Last week, we reported that Maryland backs its conservation farm stewards with 'certainty'. We also noted that of the May 6 celebration of the 100th farm certified by the Maryland Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program.
That event, recognizing farmers' positive role in protecting the environment, took place at Gardenhour Orchard near Smithsburg, Md. There, the Bill Gardenhour family farm was recognized as the 100th certified conservation steward.
The FSCAP program requires fully compliant nutrient management plans and that all soil conservation and water quality concerns have been addressed with best management practices, according to Gerald Talbert, who coordinates the program administered by Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts.
The assessment aspect covers all owned and leased land. Certification gives stewards first opportunity in MASCD projects, such as the Pollinator Habitat Projects. The program was established in cooperation with core agricultural and environmental partners, to recognize farmers who are good stewards of their natural resources and to encourage farmers to put additional best management practices (BMPs) on their land.
During the celebration, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder, said (FSCAP) recognizes those who are already doing a great job. It also encourages other farmers to install more BMPs so they can become certified. They are why, he added, Maryland agriculture is making great progress towards its 2025 Bay clean-up goals.
Since last summer, the number of FSCAP-certified farms has grown from 81 to 100. Programs like this one, added Bartenfelder, will continue to help accelerate that progress.
About the farm
The Gardenhours are the fourth generation to operate the orchard, which encompasses 105 acres within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In their market and pick-your-own orchards and fields, they offer apples, peaches, corn, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.
Bill Gardenhour told the visitors that the farm's conservation practices included nutrient management planning, conservation crop rotation, micro irrigation, proper irrigation management and integrated pest management. They pay close attention to the land rented to other area farmers to ensure they use proper crop rotations, no-till and comply with nutrient management guidelines.
Elmer Weibley, district manager of the Washington County Soil Conservation District, noted that the first FSCAP farm and the 100th FSCAP farm share something in common. “I’m proud to see that Washington County is home to not just the first and 100th farm, but also 25 other farms in between,” he said. “The FSCAP program has provided an opportunity to showcase the commitment of Washington County farmers to conservation.”
Steve Ernst, the very first FSCAP steward, noted that voluntary conservation and stewardship programs "have been a backbone in Maryland agriculture for generations. The water and soil resources that have been entrusted to our families and the provision these resources have supplied are fundamental to our current and future successes as producers of food."
The Gardenhours were also congratulated by Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a core partner in the program. Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of CBF commented that “Our mantra has always been that a well-managed farm is the best use of land and this program helps demonstrate that there are well managed farms with farmers working hard to protect the Chesapeake Bay. These FSCAP certified farmers, who have gone above and beyond what is required of them, deserve to be recognized."