As Paxton, True and Tamper munched on a mixture of grain, they remained oblivious to the prying eyes of tourists who visited them at their home, Pheasant Echo’s Farm in Westminster.
The three Holstein dairy cows and another 147 of their breed played host late last month to 22 farm families from five states that toured three Carroll County farms – Pheasant Echo’s Farm, Peace and Plenty Farm in Union Bridge and Elam Fisher’s farm in Hampstead.
The farm families hosting the tour are members of the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, which includes 900 dairy farmers in 10 states that produce dairy products such as milk and ice cream. The farmers in the association specifically produce and bottle Maola brand milk, which is distributed to consumers across the country.
The association held its Young Cooperator Summer Break tour on July 28 specifically for farmers ages 18 to 45. The farm tour was intended to provide dairy farmers a chance to network and learn from fellow farmers in Carroll County.
Among the tour group were two Carroll County farmers, Courtney Hoff, who with her family owns and operates a dairy farm in New Windsor, and her friend Lindsay Murphy, of Union Bridge, who works for a veterinarian completing blood work for many large farm animals. They both appreciated the tour and families who welcomed them.
Tour participants came from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and Maryland to visit the three farms in Carroll County. The day before they toured Frederick County’s Teabow Farm in Walkersville.
Peace and Plenty Farm, owned by the Schwartzbeck family. in Union Bridge, kicked off the Carroll County tour. Three generations of the family milk 245 registered Holstein dairy cows on 1,100 acres, and grow corn, alfalfa hay, timothy hay, soybeans and wheat.
The cows are housed in a freestall barn, which allows the animals to lie down and rest. The family recycles manure using a special machine to separate the solids. The dried material is then used as recycled bedding for the cows.
Joe Schwartzbeck, or “Pop,” as he’s known on the farm, has been milking cows since 1958. He and his wife moved from Montgomery County to Union Bridge in 1968.
Schwartzbeck said the large family works well together on the farm.
“I have a lot of bosses,” he joked, “but we get along good as a family.”
Austin Schwartzbeck, Joe’s grandson, pointed out a new transition barn that will soon house calves. Currently, each calf is housed in separate huts that Joe Schwartzbeck built in 1985.
“The calves are a priority,” Austin said. “We’ll move them [into the transition barn] to monitor them as much as we can.”
Next on the tour was the Elam Fisher’s farm in Hampstead. Fisher, his wife and seven children are Amish and operate the farm themselves with no outside help.
The family has been farming for 15 years. Prior to moving to Hampstead, they were dairy farmers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They purchased their Hampstead farm in 2019 and installed new buildings, including a tie stall barn, where their 50 cows are tethered at the neck to their stall. They began milking in March 2021.
Fisher estimated that 30 Amish families have moved from Lancaster to purchase farms in Taneytown, Westminster, Union Bridge and Hampstead in recent years.
The family owns about 15 horses, which they use for planting fields of tobacco.
“We plant in mid-May,” Fisher said. “We have things done in a month to five weeks and harvest in the fall. It’s a nice winter project.”
Fisher said the recent storm in Carroll County did damage to his crop.
“It’s just one of those things we’ll have to deal with,” he said.
Last on the tour was Pheasant Echo’s Farm in Westminster. Like the others, the farm is a family operation. The Stambaugh family has been in the dairy farming business since 1920.
Today, they have 150 cows on 2,800 acres. They also have about 10 Jersey cows. Jersey is a British breed of small dairy cattle from Jersey, in the Channel Islands between England and France.
Among the herd is a bull, which they said is “a little mouthy.”
The Stambaughs exhibit their Holsteins at local, state and national shows.
Crystal Stambaugh Edwards, herd manager on the farm, said the family is celebrating its 30th anniversary of milking cows.
“Hopefully we can do it a little longer,” she said.