March Madness Has Another Meaning for Maryland Farmers

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Published in the March 28, 2021 edition of Lancaster Farming

Photo Credit: Lancaster Farming, Ken Wiedemann

For many Marylanders, March means cheering on the Terps in the NCAA tournament or celebrating St. Patrick's Day. For my fellow Maryland farmers, March is the start to one of the busiest times of the year — planting season.

Farmers are hard at work from sunrise to sunset, preparing their fields for this season's crops. Maryland farmers are required to use nutrient management plans to guide their use of when, where, and how fertilizer is applied. These plans help ensure that nutrients are being used by crops and not washed into local waterways.

Those of us that live in farm country know, and can probably smell, that farmers have begun spreading manure on their fields. Manure is an all-natural crop fertilizer and soil conditioner packed with nutrients that are essential for plant growth.

To protect local streams, Maryland livestock farmers store manure over the winter. As of March 1, they use the stored manure to fertilize their fields and improve their soil's health, following state guidelines. The smell can be pungent, but it won't last long. After all, today's manure grows tomorrow's flowers.

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The Maryland Department of Agriculture's (MDA's) annual public education campaign, Manure Happens, is in full swing and helping educate citizens about how and why farmers recycle manure. The 2021 campaign focuses on how farmers protect local streams from runoff when using chicken and livestock manure. Farmers or citizens interested in learning more about this campaign should visit: www.mda.maryland.gov/ManureHappens.

With a flurry of activity happening in the field and an increase of farm equipment on rural roads, the department is working to remind motorists and farmers to drive with caution and share the road. Farmers must display slow-moving vehicle signs on the back of their equipment — this is the neon orange triangle emblem. When moving equipment, farmers should try their best to avoid traveling during high-traffic times and should travel during the day when they can be more visible. Remember to use turn or hand signals when making any directional changes. By being patient and extra cautious, we can ensure farmers get to their fields and motorists get to where they need to go. For other road safety tips, visit: www.findmedriving.com.

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Every March, the agriculture industry celebrates Agricultural Literacy Week and National Agriculture Week. Agricultural Literacy Week promotes ag education in the classroom and highlights the important role the industry plays in our everyday lives. This year, I was asked to read "Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck's Ice Cream Wish" virtually to students at Galena Elementary School, Fallstaff Elementary School, and the Watershed Public Charter School. This book showed the children all about the dairy industry and how everyone's favorite frozen dessert, ice cream, is made.

To highlight the efforts of Maryland's agriculture industry, Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed March 21-27 as Maryland Agriculture Week. This year's celebration ran alongside National Agriculture Week and coincided with National Agriculture Day on March 23.

On National Ag Day, I joined students from Hereford High School in Baltimore County for a virtual panel discussion where we discussed agriculture's role in the economy and the exciting career opportunities the industry offers. Fostering the next generation of agriculture leaders is critical to the future success of the industry and something I feel personally passionate about.

After an incredibly trying year, celebrating agriculture and recognizing the people who have been working tirelessly to ensure we are all fed and provided for is more important now than ever before. For more information on Maryland Agriculture Week or for other ways to celebrate, visit: mda.maryland.gov.stats

Filed Under: Government, State

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