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Quarter One, 2024 Newsletter




ALEI and Maryland Food Safety Network Wrap-Up Seasonal Food Safety Education

Picture from the Food Safety Training’s EventBrite page

Building on the success of years past, ALEI Legal Specialists Megan Todd, Carey Law School, and Nicole Cook, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, continued driving efforts with the Maryland Food Safety Network (MFSN) and the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to provide Produce Safety Rule (PSR) trainings to help Maryland’s farmers learn about best practices and how to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act.

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The PSR requires all farms subject to the PSR to have at least one supervisor or responsible party attend a grower training. To receive this certificate, one must attend the entire training and submit the appropriate paperwork to the trainer at the end of the course.

Todd, who completed the PSA Train-the-Trainer course in August 2021, is now also a PSA-approved Lead Trainer. She led the organization of all the food safety workshops for the 2023-2024 winter season. Between February and March 2024, ALEI and the MFSN hosted five food safety workshops. This year’s trainings included:

  • Feb. 6-7 – Remote Delivery PSR Grower Training
  • Feb. 14 – In-Person PSR Grower Training at the Ag Center in Cockeysville, MD
  • Feb. 27 – In-Person Farm Food Safety Plan Writing Workshop at the Maryland Department of Agriculture in Annapolis, MD
  • March 5 – In-Person Cleaning & Sanitizing Workshop at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) Firebird Research Farm in Beltsville, MD
  • March 21 – In-Person PSR Grower Training at The Philips Packing House in Cambridge, MD

For the past several years, ALEI has assisted to ensure at least three PSR Grower Trainings are hosted in Maryland every winter. This season, we also had extra workshops to hone in on two areas that growers can struggle with implementing – writing food safety plans and putting cleaning and sanitizing best practices into place on their operation. In all, the MFSN trained over 50 individuals, including over 40 who will receive a Certificate of Completion that satisfies the training requirements under FSMA.

The team also emphasizes the state-based PSR registration requirement for all growers, regardless of a farm business’ status under the PSR (covered, exempt, or qualified exempt), and helps the attendees understand the farm registration process and how to access additional free services to ensure their practices align with best practices.

A heartfelt thanks to all the trainers in the MFSN who continue to make the annual food safety trainings a success, and to new partners who bring in new ideas and opportunities!

Shauna Henley – UMD Extension
Neith Little – UMD Extension
Carol Allen – UMCP
Kelly Nichols – UMD Extension
Shannon Dill – UMD Extension
Naveen Kumar – UMES Extension
Nicole Cook – UMES
Molly Gillingham – MDA
Allison Luettel – MDA

Special Consultants & New Partners for 2024:
Donna Clements – Produce Safety Alliance
Angela Ferelli Gruber – The Acheson Group
Mike White – UDC Firebird Farm
Laura Strawn – Virginia Tech.
Meg Kirchner – Food & Drug Administration

Anyone with questions about attending a food safety training in the future may contact Megan Todd – motodd @ law.umaryland.edu.

This publication is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award U2FFD007444 totaling $856,887 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

Cleaning & Sanitizing Workshop participants and trainers tour the UDC solar-powered cold storage facilities and engage in a photo Sanitation SOP creation group exercise.


Northeast Risk Management Education Center Funds Expansions to Owning Farmland Series

Cover crops being planted into harvested corn field in Easton, MD by Edwin Remsburg

By: Meghana Kotraiah and Paul Goeringer

The University of Maryland and Senior Faculty Specialist Paul Goeringer are excited to announce new additions to a project focusing on risk management education for local rural landowners. This project will seek to educate these new rural landowners and existing agricultural operators and provide resources for future Extension educators’ efforts on common legal issues these landowners face.

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The current project focuses on the issue of Maryland’s rural areas continuing to feel pressure from residents relocating from the state’s urban areas. As a result of these pressures, many agricultural operators often have questions related to right-to-farm laws, recreational use, trespass, liability due to livestock, fencing law issues, and estate planning issues. Launched in early 2023 with in-person workshops and an online self-paced course, the series has already reached close to 200 Marylanders.

The Northeast Risk Management Education Center recently funded additions to the existing sessions. The new sessions will focus on additional concerns raised during the initial round of training. They will also focus on how to find and work with an attorney focused on agricultural law and how to utilize insurance to protect an operation better. These additions will expand the existing online learning modules, see the development of new fact sheets, and fund a new round of workshops in late 2024 and early 2025.

ALEI’s Paul Goeringer, who is leading this project, is excited about the opportunity to provide this valuable education to rural landowners in the state. “We have a chance to continue to make a difference for these producers by using a myriad of skills to provide this education. The issues originally tackled are still important concepts that I’m often asked about. The additions will allow the programming to expand and stay relevant to rural Marylanders.”

The project team will be working over the summer to develop the new curriculum and release the new online learning modules later this fall. The team will be hosting workshops related to the project around the state in late 2024 and early 2025.

This is material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2021‐70027‐34693.

NERME and NIFA logos


Appreciation Note to UMB Carey Law Research Assistant Samantha Fairbanks

ALEI’s long-time student worker, Samantha Fairbank’s profile picture

One of ALEI’s long-time student workers, Samantha Fairbanks, will be graduating law school this May 2024! 

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Sam started with ALEI as a 2022 Brinsfield Summer Intern. During her internship, she worked on a variety of projects – check out their final presentation here. Sam’s favorite project from that summer was designing an agritourism zoning matrix tool. After her internship, Sam continued to work with ALEI, under the supervision of Legal Specialist Megan Todd, as a student research assistant. In this role, she completed a nationwide tax assessment study and consulted with Cultivate + CRAFT (formerly Grow & Fortify) on a Baltimore County Agritourism study.

According to Todd, “Sam has been an invaluable help over the past year on ALEI projects. Her work on state and county-level policy surveys laid the groundwork for resources that will benefit students, farmers, and other service professionals working in the field of agriculture for years to come. I am sincerely grateful for all the time and professionalism Sam brought to her work for ALEI.”

Outside of her work with ALEI, Sam serves as the co-outreach chair for the Maryland Public Interest Law Project, technology chair for the Maryland Environmental Law Society, and a Cultivate + CRAFT Government Affairs intern.

Sam is thankful for her time at ALEI, noting: “I have learned so much about the agricultural community and how, as an attorney, I can best support farmers. I am thankful for the breadth of my experiences over these two years.”

Congratulations on work well-done, Sam!



Maryland Ag Attorneys Provide Valuable Information at Maryland’s First-Ever Agritourism Conference

Agritourism operators gathered together at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge for Maryland’s first-ever Agritourism Conference.

By Nicole Cook

Last December, agritourism operators and people who were thinking about starting an agritourism operation, gathered together at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge for Maryland’s first-ever Agritourism Conference. The conference, presented by the UMES School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, brought agritourism business owners, lawmakers and regulators, tourism and economic development agencies, researchers and educators together to dig into “Growing Maryland Agritourism.” Among the many enlightening sessions, two featured what Nicole Cook, Environmental and Agricultural Faculty Legal Specialist with ALEI at UMES Extension, referred to as Maryland’s “dream team” of legal experts offering valuable insights into the legal considerations for embarking on an agritourism venture.

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Attendees at the conference had two chances to hear from seasoned Maryland attorneys Kathleen Tabor, Jesse Hammock, Anthony (Tony) Gorski and Corrine Pouliquen, who are each well-versed in agricultural law.  First, during their plenary session, the attorneys shed light on the intricate legal landscape that underpins agritourism operations.  They covered navigating regulations, addressing liability concerns, employment law considerations, the importance of adequate and appropriate insurance coverage, and protecting intellectual property.  Over 88% of the respondents to the panel discussion found the information shared in the session to be useful or very useful.  88.8% expressed a willingness to apply the gained knowledge on their farms, and the same percentage indicated a likelihood to share this information within their peer networks.  An overwhelming majority (96.3%) expressed eagerness to participate in similar agritourism sessions in the future.

In their second session, which was a breakout session, the attorneys addressed attendees’ unique individual questions.  It was an extremely rare and valuable opportunity for attendees to bring their questions to practicing attorneys and get answers, at no charge!  All respondents (100%) deemed the breakout session very useful and were very satisfied with the information they received and the insights they gained throughout the session.  Similarly, 100% expressed their intention to use this knowledge to minimize farm liabilities, promote their agritourism businesses, and share information among friends.

As agritourism continues to gain popularity as a diversification strategy for farms and rural communities, understanding the legal framework becomes paramount for success.  ALEI thanks the attorneys who graciously gave their time to share their wealth of knowledge and practical strategies for navigating the legal complexities of agritourism.



ALEI Welcomes the New Program Coordinator!

ALEI’s New Coordinator, Christin Redding

ALEI welcomes Christin Redding as its new Program Coordinator! Christin brings a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective to the team. Her journey at the U.S. Naval War College, where she served as Project Manager and Alumni Engagement & Communications Specialist, speaks volumes about her dedication and ability to foster meaningful connections. As she steps into her role as the program coordinator for the Agriculture Law Education Initiative, her passion for building strong relationships and her knack for effective communication will undoubtedly propel our initiative to new heights.

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She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Marketing and Management from Gordon College, and she comes to us with experience to take on this role! Beyond her professional achievements, Christin embodies a spirit of innovation and collaboration. She recognizes the importance of strengthening communities and sees an opportunity to leverage this expertise within our program. Her vision for enhancing communication and coordination strategies will not only benefit our current participants but also lay a foundation for sustained growth and impact.

We extend a warm welcome to Christin and eagerly anticipate the positive impact she will bring to our team and the broader ALEI community.


Empowering Maryland’s Agricultural Community: Insights from Our Peer-Powered Land Use Workshops

The Cultivating Knowledge Together: Maryland’s Peer-Powered Land Use workshop

We are pleased to present the latest updates from our recent workshops, organized by the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC) on February 26th at Chesapeake College and March 12th in Boonsboro. The Cultivating Knowledge Together: Maryland’s Peer-Powered Land Use workshops were a resounding success, thanks to the support of the Northeast Risk Management Education Center grant.

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Elizabeth Thilmany, Faculty Specialist in AREC, and Paul Goeringer, Senior Faculty Specialist and Extension Specialist in agricultural law, led the workshops that explored various topics such as leasing land, renewable energy policy implications, estate planning, and zoning. Participants actively engaged in interactive elements such as live polling and case scenario decision-making, gaining valuable insights into making informed land use decisions.

The workshops provided a unique opportunity for landowners to connect and engage in peer-driven knowledge sharing, which is especially relevant in owning farmland in the age of renewable energy development. Thilmany said, “These workshops provide a unique opportunity for landowners to connect and engage in peer-driven knowledge sharing, especially relevant in the context of owning farmland in the age of renewable energy development.”

We are grateful for the engagement and feedback from our participants and are encouraged by the positive responses received. One attendee shared, “An excellent, timely workshop with very good presenters… I learned a lot! Thank you, really enjoyed, very informative.”

It’s heartening to see that all participants intend to implement something learned from the workshops in their operations, and we’re pleased to report that 100% of respondents had a better understanding of the regulatory process behind utility-scale solar siting in Maryland after attending.

We are excited to continue facilitating productive discussions amongst landowners and Maryland’s agricultural community. Those interested in future programming should contact Elizabeth Thilmany at thilmany@umd.edu.

This work is funded by the Northeast Risk Management Center and is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2021-70027-34693.


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