Today in many parts of Montgomery County it is hard to imagine that the region was once mostly covered with farmland. The development of modern cities and suburbs means many people are unaware that 100 years ago, more than 90% of Montgomery County residents earned their living directly or indirectly from agriculture.
The Cooperative Extension Service was founded in 1914 in an effort to help farmers take advantage of improved, scientific ideas and methods. With so much of Montgomery County’s economy dependent on agriculture, the Extension Agent held a vital and respected role in the farming community. The county’s first Extension Agent, Fred Van Hoesen, served in this position from 1917 until his death in 1924. During his tenure Mr. Van Hoesen emphasized the importance of adapting these new technologies and discoveries to the needs of individual farms, rather than forcing all the farmers to follow one new system. In this way, he helped to preserve the unique flavor of Montgomery County’s family farms.
Although much of the farmland in Montgomery County has disappeared in the last century, agriculture remains a vital part of our local economy, employing almost 10,000 people. As of 2009, statistics show that the county is home to 577 traditional farms, 350 horticulture businesses (such as nurseries and sod farms), and over 12,000 horses; about one third of the county’s land is dedicated to agriculture, including the protected Agricultural Reserve. The Cooperative Extension Service is still active, with an office located in the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood.
LISTEN AND LEARN!
To read a transcript of the audio recording click here.
Click on the links below to learn more about the role of an Extension Agent and the history of agriculture in Montgomery County.