Agriculture Day — October 27, 2017
On a beautiful autumn day, “The Best Class Ever”-(2017-2018)- enjoyed a rather fabulous adventure, visiting a sampling of farms in Frederick County. We learned about agritourism, which is defined most broadly as any agriculturally-based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch. It is a field that is growing in popularity as a way to diversify and increase profits. Many farms have incorporated new ideas into their farming business. We had the great fortune to have one of our classmates (from the Best Class Ever), Katie Albaugh, moderating our tour. Katie is such a wealth of information-the county is lucky to have such an advocate for the farming community.
Out first stop was Summers Farm. Teresa Summers spoke passionately about agritourism. Farming has changed; there is a need to include some form of tourism/recreation into their business. Once a working farm, most of Summer Farm’s revenue now comes from running a pumpkin patch, starting six weeks prior to Halloween. Revenue is broken down into 15% Crop, 85% Fall Harvest fun. Teresa and her husband devised a fabulous plan that includes family fun, special events, and corporate events. Families can spend the day at the farm going through a spectacular corn maze, picking pumpkins, going on hayrides, visiting the petting zoo, and enjoying many many games for the entire family. In addition, there are wonderful fireworks displays on weekend evenings. Schools from several counties fill the weekday hours. Of course, the business is at the mercy of the weather, as are many agritourism businesses.
As Teresa pointed out, “The opportunities are endless and unlimited”. She also added, “It’s not all about money, it’s about lifestyle.” She and her family have embraced this lifestyle to the fullest. Summers Farm will be relocating to Middletown within 2 years – we wish them much success in their new location.
Next stop – Calico Farm. Brian Sweeney and his dad operate this farm. It includes livestock operations of 90 cows and 3 bulls, but Crops are their main business – mainly corn and soybean. This farm does not own a Combine. They custom out (outsource) this job. Calico Farm does not package meat and therefore does not deal directly with the public. Perhaps in the future, they will add a retail component to the farm. Brian’s dad explained more about the business side of the farm, including pricing and timing of the crop sales. At harvest time, it is a matter of simple economics—supply and demand.
Our lunch venue was Rocky Point Creamery. We toured the farm on Chuck Fry’s tour bus. Chuck is a 4th generation farmer and was our animated host, filling our heads with important facts regarding how legislation, regulation and technology have affected the farming industry. Rocky Point Creamery also added ice cream sales (agritourism) 6 years ago. And oh boy, what a treat for us. It was the most delicious ice cream ever. We had a working lunch—Ann Bradley, Strategic Planning and Land Preservation Administrator for the County, enlightened us about preserving farmland, describing easements, and protecting our future.
Next stop -Catoctin Apple Orchard. Also 4th generation, this fabulous orchard has 100 acres of fruits and vegetables. Caitlyn Robinson, granddaughter of Bob Black, the current owner of the farm, spoke passionately about the farm. Only 20 years old, she works very closely with her grandfather –she impressed us by rattling off the names of all the fruits and vegetables they grow. She let us know that often farmers help other farmers. “Farmers work together”. Apples are their biggest crop and they feature over 50 types. We had the good fortune of tasting the Evercrisp apple –yum.
Our final destination – StillPoint Farm – Milkhouse Brewery. Our host Tom Barse, a former attorney and school teacher (wow-all in one lifetime), gave us a tour of his brewery. Inspired 10 years ago, he planted hops and corn. With this vision, he worked feverishly to help establish groundbreaking regulations for this type of brewery. Very community oriented, this farm offers garden plots 12” X 22” for $60/year to individuals, from apartments or townhouses, who do not have land access.
Maryland proud, their tagline is “Drink beer, grown here.” A special treat for this “Best Class Ever 2017” was this delicious craft beer. What a great way to end our day. In conclusion, we learned a great deal about farming—all of the farmers we met spoke passionately about their farms and dreams for the future. The farming community works together to help each other reach their potential. Farmers love what they do – always looking for opportunities such as agritourism for more growth. We are very fortunate in Frederick County to have great leadership protecting and investing in farming.
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
LFC CLASS OF 2018 Agriculture Day
Photo Credit: Whitney Hahn