BERLIN – Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, on his way to the annual Maryland Association of Counties (MaCo) convention in Ocean City this week, made a pit-stop at the Chesapeake Bay Farm market on Wednesday for a late afternoon dish of locally made ice cream and an open and frank discussion on agricultural issues.
O’Malley, along with long-time Lower Shore farmer Roger Richardson, who was appointed Secretary of Agriculture in Maryland earlier this year, met with members of the Holland family, who have owned and operated Worcester County’s only existing dairy farm for five generations. After a brief greeting from several generations of the Holland family and a dish of homemade ice cream, O’Malley sat down at a picnic table in the shade along bustling Route 50 to discuss some of the challenges the local business, and the farming industry in general, are facing on the Lower Shore and across the state.
During the visit, O’Malley talked with proprietors Ken, Linda, Danny and Laura Holland to learn more about their venture into making and selling ice cream and cheese from milk produced on their Glad-Mar Farm in Pocomoke. The Hollands are fifth generation Worcester County dairy farmers inducted into the state’s Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2004 for their leadership in farming and in the local community.
The family hatched their business idea in 2004 after the homemade cheese they made as presents for family and friends received rave reviews. In 2005, the family launched the Chesapeake Bay Farm market on Route 50 just west of Berlin and began selling homemade ice cream and artisan cheeses produced with local milk and processed in Pennsylvania.
It was the latter situation that garnered much of the governor’s attention on Wednesday. O’Malley asked Holland family members why the local product is processed in Pennsylvania and shipped back to Worcester County for distribution. They explained current Maryland state law prohibits the sale of unpasteurized dairy products and shipping the unfinished goods to Pennsylvania is the only way to get around state regulations.
“That’s something to work on in the next session,” the governor said to Richardson. “How many more dairy farms to we have to lose before we fix that?”
The governor praised the Hollands for taking the initiative to meet the increasing demand for locally grown products.
“We see more and more of this as we travel around the state,” he said. “In a world where so many things seem out of people’s control, they like to know they can still buy locally produced goods from their neighbors.”
Richardson predicted the early success of the operation bodes well for other farm families in the area considering the same thing.
“The Holland’s venture is a recipe for long-term success for their family as it moves into its fifth generation of farmers,” he said. “These niche markets can add value to farming operations so families like the Hollands can stay on the farm, keeping rural land open and productive.”
For their part, the Holland family was thrilled with the governor’s visit and showered him with gifts of cheese and ice cream. “
We are very excited and honored to have Governor O’Malley visit the store and hope he goes away with an increased understanding of family farm ventures,” said Linda Holland.