Food, Farmers and Community: Opening the Dialogue


Harford Community College’s “Gathering at the Community Table” initiative hosts symposium focusing on Harford County’s agriculture and food system

“Food, Farmers and Community: Opening the Dialogue,” a half-day symposium focusing on Harford County’s agriculture and food system and the advantages of buying local, takes place Saturday, March 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Harford Community College.

The symposium is the centerpiece of “Gathering at the Community Table: Celebrating Harford’s Farms and Food,” the first Harford Community College Scholar-in-Residence program, which focuses on Harford County’s rich food history and land stewardship.

The symposium’s keynote speaker is Julie Oberg, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. She will discuss “As a Community of Food Consumers, We Are All Stakeholders in the Success of Our Farms: Overview of Harford County Farming and its Challenges.”

Breakout sessions include “The Real Cost of Cheap Food: The Economic Challenges of Farming and Eating,” “Rooted in Our Soil: Buying Local for Our Community and Our Health,” “What’s Behind the Label: How Do We Understand the Meaning of Organic, GMOs and Antibiotic-Free Food?” and “Why is Agricultural Land Preservation Important in Harford County?”

The symposium will also launch Harford County’s new GIS mapping web app enabling the public to “buy local” by easily locating and finding information about Harford County farms and their products.

Participants may also tour the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation’s “Amazing! Maryland Agriculture Showcase.” The showcase features facts and interactive displays about agriculture in Maryland.

In addition, video shorts featuring farming and food topics will be shown in the registration area, and table and poster displays highlighting county agricultural agencies will be on display.

Breakfast and lunch will be served at the symposium, and each will feature local agricultural products. At lunch, a wrap-up discussion about the sessions and follow-up action will take place.

“Harford County has an amazing food history reaching back to local Native American tribes who fished the bounty of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay. Moreover, the county became a national center for food canning, especially corn, by the early 1900s,” said Sharon Stowers, PhD, Harford Community College’s first Scholar-in-Residence. “Today’s sustainable agricultural movement can trace its early roots to our Deer Creek watershed farmers who instituted practices to protect the bay and soil. Our farmers continue to be stewards of our land as Harford County is a nationally recognized leader in agricultural land preservation.”

The symposium is geared to both the public and farmers to learn about and discuss issues facing food producers and consumers today. In addition, the planning team encourages county organizations, including nonprofits and religious institutions, to sponsor at least one member to attend the symposium as a “food ambassador.” Food ambassadors will return to their organizations to educate the membership on the information they learned at the symposium.

The organizers are planning for 150 attendees and hope for it to be a mix of the greater public and farmers coming together, so each can learn more about the other.

The symposium takes place in Edgewood Hall, Room 132, on the Harford Community College campus. The cost to attend is $10 per person. To register and for more information, visit Questions about the symposium should be directed to Dr. Stowers at [email protected].

Sponsors of the symposium include Harford Community College, Harford Community College Foundation’s Grants for Innovation Program, Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development and Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation.

The Scholar-in-Residence program at Harford Community College is an opportunity for full-time faculty to shift from a teaching-centered role to one that is research/scholarship-centered while providing expertise to community organizations and still maintaining a full-time, active presence on the campus and within the community.

Harford Community College offers more than 80 affordable degree and certificate programs of study as well as a variety of noncredit community education and workforce development courses. Located on 352 acres near Bel Air, Harford Community College has been helping Harford Countians achieve their goals since 1957. For more information, visit

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