments in their lives — and in the operation of the family farm.
Hans has been appointed assistant secretary for resource conservation in the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Weeks later, Jennie was elected president of the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board, the agency which administers Maryland’s all-grain checkoff.
Jennie served as vice president of MGPUB for the past two years and had anticipated, as next in line, her elevation to the presidency.
Hans, surveying his new responsibilities, and despite several ag leadership positions in the past several years, commented frankly, “I never saw myself in this role.”
Jennie can look forward to leading four MGPUB meetings a year for the next two years.
Hans is experiencing, Monday through Friday, the life of a commuter, admitting he doesn’t usually leave the office in Annapolis until at least 6 p.m. to avoid the crush of homebound traffic.
He added, however, that he was “humbled” by his selection for the job and that with “a really great staff.” he is “enjoying the job” and all of its challenges and responsibilities.
Hans said that in his post at MDA, he simply had to “step away” from the farm, leaving all of that to the rest of the family.
Brother Alan, the co-owner of the operation, will assume control and Jennie will increase her daily involvement in the farm’s operation.
Perhaps in anticipation of expanding callings off the farm, the family had decided earlier to abandon their hay operation. “It took a lot of time and extra equipment,” Hans explained.
Prior to his appointment, Hans had shared the operation of the family farm with brother Alan.
Hans was responsible for sustainability, conservation and agronomics.
The 2,100 acre farm is certified through the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program.
The Schmidts till about 1,800 acres and have several hundred acres of woodland and more than 120 acres in conservation.
Off the farm, Hans has served in leadership roles for several agriculture groups including presidencies of Maryland Association of Conservation Districts, Maryland Soybean Board and State Soil Conservation Committee.
In 2008, Schmidt Farms Inc was inducted into the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame and was selected as a national finalist in the Farm Journal Top Producer Award.
Hans stressed that it took several months for him to decide, finally, to take the MDA job.
He stressed that his final decision followed several family meetings until he felt sure that Alan and Jennie and Walter, father of the two men, and the rest of the family members were supportive of his decision.
“I had to make sure that they were sure what I had decided to do was okay,” he said.
Jennie joined the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board in 2012 as the representative to the Wheat Foods Council, a national organization funded by MGPUB and thus eligible for board membership.
“She was considered especially qualified for this position as she could use her dietician background and promote wheat and nutrition.” said Lynne Hoot, MGPUB executive director.
Paul Spies, outgoing MGPUB president, echoed that praise. “She is not just a farm wife,” he said. “She is a farmer. She has an active role in the daily operation of the farm. We are very fortunate to have her on the board.”
On her husband’s absence from the farm, Jennie said that she and Alan would hope to “streamline the operation.”
They will keep their grain, soybeans, fresh vegetable and grape production operations and although they have no full-time farm hand, they can count on seasonable labor when needed and “a construction guy who drops by to help us when it is real busy” Jennie said.
And oh yes, Jennie said. “Don’t forget. Hans will be home on weekends.”