The economy, jobs creation, and unemployment continue to be in the national and state news these days.
Locally, the business and economic climate has changed in the last few years. To be certain, change has been a constant dynamic in the local economy since the beginnings of our county in the 1700s.
The one thing that has remained the same in spite of all the changes, is that agriculture continues to be a major industry in Carroll.
But one agricultural product many younger readers may not be familiar with that has not withstood the test of time is an ancient medicine known for its distinctive, unpleasant smell — wormseed.
"Wormseed is an herb. The flowers are used to make medicine," according to the website, WebMD.
"Wormseed is UNSAFE when taken by mouth. Some people have died after taking less than 10 grams," according to the site.
The Nov. 27, 1925, issue of the Democratic Advocate noted that Carroll's wormseed oil was sold throughout the world from Europe to South America, China and Japan.
In 1925, our county produced "about 40,000 pounds annually. The estimated value of the crop is $175,000, distributed among 175 farmers."
The heyday of wormseed lasted from the late 1800s through the 1960s. Then new drugs were formulated that had lower production costs and were just as effective as a de-wormer.
Research by historian Joe Getty performed 20 years ago for the Historical Society of Carroll County reveals that in the late 1800s, "The primary labor force in Carroll County consisted of agricultural workers. Small family farms … required a work force that frequently exceeded the number of family members residing on the farm."
According to information from the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture, released in 2009, "Carroll County ranks second statewide in producing fruits, tree nuts, and berries; forage crops like hay; egg laying chickens, and sheep and lambs. The market value of Carroll County products sold in 2007 was $87,406,000, with an average of $76,138 per farm.
"Thirty-four of the county's 1,148 farms produce $500,000 each year or more in sales. On the other end, 337 produce less than $1,000. About 17 percent of the county's farms are operated by women. More than 400 farms in Carroll are between 10 and 49 acres; while the average farm size is 124 acres."
According to the Carroll County Department of Economic Development's website, the county's major employers, as of Jan. 31, 2013, were:
• Carroll County Public Schools: 3,630 employees
• Carroll Hospital Center: 1,759 employees
• Springfield Hospital Center: 833 employees
• Jos. A. Bank: 778 employees
• Random House: 722 employees
• EMA/Fairhaven: 700 employees
• McDaniel College: 621 employees
• Carroll County Commissioners: 587 employees
• Carroll Community College: 509 employees
• Evapco: 440 employees