Sunday, January 3, 2010

Why I can't sell you a chicken at farmers market in Maryland

Hello blogger friends!

Here is a copy of a letter I recently sent to the Maryland Farm Bureau asking for their help in getting outdated poultry processing requirements off the books in our state. This would allow us to sell on-farm processed chickens to our farmers market customers within the state, something they are clamoring for. K.

Hello Farm Bureau,

My name is Kent Ozkum and I own a small farm operation in Frederick County, Maryland. We are a certified-organic, grassafed and finished operation that targets high-end consumers in Maryland and D.C. By providing a very high-quality product to a niche (but rapidly-growing) market, we are able to produce a high return on our small farm of only 30 acres.

I recently rejoined the Farm Bureau with the encouragement of my state Senator Brinkley and Delegate Stull after quiting a few years ago. At that time, I felt (as do many small producers within in the state) that the Farm Bureau does not represent them equitably within the state. I hope that this is no longer true and thought I would give it another try.

Issues that are important to myself and producers like me are:

1. Organic production as a viable and sustainable model for agriculture into the future.

This does not mean that there is no place for current models commonly in use in the U.S. but lets have some equal time for alternatives. (I think its useful to remember that current agricultural practices in the U.S. have been in use for about 75 years - traditional farming really refers to agricultural practices that precede that and were in use for about 10,000. years).

2. Policies like on-farm processing of poultry and rabbits for resale direct-to-consumer at local farmer's markets. Current state regulations arbitrarily allow on-farm sales but NOT sales at farmers markets, effectively killing the production and sale of poultry and rabbit direct-to-consumers in the State.

Why is that so, you might ask? There are NO USDA inspected poultry processing facilities in the State open to small producers and crossing state lines adds an entire new gamut of regulation, testing, etc that must be met in order to process our birds in Pa or Virginia, not to mention the 3 to 8 hours travel time each way and the costs that incurs.

Free-range poultry sell for $4 to 6/lb. in the local marketplace and the only barrier to taking advantage of this market is state regulation that goes above and beyond what the USDA requires with no evidence of increased safety.

3. Promotion of value-added production like cheese-making as a way of maximizing profits for small producers.

Having grown up in New York and Vermont, both states have created a very strong local agricultural movement based on artisanale products that maximize profit for the farmer. These products have created an entire food movement based around these farms.

These models have been based on the experiences commonly seen in the Napa Valley and many places in Europe, and they work especially well in places where land costs are high, like Maryland.

4. Promotion of small-farm incubators to allow young farmers to enter into farming - this specifically targets young people who are not fortunate enough to inherit an existing farm to enter farming as a career. As you know, the demographics of farming are changing and unless we do something quickly, there won't be enough farmers in our lifetime.

Currently, Montgomery County is setting up a program whereby young farmers can lease parcels from the county at a much reduced rate and receive help in setting up their farm business free of charge.

I don't see any of these types of issues being addressed in your current POLICIES section and was wondering if perhaps I overlooked them?

If the Farm Bureau wants to remain current and attractive to young, innovative farmers, these are the kinds of programs and products that consumers are asking for and younger farmers find attractive.

Farm policies need to be more inclusive than just protecting lands rights issues and the status quo.

I would be happy to work with the farm bureau to generate some policy statements in regards to these types of issues.

A few of the farmers in our area that share our interests and passions for these issues include: Kathy Ecker (Washington County), Rick Hood (Frederick County), Will Morrow (Frederick County), Mike Akey (Carroll County), Ron Holter (Frederick County), and Eric Wakefield (Frederick County).

I look forward to hearing from you and to speak with Ms. Connelly and Mr. Fuchs about these issues in the near future.


Kent Ozkum
Whitmore Farm
10720 Dern Road
Emmitsburg, M.D. 21727

1 comment:

  1. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

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