‘You have to be on their farms to understand their lives’

Leslie Hart, agricultural business specialist, Washington County Department of Business Development

By MIKE LEWIS
mlewis@crossroadsbizjournal.com

Coffee Break

Leslie Hart conducts a lot of business in barns and across kitchen tables.

“I try to do everything face-to-face. I don’t like emails. I don’t like phones,” Hart said.

As the agricultural business specialist within the Washington County (Md.) Department of Business Development, she works with farmers and farm-related ventures. Those duties, and her temperament, get her out of her Hagerstown office.

Doing business in person is “the first part of building a relationship. … I still believe in the power of a handshake,” Hart said.

Besides, working with farmers means working in their environments.

“You have to be on their farms to understand their lives, their problems, their challenges. … I can see their dreams with them. I can’t see that on a phone. I can’t see that in an email,” she said. “(And) they have to see me.”

Hart said she grew up between Funkstown and Boonsboro, Md. She graduated from South Hagerstown High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and a master’s degree in strategic leadership, both from Mountain State University.

“I’m in the right job,” she said. “I’m doing what I love.”

Doing what she loves is important, Hart said, particularly after two life-changing experiences in the past dozen years.

She said she was the recipient of a kidney transplant in 2006. 

“I feel like I got another shot in life,” she said.

And her husband, Rick, died of cancer in 2014.

“Rick’s death has altered a lot of things in my life. … He’s made me reprioritize my life and know that it’s important to experience stuff.”

Those experiences, Hart said, include a dose of travel when she’s not working.

“I am going to enjoy every second of what this world has to offer,” she said.

 

On a break, do you reach for coffee, tea, soda, water …?

Before lunch, it’s coffee with flavored creamer. After lunch, it’s water.

An average day for you includes …?

I try to visit three to five farms or ag-related businesses. I do research on existing and new value-added projects for ag expansion. I check on commodity prices. Then returning and making follow-up phone calls is a fairly common day.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities facing your department? 

Too much work and not enough hours in the day. There are many ideas, projects and tasks that I would like to roll out to the ag community, and lack of time is always my challenge.

What do you wish more people knew about what you do? 

I would love for more people to buy local products and eat local foods. There are some amazing producers right here in our county.

Outside of your career, what are your ambitions and aspirations? 

To quilt and paint and enjoy family and friends make me the happiest. I love to travel to Europe and look forward to traveling the United States.

Want to share a cup of coffee with our readers? Send an email to facetime@crossroadsbizjour
nal.com or call reporter Mike Lewis at 301-791-7482.