William Harrison has run his family farm in Pylesville since taking over from his father in 1987. Originally purchased by Harrison’s grandfather in 1919, Harrison Farm raised cattle, but switched to raising poultry in 1988. Harrison still raises chickens to this day, while his nephew farms soybeans and corn on Harrison’s plot of land across the street from his house.
Harrison Farm was recognized as one of eight 2022 Century Farms in the state earlier this year by Gov. Larry Hogan. The program honors state farms that have remained in the same family for 100 years.
The 54-acre farm means a lot to Harrison’s family, including his two kids, Jason and Nicole, and his four grandkids.
“I want to instill on them that farming isn’t bad,” said Harrison, 75, “and this is what can happen when you work hard. It pays off in the end.”
In a news release, Hogan said the honored Century Farms have “played a significant role in ensuring that Maryland agriculture continues to thrive and that Maryland families can continue to run profitable sustainable farms for generations to come.”
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T. Elmer Harrison, William Harrison’s grandfather, raised tomatoes, tobacco, poultry, potatoes and beef cattle. The farm was turned over to Harrison’s parents, Marvin and Mary, in 1957. They continued to raise potatoes and tomatoes, as well as dairy, until they stopped in 1976 and went back into beef cattle as well as hogs.
Harrison also spent time in the Army, working for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and as a volunteer firefighter. Yet, from growing up with his grandfather, he knew he always wanted to be a farmer. He was even born in the house on the land across the street.
“[It’s] just the way I was born,” he said.
Currently, Harrison raises about two flocks of chickens per year, for about 16 weeks each. One flock can range from 12,000 to 33,000 chickens, Harrison said. The farm raises chickens from birth, and then they’re sent to a layer house for about a year to lay eggs.
Harrison recently sent a flock off at the beginning of April, but he plans to take a longer break before the next flock so he can spend more time at his summer house in Lewes, Delaware, with his wife, Judith.
As far as the future, he said it’s “hard to say” if someone will take over the farm after him, but he’d like to keep it going “no matter what.”
“We would like it to be carried on,” he said. “A farmer never retires.”