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Carroll County farm, orchard being showcased on popular public TV show

Some of Carroll County’s agricultural businesses will be on display Tuesday, Dec. 15 as part of a special two-part series on Maryland Public Television.

The popular show “Maryland Farm & Harvest,” now in its eighth season, spent some time looking at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected farmers and other ag-related businesses. Two such Carroll places were showcased, Cow Comfort Inn Dairy & Creamery in Union Bridge, and Black Rock Orchard in Lineboro.

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MPT spoke with Cow Comfort owners David Pyle and Katie Dotterer-Pyle, who operate a first-generation dairy farm that features some 800 cattle. Half of those cows get milked twice a day, 365 days each year. The couple has owned the farm since 2013 after renting facilities in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and Dotterer-Pyle said despite the pandemic not much has changed on a day-to-day basis.

But dealing with supply chain problems, she said, has been a challenge. Dotterer-Pyle, a teacher with Frederick County Public Schools, said she spent some time learning on exactly what happens with the milk once it leaves farms such as hers.

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Cow Comfort Inn ships its product to Land O’Lakes in Minnesota and Dairy Maid Dairy in Frederick, Dotterer-Pyle said. When the pandemic struck, forcing restaurants and schools to either close or modify their operating hours, Dotterer-Pyle said more than half of the dairy products being used by food service companies were no longer needed.

Trying to solve new supply chain equations and figure out how to still make a living became a struggle, she said. Nobody planned for a pandemic, Dotterer-Pyle said, which made the last nine months very tough.

“I don’t think people understand that so much food is produced from such a tiny percentage of the population,” Dotterer-Pyle said.

The MPT series is taking its viewers to sites in Anne Arundel, Carroll, Dorchester, Frederick, and Queen Anne’s counties, as well as Baltimore City, to see how the pandemic is affecting Maryland farms, learn about strategies farmers are employing to keep crops safe and plentiful, and find out how some farms are adapting and even thriving during the challenging conditions of recent months.

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Tuesday’s episode is scheduled for 7 p.m, and the second part of the special series is set to air Jan. 26.

Black Rock Orchard from Lineboro sells its fruit to several farmers markets and food stands in the Baltimore-Washington metro area.
Black Rock Orchard from Lineboro sells its fruit to several farmers markets and food stands in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. (Courtesy photo)

Black Rock Orchard sells its produce at various farmers markets around the Baltimore-Washington area, said co-owner Emily Zaas. The family-owned orchard doesn’t sell anything on site ― it boasts 77 varieties of apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, apricots, blueberries, gooseberries, and more ― but Zaas and husband David Hochheimer are part of the upcoming MPT program as part of a segment that goes over how the pandemic has affected market sales.

Hochheimer said he spends Saturdays at the 32nd Street Farmers Market in Baltimore, and Sundays at the Takoma Park Farmers Market.

Hochheimer said sales were down during the earlier part of the pandemic, but as people got more accustomed to outdoor gatherings things picked up for Black Rock. Weekday markets weren’t quite as busy, he said, but people turned out on weekends to buy local fruit and produce at several stands in the area.

“Both of the markets, our sales have been a little bit better this year because everybody likes shopping outside at the farmers markets,” he said. “The 32nd Street market, the association, they’ve done a really good job of running the market this year. Everything is going well.”

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