view counter

The Farmers Who Feed Us

Four Maryland farms — out of multitudes

Twenty-first century Maryland is still a farm state. About 1,400 produce, meat and dairy farms, orchards and vineyards thrive on the renewed appetites of Marylanders. We’ve rediscovered the old-fashioned taste of food grown locally, often by neighbors who’ll eagerly share their experiences as well as their results.
    The partnership brings us ever-increasing diversity in what we eat and how it’s raised.
    “The future is all about local economies,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley at the fifth annual Buy Local Cookout on Government House lawn last week.    “Maryland farmers are at the forefront of creating that much more sustainable future that we want for our kids to have jobs, have opportunities, breathe the air and fish in streams coming back to life.”
    “We wouldn’t be Maryland without farms,” O’Malley concluded.
    Read on to visit four local farms and meet the farmers who are feeding us today and creating our tomorrow.
    –Sandra Olivetti Martin

Dale and Debbie Jones

Windy Willow Farm
    Love drives Dale and Debbie Jones to raise pasture-fed meat on Windy Willow Farm in Sunderland. Their dedication shows not only in the finished product but throughout the farm, where they’ll gladly take you touring.

Dale and Debbie Jones, along with daughters Becky and Carrie and son William (not shown), raise pasture-fed livestock on their Windy Willow Farm in Sunderland.

    “We sell all-natural beef, pork and lamb, which is locally produced, humanely and pasture-raised without hormones, steroids or antibiotics,” Dale Jones says. “It’s what nature intended.”
    Hay and grass is the only diet their cows know. Last winter, the Jones bought $5,000 worth of hay to supplement pasture grass. The Angus-Limousin herd of 20 ate one 500-pound bale a day.
    Son William and daughters Becky and Carrie add six helping hands to the mix. They aren’t afraid of cow-pies or dirty fingernails.
    “Becky is my number one salesperson,” Dale says.
    The Sunderland farm is also Windy Willow’s main market. Two commercial-size freezers store the meat. “Each one holds two cows,” Debbie says. Like all farm-raised meat on the hoof, Windy Willow’s is butchered, vacuum packed and flash-freezed at a USDA-approved plant and sold frozen.
    Jones also sells meat at farmers markets from coolers packed with dry ice at North Beach, Calvert Memorial Hospital and Calvert Fairgrounds.
    Ground beef, at $5.25 a pound, is the number one seller.
    Between the markets and farm sales, ground beef sold out over Memorial Day weekend.
    Dream Weaver Café Owner Trish Weaver buys Windy Willow meat, some 50 pounds of ground beef per month.
    “There is such a difference between pasture-fed and store-bought beef,” Weaver says. “Debbie and Dale’s ground beef and burgers sell here like crazy. The customers love them.”
    Regular customers flock to the farm — where about 80 percent are regulars — for chickens and eggs, too.
    Lately, lamb has been in demand.
    “We’re trying to get the lamb flock up. They are very management intensive,” Debbie says.
    “It’s a labor of love, and if you’re lucky, you can sustain it,” Dale said.
    –Michelle Steel

The Morells and Haigwoods

P.A. Bowen Farmstead
    To get the quality of food they wanted, Barb and Mike Haigwood became farmers. The couple and their two kids were dairy farmers in Iowa before moving to Prince George’s County’s P.A. Bowen Farmstead to launch a cheese-making business.

After straining the curds from the whey, Barb Haigwood fills molds for settling before salting and aging the raw-milk cheese at P.A. Bowen Farmstead in Aquasco.

    The Haigwood’s quest was for grass-fed raw milk, which many people are eager to have but which many state governments ban.
    The stars aligned on the move to Maryland. Years earlier the Haigwoods had been chapter leaders for the ­Weston A. Price Foundation cofounded and headed by Sally Fallon Morell. Seeking contacts toward a next step, they called her. Her dreams and theirs meshed.
    “She called us back within five minutes,” says Haigwood, wanting them to come work on her new Maryland farm.
    Fallon Morell and her husband, Geoffrey Morell, a dairyman from New Zealand, had bought P.A. Bowen Farm in 2009 with a mission: to teach people about mixed-use diverse farming and to provide high-quality nutrient-rich foods.
    All four follow the findings of WAPF Cleveland dentist Weston Price, who, in the 1920s and ’30s, traced the problems he saw in children’s mouths to modern processed foods. He and his wife spent a decade traveling the world searching for people mostly untouched by modern foods before writing Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
    With nutritionist and Foundation cofounder Mary Enig, Fallon Morell wrote the cookbook Nourishing Traditions to dispel modern food myths.
    “Education is a big part of why we do this,” says Haigwood, who, with assistant Santos Alonso, milks 12 cows once a day. The milk supplies the cheese-making business, with the leftover whey fed to pigs that pasture and forage on the farm.
    P.A. Bowen Farmstead is one of three Maryland farms in a state pilot program allowing production of raw-milk cheeses. The farm also produces and sells grass-fed beef, pork, chicken and eggs.
    The dairy is seasonal, with the Jersey cows bred in April, then milked April to December.
    Milk fresh from the cows is injected with cheese cultures, separated into curds and whey, molded into rounds, salted and aged at 55 degrees for at least 60 days, says cheesemaker Haigwood, who also manages the farm with husband Mike.
    Prince George’s Blue, Chesapeake Cheddar and Dreamy Creamy are sold at the farm store, run by daughter Aleesha, and at farmers markets, including Sunday morning FreshFarm Market at Annapolis City Dock.
    –Leigh Glenn

William Morris and Katherine Ostrowski-Morris

Deep Cove Farms
    William Morris credits Martha Stewart with our yen for heirloom tomatoes. For William and wife Katherine Ostrowski-Morris, the tomatoes are a niche to be filled — and fill it they do, with 41 varieties, all shapes, sizes and colors, with origins all over the world. Cherokee Blacks. Green Zebras. Yellow Brandywines.

William Morris and Katherine Ostrowski-Morris of Deep Cove Farms in Churchton sell 41 varieties of heirloom tomatoes at four Farmers Markets.

    Thinking globally (and heirloomly) and acting locally is hard work. The soil at Deep Cove Farms in Churchton is perfect for tomatoes, but they’ve needed a lot of attention in the recent heat. Still, it’s all good for the bottom line. Morris and Ostrowski-Morris have done three plantings of tomatoes this year. Barring a hurricane, Morris says, the crop should last through late September or early October.
    Heirlooms are prone to cracking and they can be downright ugly, says Morris, but they have a “true tomato flavor” that tomatoes in the supermarket — bred for durability during shipping — simply can’t muster.
    The interest among eaters to get more of their food from local sources has helped Deep Cove Farms. People also realize that high fuel costs are a large part of the cost of produce in stores, Morris says.
    Morris, a self-admitted aging hippie, studied fruit and vegetable production at University of Maryland and earned a master’s in entomology. The 11-acre Deep Cove Farms belonged to his grandparents, truck farmers, who made deliveries into Washington, D.C.
    Morris farms because he loves watching things grow. “You have to be a little insane to do what we do,” he says. Still, his grandparents “would just be so proud. They wouldn’t believe what we’re able to grow on this small acreage.”
    That’s fruit from apricots to watermelons and winesap apples and the whole range of table vegetables.
    Visit them Saturday and Tuesday morning at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market; Wednesday afternoons at the Piney Orchard Market in Odenton; and Thursday afternoons at the Deale Farmers Market. They’ll do their best to accommodate your tomato-specific taste buds and answer your questions. Visit Deep Cove Farms online for many delicious recipes:
    –Leigh Glenn

Peggy Campanella and Bill Harris

Harris Orchard
    It’s a Saturday, just past 7am, at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market. The line for the fruit from Harris Orchard is already 10 deep. Peggy Campanella, co-owner with Bill Harris, says, “With 100-degree heat and now this rain, I may have a farm to sell.” Nobody groans, and everyone can sense she’s joking, but only half-so.

Bill Harris and Peggy Campanella raise peaches and other fruit at Harris Orchard in Lothian for sale at local farmers markets.

    Campanella and Harris, who worked in insurance and construction before becoming orchardists in 1986, don’t balk at hard work. But “working 14-hour days in 100-degree heat,” Campanella says, “you have to bite the bullet.”
    That’s because any given year’s fortunes sail through a small window of opportunity — or crash against the glass — that is local fruit season in an area accustomed to touch-and-go weather.
    “Every day is a challenge,” says Campanella. “The only thing we can count on on the farm is the fact that we can’t count on anything.”
    Campanella and Harris didn’t buy the farm. They bought 50 acres zoned rural agricultural in Lothian. What to do with it? At a University of Maryland seminar, they learned about state soil maps. They had the best soil in the state for peaches.
    “We set out to learn everything we could,” says Campanella. They must’ve learned well: Harris Orchard has been Maryland State Fruit Champion for 14 years running.
    They’ve had lots of help, tangible and otherwise, in getting there. Campanella credits her ability to raise trees to the Powhatan in her blood. Harris knows how to figure things out. Anne Arundel County Soil Conservation District helped with their farm plan and designing and overseeing construction of their pond, which supplies water for the 2,000 trees. They have a mile of pipe underground and 20,000 feet of drip tape above. Family and retired friends pitch in.
    They grow and sell black raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, apricots, plums, nectarines and, of course, peaches. Summer apples and peaches are in now, with Bartlett and Asian pears to come along with Honeycrisp apples.
    Buy Harris Orchard fruit Saturday and Tuesday morning at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market; Friday evenings at the North Beach Farmers Market; and Saturday morning at the Severna Park Farmers Market.
    –Leigh Glenn