The Frederick News-Post
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — The Rodonovich family decided to grow their own food to eat healthy and make some money, and Twinhill Farm was born.
The Frederick farm is in its first year selling vegetables and eggs on-site. Calves are being developed into cows, paperwork is being completed to qualify for slaughtering chickens and a couple of fruit trees are growing.
“The plan is to sell pasteurized milk and beef, as well,” Tammy Rodonovich said.
The Rodonovich family represents a growing trend — people who want locally grown foods, experts said.
The know-your-food movement has been on the rise for 10 years, but several Frederick County farmers have been selling directly to consumers through their on-farm markets for two or three generations, local agriculture experts said.
Several reasons exist for the trend, said Gwen Whitmore of Glade-Link Farms in Keymar, which has provided the community with pick-your-own fruits, vegetables and flowers for more than 40 years.
“Our main business is right here on the farm,” Whitmore said. “We find that people appreciate knowing where their food comes from, and we develop a rapport with people who come year after year, and if they ask a question, they can get a straight answer.”
People also are returning to canning, freezing and making their own jams, evidenced by more extension classes held for those who didn’t grow up doing it and want to learn, Whitmore said.
Additionally, more people are concerned about the environment, Whitmore said, adding that people prefer not to have their food trucked from California.
“There’s been an explosion in a desire to buy local,” said Scott Barao, executive director of the Jorgensen Family Farm, which operates Hedgeapple Farm in Buckeystown, producer of grass-fed Black Angus cattle.
“We are blessed with a lot of informed people who seem to know what they want when it comes to eating,” he said.
Hedgeapple Farm, which began to sell its beef in a log cabin on the farm in 2006, also grows its own alfalfa, which is stored in both wet and dry environments, to keep the animals fed when grass or forage isn’t available.
“Because we grow everything the cows consume, it adds an additional layer of control over our products,” said Barao, who has a doctorate in animal science, as well as degrees in nutrition, microbiology and chemistry.
“Nothing will go into our cows that wasn’t grown on our own property,” he said.
The local government has been helpful making the enterprise easier for farmers. The previous Frederick County Board of County Commissioners’ creation of the limited roadside stands in the zoning ordinance was a plus with farmers wanting to sell their products at the farm, said Colby Ferguson, Frederick County’s agriculture development specialist.
The current county commissioners increased the maximum square footage for the on-farm enterprise from 300 square feet to 1,500 square feet.
“This (law) allowed them to set up a retail outlet on the farm, without having to jump through all the hoops that a normal commercial building would have to,” Ferguson said. Size and product limitations are in place to prevent a large-scale, commercial retail store from popping up on farms.
Other zoning changes have included adjustments within the state health department to allow these types of operations on farms, as well as changes to the liquor laws that now allow wine, beer and liquor to be made and sold on the farm, Ferguson said.
The on-farm produce sales are expected to increase as farmers diversify their operations to capture more of the retail market, and as the movement to eat healthier continues to grow, Ferguson said.
“This trend bodes well for the farmer who offers table crops and products directly to the consumer,” Ferguson said.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)