Agricultural trends in Southern Maryland (SMD) reveal a major
social, cultural, and economic shift as the region transitions
away from its 300-year-old tradition of tobacco production.
Southern Maryland was home to the original settlement and has
been the least changed in terms of its agricultural economy.
Settled in 1632, the region quickly established its economy and
its currency as one backed by tobacco. Until the later half of
the 20th century, tobacco remained the economic keystone of the
region and the primary economic engine. In the latter portion of
the 1900's, the region became economically dependent on several
military bases, while agriculture continued to be dominated by
tobacco. In 1992, tobacco accounted for two-thirds of the total
value of all agricultural commodities produced in the region and
provided the mainstay for over 900 full/part time growers. In
2000, the state of Maryland instituted a voluntary tobacco
buy-out program to transition farmers out of tobacco production
forever, to be administered by the Tri-County Council for
Southern Maryland. The result of the Buyout has been an
unprecedented and significant cultural and economic shift as has
not been experienced since the advent of European settlers.
address these tremendous needs, the Tri-County Council for
Southern Maryland, a non-profit, quasi-governmental body,
convened the SMD Agricultural Development Commission to develop
a program to stabilize the region's agricultural economy as
farmers convert from tobacco to alternative crop and other
agricultural enterprises. The Commission represents a
cross-section of the region's community, from elected officials
and local government, to representatives from higher education
centers and traditional agricultural sectors, to private sector,
business and finance representatives, and farmers. Together with
the Council, the Commission has revised the Tobacco Transition /
Southern Maryland Strategic Plan for Agriculture.