Women in Agriculture: Missy Donnelly

As we celebrate March as Women’s History Month, we would like to take this time to highlight a few of Frederick County’s finest women in the agriculture and craft beverage industries. Our first feature, Missy Donnelly, is a familiar face to the agriculture community.

Missy is the County Executive Director for the Frederick and Montgomery/Howard County USDA- Farm Service Agencies. This coming fall will mark her 24th year providing federal programming service to local farmers. As a member of a governmental agriculture agency where staff experience in farming at the grassroots level has significantly decreased over the years, Missy is an irreplaceable and constant advocate for the local farming community where she grew up.

Back home on the farm, Missy and her brother Denny are 6th generation farmers. In February of 2021, Missy, her husband and two children moved back to the family farm. With a dream of a direct-to-consumer farming model in mind, Missy and Denny, along with their respective spouses, Kevin and Jackie, formed Chestnut Hill Farm & Market LLC. They produce fresh market vegetables and sell them at their on-farm market, through a CSA model, as well as through local farmer’s markets.

As an integral part of the Frederick County agriculture community, Missy has most cherished being able to participate in and give back to the community where she was raised. When asked what it means to be a woman in ag, Missy stated, “Being a woman in agriculture means continuing the family legacy by staying current with the times while identifying means of diversification to sustain the farm for generations to come. It is empowering to be a woman in an industry that has been historically male-dominated.” Missy praised the Frederick County ag community as being extremely welcoming to women in her field. Often times women leaders in agriculture are not received with the same respect as their male counterparts; however, she is fortunate to be encompassed by a strong support system within the local ag community. Farmers who would normally be considered competitors have accepted their new venture with open arms and have helped guide them through the hurdles of starting a new farm enterprise. These actions set the Frederick County farming community apart from others in our state and region. Missy explained how neighboring farmers help one another and work collectively to forge stable and sustainable local ag businesses which provide high-quality local products for Frederick County consumers to enjoy. The ag community also realizes the need for creative ideas, as well as beginning and young farmers to carry on the customs and/or practices our forefathers have established. Missy left us with this: “Without future farmers, where will our food, clothing, and other everyday products come from? Think about that for a minute- it is a scary thought.” One way you as a consumer can help is by purchasing local products as much as you possibly can.

For more information on Missy’s family business and how to support them, visit chestnuthillfarmmarket.com and follow their pages on Facebook (Chestnut Hill Farm & Market LLC) and Instagram (chestnuthillfarm_market)! You may also find them at these Frederick County farmer’s markets- Middletown, Thurmont, and Frederick City, as well as other regional markets. To find local ag products, farmer’s markets, and other information involving the Frederick County ag or craft beverage industries, please visit HomegrownFrederick.com