Edith B. 'Edie' Dasher, owner of nonprofit Worthington Valley farm, dies

'Edie' Dasher operated the 100-acre nonprofit Garden Harvest Farm with her husband, James Dasher.

Edith B. "Edie" Dasher, co-founder of a nonprofit Worthington Valley farm that supplies organically grown fruits and vegetables to soup kitchens and homeless shelters, died of cancer Jan. 16 at her Glyndon home.

She was 71.

"Edie was an angel. Everyone respected her," said the Rev. Patrick Hipkins, a Lutherville resident who recently retired from Davis Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in Northwest Baltimore, where he also directs the Davis Memorial Food Outreach.

"She liked the poor and always wanted to help them," said Mr. Hipkins. "You need a special grace from God to do that work, and Edie had it."

"Everything we did at the farm was at no cost. She and her husband, Jim, were always so generous," said Mel Monk, former executive director of A Can Can Make a Difference who still volunteers with the organization and is a member of its board.

"She always said, 'Let's give everything away for free,'" Mr. Monk recalled.

Edith Bass Bonsal was born and raised at Mantua Farm, her family's Glyndon horse farm.

She was the daughter of Frank Adair Bonsal, a thoroughbred horse trainer, and Edith Bass, the daughter of Robert P. Bass, who had served as governor of New Hampshire.

"She was an extraordinary woman. She came from an old Baltimore family and she remade her life around charity and social work," her son, Clifford Fredic Ransom III, of New York City wrote in an email.

Ms. Dasher was a graduate of Garrison Farm School and received a bachelor's degree in 1967 from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y.

She earned a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and held a second master's from the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

During the 1980s, she was a self-employed social worker, assisting chronic pain patients.

Her son said she had battled chronic pain for much of her life, and "wanted others to benefit from her experience."

She moved across the road from her family's Mantua Farm into Bristol House, a farmhouse that had been built in 1936 by her grandmother Ellinor Stewart Heiser.

It was there that she co-founded the 100-acre Garden Harvest Farm in 1993 with her husband, James Joseph Dasher.

Her son said Ms. Dasher had a "profound connection to the land. And just as she believed it sustained her, she thought it could sustain others as well."

With the help of volunteers, the couple planted fruits and vegetables and raised animals. They gave away thousands of pounds of organically grown food annually to homeless shelters and soup kitchens — and also supplied food to communities in Appalachia and India.

Garden Harvest also served as a teaching farm. Groups came from throughout the Mid-Atlantic to study its operation.

"She helped save tens of thousands from hunger and taught thousands more the skills of organic farming," said her son. He said that, throughout her life, his mother advocated "farming and the value of self-sufficiency."

"She gave us several acres, and even the seeds," said Mr. Hipkins. "I'd pack my van with volunteers, many of whom were the less fortunate, and I made them a part of it.

"We tended the plants and even harvested pears," he said. "I used to tell them, 'Why settle for crumbs when you can have a feast?'"

Every spring, Ms. Dasher and her husband met with groups to tell them what they planned to plant for the coming growing season, said Mr. Hipkins.

"It wasn't uncommon for them to give me 500 to 600 dozen fresh eggs, which I gave away. They gave us chickens, goats and sheep that they had slaughtered," he said.

"Edie was always doing something for us," he said. "We knew she was sick, but we never expected her to pass."

"We'd go out and help with the harvest, and then we took the food to our Baltimore County warehouse and then to the city, where we gave it churches and their food pantries, who gave it away to the needy," said Mr. Monk. "She and Jim were very generous."

Mr. Monk said that while Mr. Dasher was the "frontman" for the farm, his wife was the "backbone."

"Edie was very energetic and conscientious about getting funds and doing the research to keep the farm afloat," he said. "She was very sweet, nice and accommodating."

"She believed that good deeds and a positive attitude had the power to heal," said her son. "She loved her family, dogs and land.

"Her biggest hobby was helping people and rescuing dogs," he said. "She was fully obsessed with helping people. That's all she ever wanted to do in life."

Ms. Dasher was a member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Glyndon.

Services are private.

In addition to her husband of 22 years and her son, Ms. Dasher is survived by two brothers, Frank Adair Bonsal Jr. of Glyndon and David Stewart Bonsal of Kansas City, Kansas.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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