At the crossroads of Harford Creamery and Bradenbaugh roads in White Hall, a field is blooming with mysterious, small yellow flowers planted in neat rows.
For those wondering what this strange crop might be, its owner, Ben Magness, has courteously labeled the field: "Oilseed Canola."
A few months ago, the 23-year-old farmer made the bold move of planting 25 acres of canola, a rarity in this part of the country.
With financial support from the Harford County Agricultural Marketing Cooperative, Magness also bought a $9,000 micro-processing system to extract extra-virgin oil from either canola or soybeans.
He believes he may be the only one in the state actively growing canola, a type of rapeseed with a high oil content that was developed in the 1970s and is mostly popular in North Dakota and Canada.
Magness, whose family runs primarily a dairy operation of about 50 cows, started looking into canola several years ago in an attempt to make the dairy farm profitable.
So far, pressing the flower into small tubes of cow feed seems to be more affordable than buying soybean meal at about $420 per ton, he said.
The press he built is in its own small building that features two, 275-gallon vats to catch the canola oil. They take about a week to fill up. Each vat then gets hauled away to be sold for feed.
The machine also squeezes out tubes of processed canola that Magness uses as feed for his cows.
Besides canola, the system could be used for other items, and Magness is already making soybean oil as well.
Magness seems content for now to venture out virtually alone with the crop in Maryland.
"I wasn't even sure if it would grow in this area," he said. "Everyone seems to assume it's a cold-weather crop or something."
Magness grew an acre of it first as a test.
"So far it's working out. The cows seem to like the feed," he said. "The whole point of this was to feed my cows cheaper, because [with] milk and cows, the profit margin is so small."
"We want the meal to be the highest quality that we possibly could," he said.
The canola has been easy to cycle with other crops, he said, as corn was previously being grown on that field. Rye and barley have worked well as cover crops.
He added the processing system does not use that much electricity.
"It's really efficient, which is nice," he said. "It uses less electricity than a hair-dryer set at medium."
Why more farmers haven't tried canola remains a mystery, Magness said.
"I just don't think people are willing to experiment with it," he said, explaining other farmers said to him, "If it's so easy, why isn't everyone doing it?"
Nevertheless, he said, "I'm still learning about it. It's still kind of tricky."
Magness is also taking a financial risk with the venture.
"We just have to be in business for three years, or we have to pay for everything," he said in reference to the funding assistance from the county group.
Canola could even be used for biodiesel fuel, but Magness said at this point he hopes to be able to sell it for food, potentially at restaurants or farmer's markets.
"Food-grade [oil] would be the best," he said. "That would be the ultimate goal."
Regardless of whether any more comes of it, the field blooming with bright yellow canola has already attracted some attention, he said.
"A lot of people were stopping and taking pictures," Magness said. "That's why I put the sign up, because there were a lot of people asking."