Governor Wes Moore and Ag Secretary Kevin Atticks were on hand to celebrate the 53rd annual Taste of Maryland Agriculture and presided over the induction of the Fritz family of New Windsor into the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame. The representatives of state government joined over 700 agricultural leaders from across the state in applauding the federation of Fritzes for their hard work and dedication.

“I appreciate that agriculture is Maryland’s top industry with its economic impact of nearly $20 billion and I applaud our farmers for their contribution to our economy, as well as our heritage and our health,” said Moore. “Congratulations to the Fritz family and congratulations to the Maryland Agriculture Council on over 50 years of hosting this event.”

The Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame was created in 1991 by then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer to honor agricultural leaders who exemplify high standards of achievement and commitment to the industry and their communities. The Fritz family farm is the 55th inductee in the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame.

“I am honored to be here with Governor Moore and the agricultural community tonight as we celebrate the Fritz family,” said Atticks. “This family is exceptional in their legacy of leadership and commitment to using conservation practices successfully for decades. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition and thank you for all you have done for Maryland agriculture.”

The Fritz farmstead was nominated by Bryan Butler of the Carroll County Extension program. According to Butler, “For more than 110 years, six generations of the Fritz family have been cornerstones in Carroll County agriculture. They’ve devoted countless hours to agriculture advocacy, donating their time to Extension, Farm Bureau, 4-H, various dairy organizations and other agriculture related organizations all while maintaining an innovative, fiscally responsible, sustainable and environmentally sound family farm.”

Formerly a dairy farm and currently primarily a crop farm, the Fritz family works closely with Extension, the Soil Conservation District and NRCS, added Butler. They participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program and Cover Crop Programs and have been completely no-till for over 15 years, beginning with horse-drawn power to today managing crops with GPS and drone technology.

“We are very honored that the Fritz family represents Carroll County and to have them inducted into the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame,” he said.

The farm’s legacy began when Charles and Carrie Fritz purchased 90 acres of farmland and a large farmhouse in the Wakefield Valley, just outside of New Windsor in Carroll County, in 1912. One century and one decade later, that same farmhouse remains a home for their great-great-grandson Daniel Fritz and the business is now Fritz Family Farm LLC.

Fritz family inducted into Hall of Fame

The Fritz family with Maryland Ag Secretary Kevin Atticks at their induction ceremony at the Taste of Maryland event. Photo courtesy of Maryland Ag Council

Daniel runs the farm with the help of his two children and their families. His son Jeffrey is the farm’s manager. He and his wife Diana have three daughters, Emily (15), Ella (12) and Addison (9). Daniel’s daughter Jessica, who takes care of the books, and her husband Jeff have two sons, Sawyer (16) and Cooper (14).

“We started from the ground up and have built a legacy,” said Daniel. “And even though agriculture is a changing business, we’ve just changed along with it. It’s just born in us, I guess.”

In the past, Daniel has been a leader for the Carroll County Holstein Club, the Carroll County Farm Bureau and the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. The youngest generation participate in Carroll County 4-H, where they exhibit cows, swine and lambs.

The farm was a dairy farm for 104 years and it was still profitable in 2016 when the decision was made to stop the milking operation. The workload of milking cows and the drop in milk prices contributed to the decision.

Daniel explained, “We’ve been dairying since the beginning. We’ve transitioned into row crops – 100 acres of corn, 100 acres of soybeans, 70 to 80 acres of wheat. We do a lot. We also make a fair amount of hay, and now we’ve got a few beef cows.”

The family manages the fields using a software application and uses GPS for accurate applications of chemicals and fertilizers. Fritz Family Farms also partnered with Standard Solar Inc. to install a 2.7 megawatt (MW) solar array on 12 acres. The 7,336-panel project is expected to produce approximately 4,000 MW hours (MWh) annually. The power will be purchased by WSSC Water, one of the largest water and wastewater utilities in the nation, contributing to its sustainability goals and adding value for their Maryland customers.

“This solar project is a win-win scenario for all – it is transforming a portion of low yield land into 20-year predictable revenue for a family-run farm while providing affordable, reliable power to the region’s public water authority,” said John Finnerty, director of business development for Standard Solar. “It also highlights how smart solar project siting practices can benefit agriculture, complement farm operations and land use.”

Daniel said that when he was a young man his father advised him to find a job off the farm. “‘You’ll make more money! You won’t have to work so hard!’ That’s what he’d tell me,” he said. “But I didn’t listen, and I think I made the right choice.”

by Enrico Villamaino