xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

‘142 years and still going strong’: Farmer looks back on a century of farming in Carroll County

Farmer Carroll Bish shows a photo of his grandparents, Joel Bish, left, and Ida Zepp Bish, and his parents, Airy Crouse Bish and William Bish, right, on the family farm in Westminster around 1910. The Bish farm has been recognized by the state of Maryland as a Century Farm, one that has been in the same family for 100 consecutive years. The Bish farm has been owned by the Bish family since 1879.
Farmer Carroll Bish shows a photo of his grandparents, Joel Bish, left, and Ida Zepp Bish, and his parents, Airy Crouse Bish and William Bish, right, on the family farm in Westminster around 1910. The Bish farm has been recognized by the state of Maryland as a Century Farm, one that has been in the same family for 100 consecutive years. The Bish farm has been owned by the Bish family since 1879. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Old pictures were sprawled on the kitchen table showing a young man standing with his mother on a 90-acre farm, the same man inside a factory and again tending to a bee apiary.

The images sat on the kitchen table of Carroll Bish, the owner of Bish farm. It’s the oldest farm in Carroll and was recognized as a Century Farm by the state. He also received recognition by the Carroll County Board of Commissioners last month for his farm and the cannery he used to own. Although the farmland in Carroll County has reduced over the years, Bish said his farm isn’t going anywhere, even after 142 years.

Advertisement

Maryland Department of Agriculture states farms for the Century Farm program must have been owned by the same family for 100 consecutive years, must be lived on or run by a descendant of the original owner, must consist of at least 10 acres and gross over $2,500 annually from the sale of farm products.

Republican Governor Larry Hogan, recognized this year’s Century Farm inductees in a February video and Bish farm, founded in 1879, was one of them. It was also the oldest of the seven.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Carroll Bish is no longer the young man pictured in the photos laid on the table, but he remains in charge of his farm. It’s a job he has had for 72 years. The 90-year-old has help, of course. One of his employees runs the day-to-day after receiving direction from Bish. Kim Frock, director of human resources for county government, and her husband, John, a family friend and former employee, also help Bish on and off the farm.

As tradition, the farm was passed down to Bish’s dad. However, his dad died in 1935 and his mother took over. After Bish graduated from Westminster High School in 1948, the building that now houses East Middle School, it was his turn to run the farm. Bish grew up helping on the farm so he was not new to the business, and his mother was there to guide him, he said.

“His mother taught him well. Literally, she was a schoolteacher,” Kim Frock said about the former Mount Pleasant Academy teacher at the one-room schoolhouse.

Bish farm, located off Md. 97 and near Littlestown Pike sold corn and hay and used to have cattle, hogs and chicken.

Advertisement
Photo courtesy of Carroll Bish Farmer Carroll Bish is pictured with his mother Airy Bish on their Westminster farm in 1949. The Bish farm has been recognized by the state of Maryland as a Century Farm, one that has been in the same family for 100 consecutive years. The Bish farm has been owned by the Bish family since 1879.
Photo courtesy of Carroll Bish Farmer Carroll Bish is pictured with his mother Airy Bish on their Westminster farm in 1949. The Bish farm has been recognized by the state of Maryland as a Century Farm, one that has been in the same family for 100 consecutive years. The Bish farm has been owned by the Bish family since 1879. (Carroll Bish / Carroll County Times)

“Then later on, we had to forget about the animals,” Bish said, adding that they started growing soy beans.

John Frock, who started working for Bish at the age of 12, said customers often bought their supplies to feed their farm animals.

Back in those days, farmland used to surround Bish farm but much of the land was sold to developers to build houses. Some of the farms, Bish said, stopped because the children it was passed down to did not want to take care of it. John said families may have wanted to keep it but couldn’t afford to.

Bish said he wasn’t going to let that happen to his farm.

“It will stay a farm, I can tell you that,” he said.

He recalled when Ford Motor Company wanted his property years ago and he told them “it’s not for sale and you ain’t got no money to buy it.”

“142 years and still going strong,” Kim added.

Farming started to look different as years went on. The equipment got bigger and the work became more regulated. Only so much fertilizer could be used and it couldn’t be used until March 1.

Maryland Department of Agriculture states fertilizer products with nitrogen and phosphorus can be applied to lawns as long as the ground is not hard frozen or snow covered, and heavy rain is not predicted. It also states a soil test is required before phosphorus can be applied to established lawns. And farmers have to file a nutrient management plan.

It’s all to protect the Chesapeake Bay. The runoff from the fertilizer to the stream that flows into the bay could be harmful, Kim explained.

Kim said Bish employed a lot of people through the farm and the factory he owned, Mount Pleasant Packing Company, the last operating cannery in Carroll. About 25 to 30 people worked in the factory. Around 20 people were peeling, three to four were packing and a few men drove the trucks. A few labels for some the cans that were packed at the factory laid on the kitchen table. One read “Bish purple plums,” another read “Tanyetown Hominy,” the last canned item the factory sold before it ended in the 1990s, and a few others pictured bright red tomatoes.

A farm ledger from 1899 recorded transactions on the Bish farm in Westminster more than a century ago. The Bish farm has been recognized by the state of Maryland as a Century Farm, one that has been in the same family for 100 consecutive years. The Bish farm has been owned by the Bish family since 1879.
A farm ledger from 1899 recorded transactions on the Bish farm in Westminster more than a century ago. The Bish farm has been recognized by the state of Maryland as a Century Farm, one that has been in the same family for 100 consecutive years. The Bish farm has been owned by the Bish family since 1879. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

Also on the table were old tomato peelers used by workers, a stencil that was used for labeling and a black and white photo of Bish, his mom and other employees working in the factory.

Kim Frock said Bish comes from a long line of farmers. His father was one of 13 children and they were active in the community. They owned shops, had their own farming products to sell and served as board of directors. But not many had children and Carroll Bish became the last of the line.

“As far as the Bish name is concerned, this is the end of it,” Bish said. “So when I’m gone, that’s the end of it.”

But the farm isn’t going anywhere, Kim Frock said.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement