WYE MILLS — Farmers and others in the agricultural community in Queen Anne’s County gathered Dec. 6 for the 30th annual Queen Anne’s County Harvest Breakfast to celebrate agricultural achievements in the county.

Those in attendance were also given an update on the ongoing research into the production of industrial hemp in Maryland under a pilot program that was launched earlier this year. Industrial hemp, a form of cannabis, has a number of potential uses, officials say.

“This is a celebration of the harvest and an opportunity to bring all together for fellowship,” said Jenny Rhodes, Extension Educator in the Queen Anne’s County office of the University of Maryland Extension Service. The event took place in the Caroline Center of Chesapeake College.

It was also a time for reflection as retired Queen Anne’s County Extension Agent Paul Gunther recalled the first such harvest breakfast. “Thirty years ago we put this together to try and bring the business community and the ag community together to commiserate,” he recalled.

There were about 30 people then, and everyone brought various dishes to the breakfast, he said. Friday’s event drew some 130 people, and breakfast was catered.

Gunther thanked everyone for participating in the annual event.

“I have to thank Paul for where I am today,” Rhodes said. “He gave me the opportunity to go back to school and get my degree.”

The event began with the invocation given by Melyn Rhodes, Miss Maryland Agriculture, representing the Queen Anne’s County Farm Bureau. She was followed by Audrey Karbaum, president of the Queen Anne’s County High School Future Farmers of America, who led the Pledge of Allegiance. Peyton Dill, a Queen Anne’s County 4-H member, led the 4-H Pledge.

Chesapeake College President Cliff Coppersmith said he was pleased the college could host the harvest breakfast because his family has a background in agriculture. He recalled living on his grandfather’s farm in western New York, a farm that went back in his family into the mid-1800s and which remains in the family today. “Agriculture has been a big part of our family life,” he said, adding that the college is very interested in agriculture and has an agriculture program.

The guest speaker was Dr. Andrew Ristvey, Senior Agent for the University of Maryland Extension Service and Extension Specialist for Commercial Horticulture at Wye Research and Education Center, who talked about the current research going on into the production of industrial hemp in Maryland. Industrial hemp has a number of potential commercial uses that are being studied now that “certain forms of cannabis, specifically industrial hemp” have been legalized, he said.

He said it has been hybridized over the years and is similar to a plant being grown for use as medical marijuana, “but there’s a difference between the two” in terms of chemical makeup.

According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, a Maryland Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program was established following action by the Maryland General Assembly to “authorize and facilitate” the research into industrial hemp and its harvesting and potential commercial use.

“This program requires farmers (to) partner with institutes of higher learning to grow industrial hemp under a research program. Industrial hemp may not be grown in Maryland for general commercial activity, only as part of a research project,” the department said in a statement.

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