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County Executive Neuman Announces Decisions on Dairy Farm Property
Current Tenant to Be Given Short-term Lease; Letter of Intent to be Issued for Organic Farmer
Annapolis, MD (March 28, 2014) – Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman today announced decisions on the farmland the County leases in Gambrills, MD, from the U.S. Naval Academy, known as the Naval Academy Dairy Farm.
After advice and counsel from State and local agriculture experts, the County will offer the current tenant farmer, dba Maryland Sunrise Farm, a short-term lease that will extend through December 31, 2014, to conventionally farm the land. In addition, a Letter of Intent (similar to Request for Proposal) will soon be issued in which the County will seek farmers interested in farming the land using organic protocols. If the County is unable to identify a farmer interested in farming organic, the current tenant farmer will be given a long-term lease to impose measures that will restore the land to make organic farming, once again, a viable option.
“We’ve heard from residents in Gambrills about the future of the Dairy Farm and we know that preserving the farm is important to them, as well as the county,” said County Executive Neuman. “Our primary goal is to make sure the land is farmed in a responsible way. As a result, we are doing our due diligence by working with the current tenant, who has been a good steward of the land for more than a decade, and the community by seeking a farmer who might be able to embrace organic farming.”
Under the negotiated agreement with the current tenant farmer, both parties have agreed to the following provisions:
Anne Arundel County held a town hall meeting on February 11 with interested parties to discuss the Dairy Farm. The meeting was prompted by a decision by the tenant farmer who indicated a need to discontinue farming a portion of the land using organic protocols and, instead, farm the cropland (feed product) employing conventional agriculture methods. The tenant farmer has cited in his decision to change course in methods after 15 years of organic farming that the cropland has developed a significant weed bank and high phosphorus levels. Organic practices, he contends, rely heavily upon cultivation for weed control and several areas of the farm are highly erodible, making frequent cultivation a less-desirable option. Because of this, exacerbated by the pressure of a large wild deer herd (estimated at 250+ head) feeding on these lands, crop yields have been decreasing annually.
Since the town hall meeting, Anne Arundel County officials have been in negotiations with the tenant farmer to gauge his interest in continuing to farm organically. A team has now been assembled, and is developing the scope of work for a Letter of Intent that will allow the County to solicit bids from other stakeholders interested in farming organically.
Maryland Sunrise Farm is the only Md. Department of Agriculture-certified organic farm in Anne Arundel County out of 377 farms located here. Maryland Sunrise Farms operates on 680 acres of 857 acres of farm land leased by the County. The County pays $240,000 annually for the lease of the Dairy Farm land. The tenant farmer pays close to $50,000 per year, which includes taxes, building maintenance and ancillary costs associated with Maryland Sunrise Farms. The County holds a 30-year lease on the property, which commenced in 2007.