Friday, February 19, 2016

Off the Beaten Path

When we first came to Maryland, it wasn't long before we decided to pay a visit to some local farms which surround us. Driving until we saw a welcoming sign, we tentatively approached what turned out to be a ramshackle farm with goats scrounging amidst the junk heaps. Before we could quietly turn around and leave unnoticed, we encountered the Amish owner, with whom we held a brief, polite exchange of pleasantries and then departed, a little unnerved by the messy reality of farm life. I am sure today, that any visitors I bring to my 'mini-farm' have similar troubling reactions after trying to mentally screen out whole sections of the landscape that contain industrial detritus (which I employ for making biochar). It's slowly improving, as I landscape the area and shift the production into more hidden parts of the property, but it's a multi-year project.

For the farms in the Maryland Governor's Agriculture Hall of Fame, refinements are often multi-generational projects. The Hall of Fame, established in 1991, includes 46 farm families from 23 counties who have been honored for their high standards of conduct; personal values; contributions to their community; and performance, leadership, innovation, and achievement in agriculture. Calvert County has been honored to host more than their share of these stellar farms, including Taney Place, belonging to the late Y.D. Hance, Maryland's first Secretary of Agriculture. The latest addition to the list is Swann Farms out near the end of Chaneyville Road in Owings. All of these farms have something to offer to those interested in various aspects of agriculture or who just want wholesome food. +Swann Farms, for instance, offers u-pick produce of various types throughout the year.

Our first (faltered) foray into agri-tourism could have been better informed had we initially found the Hall of Fame or one of the local guides put out by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission. I would hope that all of these farms exemplify the ideals expressed in the documentary film, "Out to Pasture: The Future of Farming?" put together by students in the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. The film lauds deindustrialization of farming, especially with regard to animal husbandry.

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