One of the main reasons that we moved from California to Maryland was land access. After a decade of farming in California, I could not get secure long term land access on leased land. The prospect of purchasing farmland in the Bay Area of California was just not a sustainable business option for us.
After extensive research we decided that the Eastern Shore of Maryland could provide us with what California could not; affordable cost of living, and support to establish and grow an agricultural business.
Since arriving in “the land of pleasant living” we have definitely experienced the affordable cost of living. Here you don’t need three jobs to survive; a person can actually live on wages from one full time job. We are still looking for farmland (if you have any leads let me know)! But what has surprised me the most is how welcoming and supportive the agricultural community has been.
From local food non-profits, to government agricultural resources, to individuals; everyone I have reached out to has taken the time to offer advice, information and guidance, to me a stranger in these parts. I have been amazed at how many people have taken time out of their busy schedules to meet with me over a cup of coffee so I could pick their brains on starting a farm here.
I’m impressed with the University of Maryland Extension’s programing. Recently I attended their Food for Profit entrepreneurship training program. This day-long training went through the ins and outs of starting a food business, legal regulations, food safety, labeling, and more. They did a great job of breaking down the complex paperwork involved in bringing a food product to market. It gave me the motivation to actually want to create a value-added farm product.
I have also found there to be a ton of agricultural conferences, summits, and seminars within a two hour drive of where I live. Just last week I spent the day at the Delmarva Soil Summit put on by Future Harvest an awesome non-profit providing loads of educational programing for farmers. This summit covered not only the importance of soil health but how to improve your soil and how to monitor its health. What impressed me more than the great information and resources I was gaining that day, was the diversity of the attendees. In their first ever Soil Summit they had brought together large commodity growers, direct market farmers, students, service providers, and even home gardeners.
There is still lots I need to do before I start farming again next year, but the community support I have received thus far is incredibly encouraging and reinforces the excitement that we have in making the Eastern Shore of Maryland our home.