Anne Arundel County leaders are seeking a farmer willing to continue organic farming methods on the historic Naval Academy Dairy Farm near Gambrills as it works to sign a long-term lease with a producer.
Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman said the farmland the county leases from the U.S. Naval Academy will be leased to the current tenant, Maryland Sunrise Farm, through Dec. 31. Meanwhile, the county will look for a farmer interested in farming the land using organic methods, which area resident had lobbied to continue.
If the county doesn’t find a farmer interested in continuing organic practices, the current tenant, Edwin Fry, will be given a long-term lease to impose measures that will restore the land to make organic farming a viable option.
The land was once a dairy farm that provided milk to Naval Academy midshipmen, reports The Baltimore Sun. The county pays the Navy $240,000 per year for the farm on a lease that runs through 2037. Fry pays the county about $50,000 per year.
Fry told the Sun he's satisfied with the new arrangement, which requires the county to notify him by July 1 if the farm will be turned over to someone else next year. He's been working without a written lease for 15 years.
“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,” Neuman said in a statement. “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.”
The agreement also calls for:
- The crops currently farmed for the use of the CSA, which operates out of the Dairy Farm, will continue to be farmed organically, as well as the products produced for farmers markets and cattle-grazing.
- The tenant farmer will continue to engage in community activities such as the 4-H Dairy Leasing Club, Wounded Warriors Program, public school farm tours and fundraisers at Arundel High School, through Dec. 31.
Fey told county officials he wants to end organic farming where the cropland has developed a significant weed bank and high phosphorus levels. Organic practices, he said, rely heavily upon cultivation for weed control and several areas of the farm are highly erodible, making frequent cultivation a less-desirable option.
Erosion, coupled with a wild deer herd estimated at more than 250 head feeding on the lands, crop yields have been decreasing annually.