Rebecca B. Gurley, working with her husband, established Calvert’s Gift Farm in 1995 as a 7-acre certified organic farm in Sparks, Maryland. Now, more than 20 years later, she and her husband envision a future, vibrant community of many independent family farms supporting one another.
Toward building this future, the Gurleys have made significant contributions in the Chesapeake region through formal mentorship. In 2006, they became the inaugural mentors for Future Harvest CASA’s Beginner Farmer Training Program. In the past 10 years, through shoulder-to-shoulder training, the Gurleys have trained more than 40 mentees and directly supported the establishment of more than 20 new farms. Both formally and informally, the Gurleys have gone above and beyond to ensure the success of their mentees, including emphasizing the importance of financial viability.
beginner farmer training program teaches young people the hows and whys of
successful small farms,” says Rebecca.
More recently, the Gurleys founded a local, farmer-owned food hub focused on providing urban market access to new rural farmers. Chesapeake Farm to Table engages former mentees, local orchards and meat producers to offer a full line of local farm products. With online ordering, the food hub coordinates delivery of farm products from 17 farms to Baltimore restaurants, twice a week, all year-round. It also facilitates cross-industry education by teaching chefs and farmers about one another’s needs. In its first year, the Food Hub sold more than $75,000 worth of farm products; its future plans include expanding distribution to Washington D.C., as well as training new farmers in marketing, and providing further support the bottom line of small-scale farmers.
“I want the new farmers to have and use a ready-made market for their products through Chesapeake Farm to Table,” Rebecca says.
Gurleys are not only a successful example of innovative family farming in the
21st century, but they are leading the effort to keep the rural Chesapeake
region agriculturally vibrant for decades to come.
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