Family milestone is a golden moment at Larriland Farm

It wasn't supposed to end up a fruit and vegetable farm. But in some ways, it seemed to be the family's fate.

After years of running a truck farm with his dad — growing vegetables and taking them to Baltimore on carts drawn by horses — Larry Moore had had enough of that, said his son, Guy Moore.

So Larry Moore started a dairy farm on his family's property in the Guilford area.

The cows moved with him in 1963, when he and his wife, Polly, sold that Guilford farm to the Rouse Co. and bought 250 acres in Woodbine. Larriland Farm — named in part for the herd of cows they bred and with a nod to "Larry-land" — was born.

"It was a sod farm for 15 years," Guy Moore said. "My father wanted to do something different."

But then Guy's sister, Lynn Moore, went to West Virginia University and came back with a plan to plant strawberries. "We were back into truck farming," Guy said,

Fifty years later, Larriland Farm is still owned by the Moore family, with siblings Guy, Fenby and Lynn Moore in charge.

The farm offers a variety of pick-your-own fruit and vegetables May through October. During various seasons, those who visit find acres of strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, nectarines, peaches and apples, as well as vegetables including spinach, potatoes, beets, tomatoes, cabbage and pumpkins.

On Thursday, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot visited the farm to recognize its history and present the Moores with a proclamation marking the farm's golden anniversary as a staple of Howard County's agricultural heritage.

"We stopped in … to present this proclamation to Larriland Farm for just being a family-operated business, employing people and keeping their heads above water," Franchot said as he visited the farm's market.

Lynn Moore, who now serves as president and CEO, accepted the proclamation and said she is proud of the farm's history and its role in the community — particularly in helping high school- and college-age employees explore farming.

"They're not sure of themselves in the beginning, but by the end of the season, they think, 'I can do that,' " she said of the farm's seasonal employees.

She said the farm prides itself not only for its community connection, but also the quality of its homegrown crops.

"It must have flavor," Lynn Moore said of the produce. Even a day more in the sun or in the ground can make a difference, she said.

"I have to be on top of that so the customers get the best we have," she said. "That's the hard part — telling people it's not ready to be picked."

Late spring is a busy time for the farm, but October is when Larriland really hits "the top of Mount Everest," Guy Moore said. During the fall harvest, visitors also come for hayrides, a straw maze and other attractions, including apple fritters made with the Moore family recipe.

Even during the comptroller's Thursday visit, the farm was bustling with activity. Several preschool groups were enjoying a blustery day, taking hayrides to a pumpkin patch, visiting the "boo" house and tackling a maze.

Early Years Learning Center in Eldersburg has been taking a fall trip to Larriland with its 4-year-olds for years, said Gloria Stankiewicz, a member of the school's board.

"We have at least 100 kids here," Stankiewicz said. The farm, she said, is always "very organized and very pleasant. Their hayride is very ornate and decorated with scenes from 'Harry Potter,' 'Lord of the Rings,' 'Winnie the Pooh.' "

David Wadlington was also visiting the farm with his 4-year-old daughter's pre-kindergarten class from Eldersburg Elementary on Thursday.

He said the class trip from Carroll into Howard County made for a "fun day," giving the kids a taste of local farming.

"It's pretty neat. They have a lot of different setups," Wadlington said.

While they celebrate the golden anniversary, the Moores hope Larriland Farm has many more years — and many Moore generations — in its future.

"I hope some of the next generation will want to farm and take over," Guy Moore said. "I've told my daughter to look around; we're riding that pick-your-own wave as long as we can."

Farms may face a challenging future in some areas, but Guy Moore said he believes location is key to Larriland's success.

"What fuels this more than anything else is we're next to D.C. and the number of people who work for the government," he said. "Local, county, state, federal — a lot of the population works there, and they have disposable income."

Franchot suggested farms such as Larriland are important not only to Maryland's economy, but also to give residents a taste of farm life.

For Franchot, that taste a glass of hot cider and a stop in the farm's barn to pick up a bag of Jonagold apples.

"My wife told me to bring home a bag," he said.

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