University of Maryland Extension

Eastern Shore Agriculture Needs Assessment

Image Credit: 
Trish Moore, Desktop Publishing Technician, University of Maryland Extension

University of Maryland Extension Focuses on Eastern Shore Agricultural Industry

Farmers along Maryland's Eastern Shore are passionate about promoting the importance of agriculture to legislators and the general public, have concerns about the loss of farmland in their regions due to urban encroachment and want to be more involved in developing regulations that affect farming communities. These are just some of the findings from a recent survey completed by University of Maryland Extension (UME) assessing the needs of farmers in the state's nine Eastern Shore counties.

Roughly 300 Maryland farmers living and working the land along the Eastern Shore completed the survey on paper or through an online link. The results will be used to help UME better understand issues facing Eastern Shore agriculture, identify agricultural and educational needs and focus UME trainings and resources.

"We felt it was important to take a comprehensive look at farming all along the Eastern Shore of the state to paint a better overall picture of what farmers in the region are going through and how we can serve them best," said Shannon Dill, Principal Agent for agriculture and natural resources in UME's Talbot County office. "Typically we conduct surveys on a county-by-county basis but in this instance, all nine county agricultural Extension educators located along Maryland's Eastern Shore were involved in making sure this assessment was as thorough as possible."

The survey included four sections: industry priorities, concerns and viability; research and education needs; education and training preferences; and demographic and farm information.

Topics ranking high in importance with responding farmers included increasing legislators' and the general public's understanding of agriculture production and its effect on the economy, farmer involvement in the legislative process and regulation development, maintenance and protection of adequate agricultural land, and environmental stewardship. In terms of research and education input, farmers showed avid interest in environmental law, nutrient management technologies, soil science and increasing soil health, integrated pest management practices and conservation practices.

Information gained from the survey also provides demographic details about farming on Maryland's Eastern Shore:

  • One-third of respondents report tilling 101-500 acres, followed by 17% at 0-10 acres and 13% at 501-1,000 acres.
  • 61% of respondents farm full-time with 73% farming more than 20 years.
  • The majority of responders report farms growing field crops (77%) followed by livestock (26%), fruit and/or vegetables (24%) and poultry (22%).
  • Those responding to the survey were male (79%), non-Hispanic (100%) and white (98%).
  • More than 87% of farmers were over the age of 45 with the majority being in the range of 55-64 (33%), 65-75 (22%) and 45-54 (21%).

*The results for gender, ethnicity, race and age are consistent with data from the 2012 Agriculture Census.

Moving forward, UME will continue to analyze the data and prepare a plan to respond to the requests and meet the needs of farmers and landowners in the nine counties along Maryland's Eastern Shore. Organizers of the survey would like to extend a gracious "Thank You" to those farmers who took the time to complete the survey and provide comments. For the full report visit http://extension.umd.edu/about/extension-impact/eastern-shore-agriculture-needs-assessment.

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