A farmer’s quest to provide healthy and vibrant crops can often prove costly, and running a successful farming operation, no matter what’s being grown, takes financial savvy.
A Hollywood farm has partnered with a statewide sustainable farming group to teach other growers how they can most effectively manage the business side of their operations.
Based in Cockeysville, Future Harvest CASA works with farms from across Maryland and surrounding states through offering support ranging from training opportunities to networking and advocacy. Caroline Selle, who manages the group’s field programs for the central Chesapeake region, said education is one of the biggest services they provide.
In addition to the year-long Beginner Farm Training Program, Selle said they also value helping farmers stay atop the latest innovations in sustainable growing and The Foodshed Field School program, funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, helps them achieve just that.
“It really emphasizes peer-to-peer education,” Selle said of the field school. “It offers help with plugging into a really vibrant farming community. It’s one thing to just hear a lecture, and another to actually have hands-on experience.”
Hollywood-based Anchored Roots Farm was chosen to host its March 12 “Adding Value, Managing Debt & Streamlining Production” workshop, Selle said, because owner Priscilla Wentworth Leitch’s work is a good example of steps farmers can choose to take to add value to their own farms.
Last year, Wentworth Leitch hosted an event for those in the Beginner Farm Training Program focused on many of the same topics that will be covered later this month. Its success inspired the decision to open up access to the same information to a much broader audience. A graduate of the beginner program herself, Selle said Wentworth Leitch had taken “really unique steps” to ensuring her own farm’s success — namely, rather than focusing on vegetables like many farms do, Anchored Roots Farm primarily grows flowers.
Wentworth Leitch, whose family owns local home and garden institution Wentworth Nursery, said she first began working with farming in 2010, first part time at Sassafras Creek Farm in Leonardtown, and later purchasing the 22 acres that comprise Anchored Roots Farm. While Wentworth Leitch said she did originally intend to focus on vegetable farming, she ultimately “wanted to fill a gap [she] saw in the industry … doing work with mostly specialty cut flowers.” She also grows microgreens and edible flowers used at restaurants around Southern Maryland.
Without giving away too much of what attendees can expect to learn, one of the farming pitfalls she plans to address at the workshop is the money trap.
“One thing our farm is really cognizant about is debt,” Wentworth Leitch said. “We don’t own a lot of equipment. We rent it and we don’t take on a lot of debt. Sometimes you think you have to start out with everything you’ll need, and that’s not necessarily the case.”
Wentworth Leitch said she’s more than happy to help other farmers find success in such a vital industry, and wants to help Future Harvest in its mission.
“We love being able to give back, because they helped provide ongoing education over the years that has helped our farm stay ahead of the curve,” she said. “Last year was fantastic. We had about 20 people who were engaged in farming … and it was within the market we wanted to reach, which was really nice. I learned from them, too.”
The “Adding Value, Managing Debt & Streamlining Production” workshop will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on March 12. Anchored Roots Farm is located at 45281 St. Cuthbert Farm Road in Hollywood. The workshop is $20 for Future Harvest members and $40 for nonmembers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or visit futureharvestcasa.org/field-school/field-school-events for the registration link.