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‘It is rewarding’: Back under original ownership, Spring Meadow Farms in Upperco still selling ag education along with produce and flowers

"Farmer Stan" Dabkowski is shown with wife, Kelly, and grandson Kingston Collier. The Dabkowski family, which owned the farm and market for many years before selling in 2011, repurchased Spring Meadow Farms, which opened for the season on April 8.
"Farmer Stan" Dabkowski is shown with wife, Kelly, and grandson Kingston Collier. The Dabkowski family, which owned the farm and market for many years before selling in 2011, repurchased Spring Meadow Farms, which opened for the season on April 8. (Courtesy photo)

For more than two decades, Spring Meadow Farms was a staple in Upperco, just over the Carroll County line in Baltimore County, run by the Dabkowski family. In 2011 the business was sold. It changed hands a few times before a family friend purchased it in 2014 and Stan to came back to help out for a bit.

Then, last year, the founding family purchased Spring Meadow back again. Last week, they reopened for the season, bringing back colorful flowers and produce, decades of memories and agriculture education for kids of all ages.

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Stan Dabkowski grew up in Parkville. By age 11 he was working for nearby Weber’s Cidermill Farm. While picking beans at age 13 he said he realized that this was home. He was born to be a farmer. At age 19, he moved to Carroll County to run the restaurant market at Baugher’s Orchard. He stayed there nearly 10 years.

“I have always had the love of farming in my heart,” he said.

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Stan Dabkowski is shown at Spring Meadow Farms in 1990.
Stan Dabkowski is shown at Spring Meadow Farms in 1990. (Courtesy photo)

That’s why he and his wife, Kelly, opened Spring Meadow Farms in Upperco in July of 1986, leasing the property from the Lippy family, and then purchasing it. Over time, Farmer Stan earned a name for himself among thousands of school children who came to see him and learn about life on the farm.

“I have been giving Ag tours my whole life,” he said, sharing how he once led tours for Fosters Mushroom farm in Hunt Valley.

As many as 10,000 school children in a season came annually to learn about the farm seasons, how to grow their own food and the importance of a self-sustaining farm.

Stan’s daughter, Brittany Collier, will manage the newly re-opened market. If her parents decide to retire one day, she said she dreams of working alongside her husband, Brandon, who has supported her along the way. She talked about growing up at the market, working beside her parents and her brother, Zach

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Brittany Collier is shown at Spring Meadow Farms in 1990, when it was owned by her family. Now owned again by the Dabkowski family, Collier is the market manager.
Brittany Collier is shown at Spring Meadow Farms in 1990, when it was owned by her family. Now owned again by the Dabkowski family, Collier is the market manager. (Courtesy photo)

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“I was there nearly every day,” she said. “Looking back, I am incredibly grateful I was raised in this setting. It has given me the desire to teach my kids the same, how to grow their own food and take care of the farm animals while serving the public. When you are a kid and living it, you don’t realize how blessed you are, that is until you are 35 years old and looking back. Now, my kids get to do the same.”

Collier’s children, Kingston, 6, and Kennedy, 4, love to come to the market.

“Kingston thinks his grandfather is a celebrity,” she said with a laugh. “He tells all of his friends his grandfather is Farmer Stan.”

According to Dabkowski, the farm has already booked a few spring tours, something he looks forward to with pride.

“Over the past 34 years we have given nearly a quarter million tours,” he said. “In the spring, we teach them about vegetables and seeds. They each plant a 10-inch pot with plants, a tomato seedling in the center and then we plant seeds at 12 o’clock — green beans, at 3 o’clock — sunflowers, and a few others at 6 and 9 o’clock. They take them home where they can plant them in their garden to grow.”

Dabkowski laughed and continued: “One of the girls that used to work for me in the ’80s told me that she came here as a child and that is when her family first started growing a garden, and they still do it today. It is rewarding.”

Kingston and Kennedy Collier are shown at Spring Meadow Farms in 2020. Their grandfather, Stan Dabkowski, is the patriarch of the farm, which is again under their family's ownership.
Kingston and Kennedy Collier are shown at Spring Meadow Farms in 2020. Their grandfather, Stan Dabkowski, is the patriarch of the farm, which is again under their family's ownership. (Courtesy photo)

According to Dabkowski, his children played a big part in the business in the years before they left to go to college, coming home to work the business in the summer. His son eventually took a job out of state, but his daughter missed everything about the market. So why not jump at the chance to buy the 11-acre market and bring it back to life together?

Father and daughter say they grow some of the flowers and produce. The rest will be purchased from local growers.

“In the summertime when it’s peak produce season, our vegetables are picked every morning to bring in for the day,” Collier said. “They are that fresh.”

But this market has more than just colorful flowers and produce.

“We recently brought in new tenants to manage the ice cream store who know how to draw in a crowd with their inventive specials,” Collier said. “We have the Char’d BBQ on site, managed by a wonderful family who sure knows how to cook. There’s the Ropewalk Playground, the Farm Zoo and a nature walk, too.”

The name, “Ropewalk” came from the land survey which named that section. Another section was called Spring Meadows, and a third parcel was Hooker’s Enlargement.

“The playground has balance beams, corn cribs filled with Tonka trucks and such for the kids to play with, jumbo slides, swings, a tunnel to run through, hammocks, and a zipline,” Collier said. “The kids love the zipline! We also have a blowup maze that is country themed with corn and scarecrows.”

The playground will open in early June on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It costs $8 for ages 2 to 8 and this includes the nature walk and farm zoo, although the farm zoo alone is free — featuring rabbits, chickens, ducks and geese, goats and sheep and maybe pigs in the future.

“The Farm Zoo and nature walk are open seven days a week,” Dabkowski said. “The walk goes through about 2 acres of woods. With a young child it might take 10 minutes. We have educational signs along the way about birds of this area, with birdfeeders and animal footprint signs to identify the animals. Most of our activities are geared for ages 2 through 10.”

A new addition this year will be Monument City Brewing Company’s craft brewery on site with beer for sale.

Brittany Collier, who grew up at Spring Meadow Farms, is now the market manager at Spring Meadow, owned once again by her father, Stan Dabkowski, and the family.
Brittany Collier, who grew up at Spring Meadow Farms, is now the market manager at Spring Meadow, owned once again by her father, Stan Dabkowski, and the family. (Courtesy photo)

“They are a really awesome family,” Collier said. “We are a faith based business and everyone we have brought in - tenant wise - are strong believers too. We are supposed to love everyone and be kind and that is what we strive to do, no matter how tough some days can be in retail.”

The property also houses an amphitheater where “Agra-tainment” will take place. In the past, bands have performed for their strawberry and fall festivals.

“The number one thing visitors will be surprised by is the variety of things to do and the family friendly feel. The lines have been long,” Dabkowski said, noting that they opened this past fall. “But people don’t seem to mind the wait. We also have an amazing pottery selection you can’t find anywhere, and I‘ve worked hard to have the most unique plants around, things you can’t find at Home Depot or other places. That draws real gardeners in. We treat them all like part of the family.”

Collier agreed. She said people are immediately wowed by the garden side.

“The plants bring the entire property to life,” she said. “You can smell the grills going with BBQ and people are walking around with these beautiful ultimate milkshakes. There’s always a mix of music playing and people smiling.”

Online, Dabkowski’s wife, Kelly wrote a bit about how she feels about the market.

“A stalk of corn waiting for harvest started as a seed,” she wrote. “Our community is the same. We’re planting the seed of brighter tomorrows today.”

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“During COVID, Spring Meadow Farms has become a community safe haven,” Collier said. “We are 95% outdoors, and we are very strict [in] following all COVID regulations and orders. People can come here, spend some time, and feel normal again. They can grab a bite to eat, go see the animals down at the Farm Zoo, browse the flower and marketplace, get an ultimate milkshake, listen to music, and spend time with family and friends outside of the house in a safe environment. It’s a little slice of heaven if you ask me.”

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On April 8, the market opened to the public again, through December.

If you visit, you will most likely see the farmer’s daughter working alongside Farmer Stan, following in her father’s footsteps, keeping a tradition alive.

For more information, email springmeadowfarms@outlook.com or visit springmeadowfarms.com. The complex is located at 15513 Hanover Pike, Upperco.

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