Baltimore Farmers' Market, Holliday & Saratoga Sts., Baltimore, Maryland, September 2017. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Hog, Kinder Farm Park, Millersville, Maryland, April 2019. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Agriculture has played an important role in Maryland since its founding in 1634. While tobacco then was the main crop, wheat, corn, fruits and vegetables also were farmed. By steadily supplying flour to the Continental Army, Maryland's Eastern Shore earned the title, "Breadbasket of the Revolution" during the American Revolution. Later, grains became the primary crops in Maryland and were an important and valuable export for the State. By the late 19th century, as agriculture spread throughout the expanding United States, Maryland no longer was a primary supplier of grains for the nation. Today, agriculture in Maryland is diverse and includes not only crops, but also dairy and livestock, honey, horticulture and nurseries, poultry, and wineries and vineyards.
Sassafras, Maryland's state soil, is one of the first and oldest soil series in the nation, having been established in 1901, and is designated as a Benchmark and Hall of Fame series. It is found across much of the State, nearly 500,000 acres, and is categorized as prime farmland soil due to its productive value. Aside from agriculture and forestry, Sassafras is also one of the best soils for use in construction and recreation.
Baltimore Farmers' Market, Holliday & Saratoga Sts., Baltimore, Maryland, August 2012. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
The Department of Agriculture is responsible for marketing, animal industries, and consumer services; plant industries and pest management; and resource conservation. Data relating to the production and marketing of agricultural products, agriculture prices and income, and other statistics pertinent to agriculture and agribusiness is compiled and published by the Maryland Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the Service, Maryland's top commodities in 2020 ranked by sale were poultry; grain; milk; cattle and calves; eggs; hogs; oilseeds, dry beans, dry peas; nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, sod; and vegetables, melons, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Cow Judging, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, August 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
To teach the public about agriculture in Maryland, the Department of Agriculture has partnered with Maryland Public Television to create a weekly series, Maryland Farm & Harvest.
Agriculture is the largest commercial industry in Maryland, employing some 350,000 people, including nearly 6,000 full-time farmers, and contributing some $8.25 billion annually to the economy. Agriculture also remains the largest single land use in the State, with 2 million acres, or roughly 32 percent of total land area used for farming in 2021. While the majority of Maryland's farmland lies in the north central part of the State and the upper Eastern Shore, more than 20 urban farms thrive in Baltimore City. In 2021, some 12,400 Maryland farms averaged 161 acres each. According to the 2017 Census, 96% farms are family owned.
Barn & brick silo, Sabillasville (Frederick County), Maryland, July 2007. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
In Fiscal Year 2021, some 105 farms were certified organic in Maryland. In 2019, these farms were located on 17,196 acres and sold $50.1 million in products, including dairy items, fruits and vegetables, grains, livestock, and poultry.
Near the Chesapeake Bay and near Maryland farm lands, sea levels are rising at double the world's average rate. Along with climate change, farms on Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore increasingly are affected by saltwater intrusion, or the movement of saltwater towards land that occurs when too much freshwater is removed from aquifers, and the settling of the land itself. Saltwater, whether through aquifer intrusion or tides, has increasingly encroached into farm fields, leaving the soil's salt content too high to grow crops and causing more farmland acres to be left unplanted. The General Assembly ordered the Department of Planning, along with the Departments of Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources, to devise a plan to adapt to saltwater intrusion and update it every five years (Chapter 628, Acts of 2018). In July 2020, saltwater intrusion had affected 50,365 forest acres.
Created in 1977 within the Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation is one of the first programs in the nation dedicated to the preservation of agricultural lands by purchasing easements that restrict any future development of farmlands or woodlands. By the end of Fiscal Year 2021, the Foundation had preserved some 337,182 acres. By 2030, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and its State and local government partners seek to preserve 1,030,000 acres of agricultural land, including farmland, wooded areas, and open space. As of November 9, 2021, some 853,527 acres toward that total, or nearly 83%, have been preserved. Also in 2021, to help with agricultural land preservation, the General Assembly authorized two more programs, the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) and the Next Generation Farmland Acquisition Program (Chapter 285, Acts of 2021).
Silos, Easton, Maryland, May 2017. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
In 2020, gross cash income from commodity (crop & animal) receipts and other farm-related work was approximately $2.53 billion, while net cash income was about $463 million, or $37,369 per farm. Total production expenses were approximately $2.26 billion, or $182,325 per farm, while net farm income exceeded $392.4 million, $31,650 per farm. In 2020, the cash receipts of all agricultural products totaled approximately $2.1 billion.
Along with raising crops and animals, Maryland farmers earn income from agricultural tourism, or agritourism. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, some 295 farms supplemented their income through agritourism, including farmers markets or farm stands, farm visits, and county fairs. Throughout Maryland, agritourism events generate over $162 million for the economy and help support more than 1,000 jobs.
Dairy cows, Long Green Road, Glen Arm, Maryland, August 2017. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
In 2020, direct payments from federal farm programs were approximately $173.5 million, up significantly from $109.7 million in 2019. Price Loss Coverage saw the largest increase, rising from $1.9 million in 2019 to $7.8 million in 2020. Other programs that benefited from the payments include Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Conservation, Market Facilitation, Dairy Margin Coverage, Supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance, and other miscellaneous programs.
The Department of Agriculture's Maryland's Best Program promotes products grown in the State, including fruits, vegetables, meats, and wine. Owing to the increased sales, each $1 spent on marketing the products has a return of $15 for the farmers and State.
The Maryland's Best Seafood Program markets crabs, rockfish, blue catfish, and oysters to the public. As part of the Seafood Program, the True Blue Program certifies those restaurants that get at least 75% of their blue crabs from Maryland. By the end of 2021, over 70 restaurants and retailers in Maryland were certified as "True Blue."
In 2021, field crops were harvested from 1.53 million acres, about 70% of all Maryland farmland. Their 2020 cash receipts were valued at over $1.01 billion.
Barley. Barley production increased to 1.35 million bushels in 2021, averaging 75 bushels per acre with 18,000 acres harvested for a production value of nearly $5 million.
Corn. In 2021, 74.4 million bushels of corn for grain were harvested from 425,000 acres, an average of 175 bushels per acre, for a value of $442.5 million. In 2021, some 700,000 tons of silage corn were harvested from 35,000 acres.
Waverly Farmers' Market, 32nd St., Baltimore, Maryland, August 2009. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Hay. In 2021, from 34,000 acres, Maryland farmers harvested 112,000 tons of alfalfa hay worth $23.6 million. In 2021, overall hay production included 426,000 tons harvested from 199,000 acres (2.14 ton per acre) with a value of $67 million.
Mushrooms. Mushroom production yielded some 42 million pounds in 2021.
Soybeans. The soybean yield averaged 53 bushels per acre in 2021, with a total production of 25.7 million bushels harvested from 485,000 acres and a value of $311 million.
Wheat. In 2021, from 160,000 acres of winter wheat, 12.6 million bushels (79 bushels per acre) were harvested worth $82.2 million.
Selected fresh market vegetables and melons were harvested from 29,339 acres and were valued at $71.3 million, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. These include sweet corn (over 8,000 acres), watermelon (over 3,700 acres) and snap beans (over 3,100 acres), and cucumbers. In 2018, potatoes were harvested from 2,200 acres and amounted to 510,000 hundredweight with cash receipts of $10.4 million.
Pumpkin vines with flowers, Baltimore, Maryland, September 2016. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Fruits, Tree Nuts, & Berries. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, orchards in Maryland covered some 4,183 acres and were worth $23.7 million. Apples (1,793 acres) and grapes (1,170 acres on 187 farms) became the most productive crops. In 2018, some 39.6 million pounds of apples were harvested.
Tractor pull event, Cecil County Fair, Fair Hill, Maryland, July 2000. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
In the fall after summer crops have been harvested, cover crops, including rye, barley, and other cereal grains, are planted. Cover crops control soil erosion and run-off, and improve the health of soil for later crops. To help with expenses associated with cover crops, the Cover Crop Program offers grants. Between 2020-2021, some 433,116 acres of traditional cover crops were planted in Maryland using nearly $20 million in grant funding. Another program, the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share Program, provided $3.9 million in grants to help farmers install 257 conservation projects.
Thresher, south of Hughesville, Maryland, November 2017. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
DAIRY & LIVESTOCK
Maryland milk production in 2021 totaled 875 million pounds and the average milk production per cow was 20,833 pounds. In 2021, the average number of dairy farms was 325 while the number of milk cows was 42,000. Cash receipts for dairy products and milk in 2021 was $158.4 million.
Cattle. As of January 1, 2022, the total number of cattle in Maryland was 165,000. In 2019, production value for cattle and calves was over $76.4 million. Also as of January 1, 2022, there were 42,000 beef cows in Maryland. Cash receipts for cattle and calves in 2020 was $64 million.
Cow, Kinder Farm Park, Millersville, Maryland, January 2019. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
To showcase the dairy industry and its contributions, and educate the public about farming, the Department of Agriculture each summer promotes the Maryland's Best Ice Cream Trail, a tour of ten dairy farms that runs more than 290 miles across the State. The dairies include Broom’s Bloom Dairy (Harford County), Chesapeake Bay Farms (Worcester County), Deliteful Dairy (Washington County), Keyes Creamery (Harford County), Kilby Cream (Cecil County), Misty Meadow Farm Creamery (Washington County), Prigel Family Creamery (Baltimore County), Rocky Point Creamery (Frederick County), South Mountain Creamery (Frederick County), and Woodbourne Creamery at Rock Hill Orchard (Montgomery County).
Alpacas & Llamas. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, there were 1,660 alpacas and 168 llamas on 146 and 43 farms, respectively.
Bison. In 2017, there were 43 bison on 5 farms in Maryland.
Silos on Kilby Cream Farm, 129 Strohmaier Lane, Rising Sun, Maryland, July 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Goats & Sheep. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, approximately 3,848 milk goats, 9,263 goats for meat and other purposes, and 23,399 sheep and lambs were in Maryland.
In 2020, wool brought in $132,000 in cash receipts.
Goat mountain (left), September 2015, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Sheep (right), Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, Howard County Fairgrounds, West Friendship, Maryland, May 2008. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Hogs. As of December 1, 2021, the total number of hogs in Maryland was 22,000. In 2020, cash receipts from hogs and pigs totaled $6.34 million. In 2019, there were 37,000 pigs in Maryland.
The Maryland Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program was launched in 2019 to encourage research of industrial hemp and its growth, harvest, production, and sale for agricultural objectives. Under the Program, farmers must partner with the Department of Agriculture or a university to grow the hemp for research purposes only. In 2021, some 36 farmers partnered with six universities on hemp research. Started in 2021, the Maryland Hemp Farming Program is for those interested in growing hemp commercially. In its first year, 63 farmers registered under the Program.
Hogs, August 2014, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's first National Hemp Report, 26 acres of industrial hemp grown in the open were harvested in 2021. Some 24 acres of industrial floral hemp grown in the open were harvested, estimated at around 8,000 pounds, or 330 pounds per acre, with a value of $1.35 million, $225 per pound. Hemp that was grown under protection was approximately 7.58 thousand square feet, or 145 pounds, and was worth about $98,000.
In 2021, some 18,592 honeybee colonies in Maryland are maintained by 2,335 beekeepers at 2,932 apiaries. These colonies produce upwards of 100,000 pounds of honey per year. In 2020, honey was brought in $667,000 in cash receipts.
Honeybees not only produce honey and beeswax, but also pollinate nearly 40% of the food that we eat, including some $40 million of Maryland's crops. Due to the shortage of bees, Maryland farmers rent 5,000 colonies each year and beekeepers send their colonies to out-of-state growers. In 2020, some 3,190 entry permits and 2,000 exit permits were issued for honeybee colonies.
Honeybees in a honeycomb, Crownsville, Maryland, September 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
According to the Bee Informed Partnership, between 2020 and 2021, beekeepers surveyed in Maryland lost an average of 38.78% of their colonies. These colonies are vital to Maryland's agriculture since nearly all of the State's wild bees have died. The Department of Agriculture's Apiary Inspection Program offers help and inspections to keep Maryland's bees and their hives healthy. In an effort to curb bee deaths in Maryland, the General Assembly passed the Pollinator Protection Act of 2016 (Chapter 662, Acts of 2016). Since 2018, retail establishments are prohibited from selling neonicotinoid pesticides to consumers, making Maryland the first state in the nation to protect bees by banning these pesticides.
Along with honeybees, which are actually native to Europe, Africa, and Asia, there are over 430 species of native bees in Maryland, including mason bees and bumblebees. Some of those native species, such as the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, are endangered.
Maryland has 10.5 horses per square mile, more than any other state in the nation. Some 101,457 horses live on 705,000 acres, or one quarter of the State's agricultural land, of which 88,000 acres are preserved through conservation programs. In Fiscal Year 2021, over 16,000 equine facilities and 782 licensed stables (including those for boarding, lessons, rental, & rescue) operated in Maryland. Annually, the horse industry adds more than $1.3 billion to the State's economy and supports 21,532 jobs, according to the 2018 Economic Impact Study from the American Horse Council.
Horse racing, the largest of the industry's sectors, has a significant impact on the Maryland economy. Racing, which includes thoroughbred and harness racing, adds $365 million in value to the economy as well as supports 5,214 jobs. There are more than 260 live racing days held at Maryland's five racetracks each year, which has a $572 million economic impact on the State. At Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, the Preakness Stakes brings in more than $30 million each May.
Clydesdale, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, September 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Other areas of the horse industry include competition, recreation, and therapy. Horse competitions, such as horse shows, add $162 million in value to Maryland's economy, as well as 3,346 jobs, while recreation, including riding lessons, add another $234 million and 4,971 jobs. Horse, or equine, therapy brings in $8.4 million and 189 jobs at more than 30 facilities. Combined, these areas have a total economic impact of more than $650 million. There are also over a dozen organizations that rescue and rehouse horses, including retired racehorses. Overall, the horse industry, including owners, participants, and organizations, has an economic impact of more than $2 billion on Maryland.
The Maryland Horse Industry Board oversees and supports Maryland's horse owners and industry. The Board publishes a Guide to Maryland Horse Trails as well as Saddle Up Maryland, a directory of trail-riding stables and guided rides. The Board also provides information on horse parks, history trails, and horse discovery centers.
The Thoroughbred is Maryland's State Horse.
HORTICULTURE & NURSERIES
In 2017, horticulture, which includes nurseries and greenhouses, made up 9% of all agricultural items that were sold and was the third largest agricultural sector in sales. According to the 2018 Maryland Horticulture Survey, some 27,054 acres of farmland were used for horticultural production, and growers sold approximately $1.4 billion in products. Moreover, nearly 25,000 people were employed in the horticultural industry. In 2020, the Maryland Nursery Inspection Program licensed 297 nurseries and 1,456 plant sellers, and certified over 10,537 stock acres and 12,070,024 square feet of greenhouse space.
Bumblebees & honeybee on sunflower, Baltimore, Maryland, July 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
The Maryland Gingseng Management Program works to protect American ginseng from overharvesting and to ensure its viability. Ginseng can be wild, wild-simulated, woods-grown, or cultivated. The Program monitors the ginseng harvest as well as licenses its diggers and dealers. During the 2019-2020 harvest, 62.71 pounds of dry wild root, 1.58 pounds of green, or fresh, wild root, 9 pounds of dry wild-simulated root, 213 pounds of green wild-simulated root, and 25 prounds of green woods-grown root were inspected and certified.
In 2021, the number of broilers, or chickens raised for their meat, was 259.9 million with a value of $912.5 million. Poultry production value in 2020 was $738.4 million. Also in 2020, turkeys brought in some $16.2 million. Perdue Farms, on the Eastern Shore, is the one of the nation's largest poultry producers.
Some 747.6 million eggs were produced in 2021 with a value of $36.9 million. Most chicken operations have fewer than 3,000 birds and produce about 9.6 million eggs each year, while larger operations produce the rest.
Rooster, Annapolis, Maryland, August 2003. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
For farmers and others involved in agriculture, the University of Maryland Extension offers scientific expertise and resources through its network of county extension offices. The Extension is a statewide education system of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources within the University of Maryland, College Park.
Baltimore Farmers' Market, Holliday St. & Saratoga St., Baltimore, Maryland, August 2013. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
WINERIES, BREWERIES & DISTILLERIES
During Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, Maryland saw the 18th Amendment as a violation of states' rights and was the only state that refused to enforce the federal law banning the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol. Following Prohibition's repeal, the industry prospered for some years, but eventually businesses ceased operations. More recently, however, Maryland has seen a rapid increase in the number of its wineries, breweries, and distilleries.
Boordy Vineyards, Long Green Pike, Baltimore County, Maryland, August 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
In July 2022, the Advisory Commission on Maryland Alcohol Manufacturing was formed within the Department of Commerce to nurture the industry. Currently, 168 businesses produce produce craft beverages with a total gross output of $591 million.
Wineries. Each Maryland county has at least one vineyard and most have a winery as well. As of 2022, 115 wineries operate throughout the State. In Fiscal Year 2022, Maryland wines received more than 260 medals and awards at local, regional, national, and international competitions. Wine trails across the State offer regional wines with distinctive flavors.
In 2018, wineries employed 2,000 workers and had a $200 million economic impact on the State while wine sales neared $50 million. In 2019, wineries sold 210,000 cases, or 461,000 gallons, of wine. As of 2022, Maryland commercial growers harvest more than 1,000 acres of grapes, apples, and other fruits for wine, cider, and mead. Together, some 115 wineries throughout the State produce over 500 wines.
Formerly, the Governor's Advisory Commission on Maryland Wine and Grape Growing had sought to support Maryland's wineries and vineyards. In July 2022, the Commission was replaced by the Advisory Commission on Maryland Alcohol Manufacturing within the Department of Commerce (Chapter 462, Acts of 2022).
Breweries. In 2021, some 125 licensed breweries operated throughout Maryland. Also as of 2021, the breweries produced 288,130 barrels of craft beer per year with an economic impact of $956 million. In August 2018, Guinness opened a brewery and taproom in Halethorpe (Baltimore County), its only brewery in the United States. The University of Maryland Extension, in partnership with Flying Dog Brewery, produced the "Maryland Hop Growers Guide: A Progress Report on the 2016-2017 Growing Season and Summary of Best Practices for Growing Hops in Maryland."
Distilleries. Maryland has more than 30 distilleries which produce bourbon, gin, and rye, as well as other spirits, with many businesses using local ingredients.
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