If Maryland is “little America” — with all its diverse scenery and landscapes — John Torres is happy to be there.
"The farming community here is an outstanding community. They are people who care about what they do. They're passionate about their careers and their fields. They feel a calling to work to fuel and feed the rest of the world," says Torres, who took over as executive director of the Maryland Farm Bureau two years ago.
He’s not from the Old Line State. Torres grew up in northwest Ohio, just south of the Michigan state line, in row crop country — the Eastern Corn Belt — and was involved in 4-H and FFA as a kid.
He graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in ag business and economics, and got started in agribusiness joining ADM as a commodity trader. Farm advocacy came calling, and he went to work for the Ohio Farm Bureau, then took a position with American Farm Bureau Federation before taking a “break” and working for the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association.
He then got recruited to take the executive director’s role at the Maryland Farm Bureau.
Maryland’s diverse agriculture — with thousands of broiler houses on the Eastern Shore, dairy in the western part of the state, and lots of urban and small farms in between — might look like a challenging place to bring farmers together, but Torres sees it as an opportunity.
"I would say that there's a lot of great opportunities that we have,” he says. “Yeah, there are competing interests always; you'll find that anywhere in the country. But I think the diversity we have here in Maryland really provides a lot of opportunities for the farming community, for agriculture overall to engage with mainly what I would call nontraditional audiences that might seem a little bit more nontraditional for me coming from the Midwest.”
Listen to more of what Torres has to say about Maryland agriculture and the top issues facing farmers and young producers in the state in today’s Young Farmer Podcast.