Why Agricultural Marketing Professionals Matter
In Maryland they’re called AMPs, for agricultural marketing professionals.
In Virginia they’re known as VADOs, for Virginia agricultural development officers.
Whatever name they go by, they all have one mission: to promote and market local farms, agricultural businesses and value-added products.
Due to AMPs’ valuable work in marketing and promotion, counties with them consistently rank higher in direct-to-consumer agricultural sales, value-added agricultural sales and agritourism visits.
The Maryland counties with AMPs include: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s and Washington. Prince George’s is in the hiring process now to replace the AMP that just left.
Most often they are working out of the County Economic Development Office, although a few are known to also come from University of Maryland Extension, and several are regional AMPs — like those from the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission that covers the five Southern Maryland counties.
If your county doesn’t have a local AMP yet, don’t worry. AMPs also come from the state in the form of those individuals working in the marketing department of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, in quasi-governmental agencies like the Rural Maryland Council and the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation, and in private industry-based groups like the Maryland Farm Bureau, the Maryland Farmers Market Association, and Grow and Fortify.
It’s a tight knit club; they talk often in their Facebook page, send useful documents through their Google group, see each other frequently at overlapping meetings, and attend a joint Maryland and Virginia AMPs/VADOs Conference Retreat together every year. They rely on each other for information and innovative ideas, and bonds are formed in the trenches of navigating local regulations and legislation in order to help their farmers. The AMPs promote and protect those under their wings to the best of their abilities. Most AMPs are farmers themselves, or come from an agricultural background, and for them it’s not just a job, it’s a labor of love.
This week, the the Maryland AMPs were pleased to welcome their newest member into the fold, Calvert County’s own Kelly Swann, of Swann Farms.
Swann has a Bachelor’s degree in education from Towson University and previously taught kindergarten in Harford County for five years, before moving to southern Maryland over 10 years ago to begin her next chapter on her husband’s family farm in Calvert County, where she assists in the day-to-day operations and the online marketing and promotion.
Swann Farms has over 300 acres of sweet corn, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and asparagus, and their pick-your-own berries operation has expanded and grown over the last five years. The farm began in 1850 and was traditionally a tobacco farm, but in the 1990s the family took the tobacco buyout to focus on growing produce and to plant a peach orchard. Swann’s husband Joe-Sam is the sixth generation to work the land.
Swann has also taught for the past five years on the Maryland Ag Ed Foundation’s Mobile Science Lab in Calvert County.
Her background in teaching, working with the public on the farm, and agricultural marketing and promotion will be key for her in this new position.
Swann said, “This position opened up at the right time in life as my kids are now older and in school full time. With this new job, I am able to combine my passion of photography, storytelling and education, while being an agriculture advocate to promote ag awareness to our community. I’m so excited to help farmers network and promote themselves utilizing technology and various outreach programs.”
Not coming from a traditional agricultural family background herself, Swann said she has the added advantage of “being able to view agriculture and sales through the lens as a concerned consumer, while also having inside knowledge of the full scope of issues that many farmers face — hardships of financial loss, weather, (and) the challenges of being a small business.”
She said, “I see first hand on our farm with our u-pick business that our customers most look forward to getting to know us as growers. More and more people today want to connect with their food, and farmers want to connect with their consumers. As Calvert County’s newest AMP, I look forward to helping all farmers across the county bridge that gap.”