Carroll County Times
Carroll County Lifestyles

Kevin Dayhoff: Agriculture still No. 1 industry in Carroll County thanks to the Extension Service

It was recently called to my attention that the Carroll County Agriculture Center annual meeting will take place soon. I always look forward to the meeting.

I also received notice of the upcoming March meeting in the mail. Then I was reminded again of the meeting when I read, with great interest, an article about “a native Maryland hop plant discovered on a Frederick County farm can be grown at commercial scale …” The Ag Center annual meeting always brings together the county’s agricultural leadership.


The article appeared on the front page of the Carroll County Times on Feb. 23. TWritten by Amanda Yeager, it featured my friend, Bryan Butler, who is a longstanding Carroll County extension agent with the University of Maryland Extension Service. Featured along with Butler is Tom Barse, owner of Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm in Mount Airy.

Bryan Butler, researcher at University of Maryland (left), and Tom Barse, owner of Milkhouse Brewery, with bottles of Monocacy beers, created with the Monocacy native hop. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

The star of the article was a discussion about a Maryland native hop. The hop plant is an important ingredient in the brewing of beer. The idea of growing it in Carroll County was introduced to me by my farming neighbor friends, Lila Weaver, and her husband, former Carroll County Commissioner Dick Weaver. (In full disclosure I retired from farming in 1999. I raised nursery stock.)


According to the article, “The discovery of the Maryland hop, now named Monocacy, came through something of a stroke of serendipity. The hop was growing at Dr. Raymond Ediger’s farm in Utica … when he moved there in the 1970s …”

The article also highlights the critical agricultural research work of extension agents such as Butler and the distinguished group of men and women before Butler.

According to an article by Carrie Ann Knauer for the Carroll County Times on March 30, 2005, “Agriculture is still alive in Carroll County. In fact, it is still the No. 1 industry, said Ralph Robertson, county agricultural land preservation specialist. And Carroll County holds a high reputation for agriculture in a state that relies on agriculture as its biggest industry.”

A front-page article in the Carroll County Times on Feb. 3, 1966, featured a story about the 4th annual Agricultural Center meeting set for Feb. 18, 1966. The annual Ag Center annual meeting always brings together the county’s agricultural leadership. Courtesy Kevin Dayhoff and Caroline Babylon farm archives.

Butler was also featured in the 2005 article. Knauer reported, “Bryan Butler, educator with the Carroll County office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension, said agriculture is an essential part of Carroll County’s image, both for the people involved in it and those who aren’t.

“‘It’s a very big reason that people want to come to this county, even if they don’t realize it,” Butler said. “The rolling pastures, the bucolic views of horses and sheep in the fields, the roadside vegetable stands - none of these scenic, enjoyable options would be present if many in Carroll County weren’t still active in agriculture.”

“Agriculture is changing,” Butler said in Knauer’s 2005 article. According to Butler, “a farmer who wants to be successful today has to try new things and find new markets. The benefit of farming in Carroll County is lots of 100-acre farms remain available and it is close to both the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., markets …”

In the article, Mike Bell, my fellow Marine friend and a former educator with the Carroll County office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension, said farming is still alive and kicking in Carroll County. “You can just look at the economic part of it — it’s still a significant part of this county,” Bell said.

In an article I wrote in 2012, I noted much has changed in Westminster and Carroll since Grover Kinzy, the first Maryland Cooperative Extension agent came to town on Nov. 10, 1916 — in part, as a response to the economic chaos in the agriculture community from the market repercussions of World War I, which erupted in Europe in 1914.


Carroll’s response was characteristically innovative and creative. According to the definitive history book on agriculture in Carroll County “Legacy of the Land,” by Carol Lee, “While high production costs provided the motivation for organization, inspiration came from a new force in the county — the Agriculture Extension Service and the county agent. Created by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 …”

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Kinzy’s office was in the Times Building, across the street from the old Westminster fire hall on Main Street in Westminster. One of the first things Kinzy did was help start local 4-H clubs.

For the 25 years I farmed, I relied heavily upon the research, guidance and support of the extension service — especially Cooperative Extension Agent Tom Ford. In 1992 Ford wrote, “When I started my tenure with the Carroll County Extension Office in 1982, I was placed under the expert tutelage of County Extension Director Bob Jones, Bob instilled a certain work ethic in his staff.

“As the reins of the Carroll County Extension Office have passed from Bob Jones to Walt Bay and now to David Greene, the one constant in our office has been our staff’s undying loyalty to the people of Carroll County.

In 1918, 4-H clubs provided hot lunches to rural schools. This picture is from page 169 of a book titled “Signs of Maturity,” found in the Carroll County Extension Service library. This was from a time many years ago when Extension Agent Tom Ford and I spent a great deal of time together solving all the problems of the world and keeping my farming operation in the black. I took the picture to show my late Mom, Louise Warfield Wright Miller,  a sixth-generation farmer — who grew up farming in south Carroll and remembered the hot lunches. Submitted photo.

“Carroll County’s agriculture community has seen Extension introduce the concept of no-till and minimum tillage to its producers. In farm management, Walt Bay provided the impetus behind a proactive farm management program that saw farmers (including me) trade in their shoebox full of records for a 5-1/4-inch floppy disk. In home economics, Extension agents have provided training for homemakers, new parents, and daycare providers, to cite three examples.

“Carroll County’s 4-H program has been led by Bob Shirley, Rita Zimmerman and Carolyn Travers. These dedicated professionals man one of the largest 4-H programs in the state. 4-H agents … are concerned with the total personal development of the youths and their transformation into responsible young adults …”


Today, that loyalty to agriculture, 4-H and the greater Carroll community remains and the future of agriculture in Carroll continues to be promising in spite of the challenges. With potential new markets, Carroll agriculture is constantly adapting to changing technology, consumer demands, residential growth and rising land values.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at