Forty-one states are bigger than Maryland but only eighteen have a larger population. As a result, the population density of Maryland is 542 people per square mile, the 5th highest of all the states. Compare that to our neighbors*.
Yet, many people don’t realize that Maryland is still a highly agricultural state. Over 2,000,000 acres—almost 1/3 of the state’s land—is farmed. The 2007 Census of Agriculture, conducted and published by the United States Department of Agriculture, says that there are 12,834 farms in Maryland: 636 more than in 2002. The total market value of agricultural products sold was over $1.8 billion in 2007, up almost 42% since 2002. Crops, including nursery and greenhouse, accounted for over $600,000,000; livestock, including poultry and their products, accounted for over $1.2 billion. Poultry and eggs alone accounted for sales of more than $900,000,000.
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Though agricultural and natural resource land is essential to Maryland’s economy, environment, and identity, it is constantly under development pressure to meet the need for houses and apartments, vacation and retirement homes, stores and businesses, industry, roads and schools, etc. The state legislature responded by creating a farmland preservation goal of 1,030,000 to be placed under easement through four programs combined: The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, Rural Legacy, Local Purchase/Transfer of Development Rights Programs, and the GreenPrint easement acquisition program (now sunsetted). Under these programs, landowners sell an easement on their properties to the government. The land stays in private hands, and owners can farm it, sell it, and conduct a range of business activities that maintain the productive capability of the land, but they cannot develop it. So far these four programs have preserved over 563,470 acres… close to 55% of the goal.