College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Agricultural & Resource Economics

Bartenfelder Discusses Government, Farming, Future Goals

Maryland Secretary of Agriculture to speak at conference
Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference

The Agricultural and Resource Economics Department and the Agricultural Law Education Initiative are joining together for the Agriculture and Environmental Law Conference, where Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder will be one of the keynote speakers. Recently he spoke with us to discuss his experiences farming and work with the state department of Agriculture.

Farmers are the gatekeepers to environmental success, according to Maryland’s Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder, a keynote speaker at the Agriculture and Environmental Law (ALEI) conference on Nov. 18 in Annapolis.

Bartenfelder is a fifth generation farmer. As a child, he worked on his family’s fresh market produce farm in Baltimore County.

“I remember carrying the basket for my grandmother as she picked vegetables,” said Bartenfelder. He also remembers working with mules as he would walk the rows of produce in the field.

Today, Bartenfelder runs several family farm operations on the eastern shore, including locations in Caroline and Dorchester County. His farms involve two poultry houses, a grain rotation, and several varieties of produce including kale, carrots, and a variety of squash during the fall and melons in the summer.

“Most farmers I know consider themselves the first stewards of the land,” said Bartenfelder. “Unless they take care of it, they know they won’t have these lands to use in the future.”

According to Bartenfelder, Maryland is held up nationwide as a model for accomplishing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) goals for the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waters. Bartenfelder maintains that communication is the key for success between the environmental and agricultural sectors. He said when the phosphorous management tool regulations were finalized, it was because everyone gave a little bit.

His future goals include meeting with other states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to make sure that everyone is on the same page in terms of environmental practices.

“Farmers face a challenge as we move into the future,” said Bartenfelder. “Demands and restrictions may encroach development.” Bartenfelder hopes that the ALEI conference will build connections between the agriculture and law communities.

Prior to becoming Maryland’s secretary of agriculture, Bartenfelder was a Baltimore County Council member and a member of Maryland’s House of Delegates. He said these positions were not as demanding as that of secretary of agriculture, and that farming and being a politician is a double edge sword.

“I knew it [being secretary] demands more, but it takes me away from daily operations in the field,” said Bartenfelder. “If I didn’t have family, two boys in the business, a daughter and son-in-law, all involved in the daily operation, the farm wouldn’t keep existing. I appreciate what they do.”

Young people are the key to success in agriculture for the future, according to Bartenfelder.     

“I remember my parents saying that farming is like a rollercoaster; there are ups and downs, and with a good year you need to save a little bit,” said Bartenfelder. “It’s not only a job, it is in your blood. You devote your life to it.”

Joining Bartenfelder as keynote panelists at the second annual ALEI Agriculture and Environmental Law conference will be Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee and Maryland Secretary of Environment, Ben Grumbles. The conference will be on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland. To register, visit

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