"These plants love this [wet and warmer] weather, since they're dormant in winter and it's all about root growth," she said.

The 25-degree weather more common in winter is tougher to deal with, Sharp said, although the recent unseasonable temperatures do have a drawback.

"We farmers would like it to be a little colder for controlling the insect population," which could be higher in spring as a result, she said.

Dave Liker, a transplanted Californian who co-owns and operates Gorman Farm with his wife, Lydia, said demand for fresh produce in Maryland is the No. 1 reason he became convinced that operating an organic farm in the Mid-Atlantic region presented a great opportunity.

Accustomed in his previous life in Santa Barbara to a year-round growing season with near-flawless conditions, he has discovered as he heads into his fifth season on the East Coast that winter is just as busy as summer.

"Sure, you can wear sweatpants and keep your PJs on a little longer in the morning, but there's a lot to do," he said, later ticking off an offseason to-do list: maintaining equipment, hiring seasonal labor, recalibrating expenses, analyzing last year's books.

"Winter, in a nutshell, involves making crucial management decisions [for the coming summer] out of context."

Liker, 37, says he enjoys attending events like Meet Our Local Farmers to get his operation's name out there.

"We are still doing our best to get our feet on the ground and trying to find our niche in the community," he said. "We have a wonderful location; now we need that sweet spot."

Martha Anne Clark, owner of Clark's Elioak Farm, said county residents' interest in locally grown food is nearly insatiable.

"It's amazing how much our customers are interested in learning about the foods they buy," she said.

"And I believe we have an obligation to teach as we sell."

With 70 people now working plots in the conservancy's community garden, which opened four years ago, Boyd knows firsthand that a common interest in growing and eating local foods exists in the county.

"Sharing gardening ideas with each other truly builds a community," she said.

 

The Howard County Conservancy will host Meet Our Local Farmers, beginning at 2 p.m. today at the organization's headquarters, 10520 Old Frederick Road, Woodstock. The event is free. Call 410-465-8877.

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