Sharon Stowers, Ph.D., RDN, a professor of Anthropology and Sociology at Harford Community College in Bel Air, MD, recently received the 2021 Outstanding Contribution to Maryland Agriculture Award from the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts. Dr. Stowers was recognized for her work in conjunction with Gathering at the Community Table: Celebrating Harford’s Farms and Food project that supports local farmers. She was nominated for the award by the Harford Soil Conservation District.
Dr. Stowers brought her expertise as a nutritional anthropologist and community organizer to create a county-wide research and education project, Gathering at the Community Table: Celebrating Harford’s Farms and Food. The goal of the project, which is funded by Harford Community College and Harford County Government, is to bring together Harford County’s agricultural producers and the public to discuss current issues facing farmers and the food system.
“I am pleased to receive this award as representing Harford Community College’s commitment to our agricultural community. And, of course, the real heroes of this project are our farmers and agricultural specialists who work hard every day to provide delicious, safe, and affordable food to our county, region, and nation,” said Dr. Stowers.
She formed and continues to lead the Farmers and Community Partnership of Harford County, a group of agricultural stakeholders: experts, local and state government, and nonprofit agencies, Harford County Public Schools, agricultural producers, and community members. As part of the project, the partnership’s mission is to advocate for local farmers through programs, policy, and agriculture/food education to the community. Harford County has benefitted from Dr. Stower’s leadership in this partnership. In 2019-2020, the Farmers and Community Partnership of Harford County developed and launched the Harford Farm Finder map, a web-based GIS application that consumers can access on their phones to find local farms and the products they offer.
Farmers, Food, and Community symposiums have been held since 2019. Past events were well-attended and inexpensive; they included keynote speakers, breakout sessions, vendor displays, panel discussions with local farmers and producers, and a locally sourced lunch. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual symposium was held in March 2021. A hybrid film and live production was created and aired on YouTube. One segment of the three-hour broadcast exemplified Harford County’s unique history in the sustainable agriculture movement, reaching back to the 1930s: Russell Lord and his publication, “The Land.” A Harford County Deer Creek farmer, Lord’s commitment to soil conservation techniques spread across the county. Many Harford Countians are unaware of this history or that the county was and still is a national leader in farmland preservation.
In 2022, the project will sponsor its fourth symposium, be an active force in advocating for smart agricultural policy, and continue to reach out to community members to support Harford County’s “Buy Local” initiative. In addition, the Farmers and Community Partnership of Harford County will be honored at the United States Department of Agriculture in partnership with the National Society Descendants of American Farmers at a special caucus in June 2022.
Dr. Stowers is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and earned a Ph.D. in bio-cultural anthropology from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in the public health sector in Boston, owned Nutrition Education Services International in Washington, DC, taught in higher education for 25 years, and published in the areas of food, nutrition and immigration.
She was selected as Harford Community College’s firstScholar-in-Residence in 2018. Unique among community colleges, this program enables faculty to conduct applied research in the local community and to use this research to develop curriculum for students, to collaborate with government and nonprofit agencies, to conduct community outreach, and to implement community programming.