Larry Moore, founder of Larriland Farm, devoted life to farm and family

Before the city of Columbia existed, G. Laurence "Larry" Moore was farming there.

Moore, a lifelong farmer perhaps best known as the owner of Larriland Farm in Woodbine, a family business he ran with his wife and four children, died of cancer on June 24. He was 85 years old.

Now just off of Snowden River Parkway, today's Berger Road is home to rows of office buildings. But when Moore was born in 1926, the plot of land was his family's fruit farm, purchased by his father after World War I. Moore attended Ellicott City High School and worked on the farm throughoutWorld War II.

In the 1950s, his family bought a herd of cattle for dairy farming. The herd ranked either first or second in milk production in the county from the late '50s until 1963, when Moore decided to sell the farm on Berger Road to Columbia developers and move away from dairy farming, which he felt was too dependent on outside price controls.

Moore purchased the land now known as Larriland Farm in 1963 and started farming there three years later. At Larriland, Moore grew sod for a few years before he decided to switch to a pick-your-own model, where visitors are invited onto the farm to pick a wide variety of produce.

Whether he was milking cows or growing fruit, Moore was happiest outdoors. "He was a farmer from Day One," said Polly Moore, his wife of 60 years.

Larry met Polly, who grew up in nearby Savage, when her mother asked her to get a dozen peaches from his family's farm so that she could make peach ice cream. When she got to the farm, the Moores were out of peaches, so Larry's mother dragged him out of bed to go pick some.

"I would have not been surprised if he had never spoken to me again in his life," Polly remembered. "But he went out and picked me a dozen peaches, and then he called and made a date." The couple married in 1951.

Moore passed the farming bug down to his four children. "He brainwashed all of us, right from the get-go," joked his youngest son, Fenby Moore. "As soon as we could reach the pedals on a tractor, we were working.

"The entire family worked together, we lived together. Family was a big deal to him," Fenby added. "This farm and this family really was the nucleus of his whole existence."

All four of Moore's children live and work at the 285-acre Larriland Farm today. Three are farmers; the fourth specializes in gardening.

Moore's devotion to farming was bolstered by an "iron will," according to Polly. He expected work to be done thoroughly and well. Although he did not attend college, he spent lots of time educating himself on better farming methods.

Polly remembered the time their daughter's crop of strawberries failed because of improper advice she had received. Larry spent months reading up on how to grow strawberries to ensure that the next year's crop was a success — which it was.

This diligence extended to Moore's hobbies, which filled much of the little free time he had. Larry Moore was an avid bridge and croquet player, as well as a hunter.

In front of his family home, a neatly trimmed croquet field is the site for weekly tournaments of the Patuxent Croquet Club, the group he founded with fellow enthusiasts. He also hosted accredited tournaments that included accomplished croquet players from across the country. "He could hold his own with them," Polly said.

At his memorial service on June 27, attended by some 400 people, friends drove from Delaware and Pennsylvania to pay their respects. Former employees wrote letters expressing their gratitude for the role he had played in teaching them the value of hard work.

"He set a very high standard for things," said Jen Newgent, an assistant manager at Larriland for the past five seasons. "Things here were done fully, and they were done well. There was no halfway mark."

Moore shared his expertise with the community as a two-term member of both the Maryland Agricultural Commission and Farmland Preservation Board. He hoped that Howard County could retain some of its rural pockets.

Polly said Moore was proud of the success he found throughout his long career. "For someone without formal education to start a business that supports four families is rather an accomplishment," she said.

But farming was more than just a job. "He did not farm for money," she said. "He farmed for the good of the land and the success, to be proud of what he produced."

Moore is survived by his wife Polly; four children, Nancy Lee Bellaire, Lynn Parlett Moore, Guy L. Moore and F. Fenby Moore, and eight grandchildren.

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