Hans and Jennie

Hans and Jennie

Meet a couple of farmers from Maryland!  Jennie is also a volunteer for Common Ground - a grassroots movement of farm women educating consumers about our farms and how we grow their food!  Welcome Jennie! 

Greetings from the Eastern Shore of Maryland!

Photo Credit: Edwin Remsberg

You probably didn?t think Maryland had farms did you? That?s generally the response I get when I tell folks I?m a farmer from Maryland. Maryland?s largest industry is agriculture and while the state only has about 2 million acres of farmland, we are American agriculture in miniature! From the Coastal Plains populated by poultry houses and large scale grain operations to the Appalachian Mountains where the land is more suitable for grazing, and all types of agriculture in between, Maryland agriculture is strong but highly regulated as we farm in the shadow of our nation?s capital.

Our family farm is on the ?Eastern Shore?, meaning we are on the Eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay. Pull out your atlas if you need to figure out the geography of Maryland. Around here we call it ?Eastern Shore? or ?Western Shore? as it relates to the Chesapeake. We are a third generation family, 2000 acre family farm growing corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, hay, tomatoes, green beans, and winegrapes. It?s a long story how we got to this point as less than 20 years ago, we were a farrow to finish hog operation along with a cow-calf Angus beef herd. The livestock were sold and we became fruit and vegetable growers in an effort to capture more value per acre rather than trying to expand the number of acres we farm.

Tomato Crop 

The farm consists of my husband Hans and his brother Alan, their father Walter having already transitioned the business to them 17 years ago. Besides myself, we have one full time employee, several seasonal workers for the fruits and vegetables, and of course, our children. We recognize that we have to preserve our soil and improve our soils for the next generation, leaving the farm in better condition than we received it. To that end, we are very conservation minded. Our grain crops are 100% no-till or use conservation tillage equipment. Farming as we do in a critical watershed, we want our nutrients and our soils to stay in place and utilize many best management practices such as cover crops to accomplish that goal.


My main role is to manage a 22 acre winegrape vineyard producing high quality winegrapes for the expanding Maryland wine industry. In addition, I launched a custom vineyard management company 4 years ago to offer services from planting vineyards (using RTK of course), to custom spraying, crew work, harvest, whatever the customer with a vineyard needs. This opened up another enterprise for the farm to bring in income via a different entity while meeting the needs of an emerging market in the region.

Photo Credit: Curt Dennison

My background is as a Registered Dietitian which I practiced for 15 years before leaving the profession. I still maintain my credentials and it suits agriculture very nicely as agriculture and nutrition are like salt and pepper, they just go together very nicely. So instead of reading lab results, I now read soil and plant tissue results, assessing and treating what?s happening to the plants rather than the people. Besides having my commercial applicator?s license, I am also licensed as a nutrient management consultant and write nutrient management plans. Farming is highly regulated in Maryland. Nitrogen and phosphorus are regulated nutrients, meaning you cannot apply either without having a mandatory nutrient management plan. 

In Maryland, there are also restrictions on application of fertilizer between November 1st and March 1st. Currently in the pipeline are new proposed restrictions to mandate incorporation of manure within 48 hours of application, mandatory exclusion fencing of all livestock, and numerous other regulations related to nitrogen and phosphorus. This is an entire blog in and of itself. It would be interesting to hear comments from farmers outside of the Chesapeake watershed about the practices we must adhere to in order to farm in Maryland. If you would like to see what we are faced with farming in a regulatory environment, follow this link to the pdf file to see what?s currently being proposed. You may very well be surprised. http://www.mda.maryland.gov/pdf/proposednmregs2.pdf

Being an ?Ag-vocate? has evolved over the years as I increased my responsibility on the farm and geared up my speaking and media training skills.  In addition to serving on a speaker?s bureau for the International Food Information Council (IFIC), I am also a volunteer for CommonGround, a grassroots movement of farm women educating consumers about our farms and how we grow their food. CommonGround is farmer-funded with our corn and soybean CheckOff dollars. It is a program I strongly believe in and encourage farm women to look into for their state. As a result, I started a blog called The Foodie Farmer where I write about how crops are grown and how those foods get from farm to table.  I also write about issues in the media. I am on twitter as @FarmGirlJen, have a YouTube channel called The Foodie Farmer as well as a Facebook fan page. All of these spokes feed the wheel of my blog which is growing slowly in followers. Social media is a fantastic platform for agriculture to proactively present its message and engage non-farm folks in the discussion of food, farming, and sustainability.

Thanks Jennie for this great feature!  Stop by her blog The Foodie Farmer and follow this farm girl and her quest to educate others about how our food gets from the farm to the table. 

If you would like to be a feature on this blog contact us!! We want to hear your story!  Check out our Contact Page and send Jamie or Elizabeth an e-mail! 

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