Small Farm Outreach

  • The 2007 Agriculture census shows that small-scale agriculture is on the rise, especially in the mid-Atlantic region.  As demands for local, fresh, and safe food continue to rise among rural and suburban communities, we see more younger and diverse populations expressing a desire to farm.   Yet, although these agriculture trends seem promising, they will face numerous challenges ahead, such as the rising cost of farmland, insufficient farm management and production skills, high farm operating expenses, and limited access to financial credit, to name a few.  Unfortunately, some of these challenges have always been major obstacles for existing farmers, particularly those who are considered limited resource and/or socially disadvantaged.  Consequently, there is a strong need to provide educational programs and training to equip farmers with the skills and strategies needed to not only survive but thrive during these economically trying times.

    In response, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) has formed a partnership agreement with USDA to implement a Small Farm Outreach Initiative for farmers in Southern Maryland and along the Delmarva Peninsula. The overall goal of the project is to improve the economic condition of small-scale, limited-resource and  socially disadvantaged farmers by providing educational programs and training that improve their farm management skills and expedite their access to and participation in USDA farm programs. Technical assistance, training, and other outreach activities are provided in group as well as in individual settings. 

    Since the project's inception in 2003, UMES has played a major role in reaching out and providing high quality programs that impact farm profitability, sustainability, and overall quality of life of diverse farm operations, with emphasis on those of limited-resources. Currently, the project provides on-going outreach and program activities that address a variety of issues identified among target audiences including: alternative enterprise selection, direct marketing strategies, improved agriculture production systems, farm business management, management of natural resources, and participation in USDA farm programs.

    Each year, hundreds of clients (to include farmers and those with an interest in farming) participate in informational meetings, workshops, field tours, farm demonstrations, conferences, and other program activities held both on and off-campus.