Children climbed on combines, tractors and farm trucks, laughing with excitement as they pulled the cord to let loose a deep blast on the truck’s air horn.
The farm equipment had been brought out for visitors Sunday afternoon during Harford County’s annual Farm Visitation Day, held this year at Clear Meadow Farm in White Hall.
Jenn Ungham, of Forest Hill, and her family spotted signs for Farm Visitation Day as they were driving along Troyer Road. She noted her young son, Cayman, enjoyed the trucks.
“He’s 3, so of course, he loves anything to do with big trucks,” Ungham said.
Visitors could see, in addition to the farm equipment, farm animals such as cows, horses and rabbits on display by youths from the Black Horse 4-H chapter, check out about 10 vendors representing state and local organizations related to agriculture and land use, take hayrides, get food from the Spready Oak Country Cafe in Rising Sun and sample ice cream from Keyes Creamery near Aberdeen.
About 250 people attended the four-hour event, according to organizers. The farm visitation is put on by the Harford County Farm Bureau, with support from the county government.
Clear Meadow Farm, which is 1,400 acres, is owned by the Rose family. It is known for its grain crops such as corn and soybeans, as well as its all-natural beef cattle herd and sunflowers.
Ungham visited with her husband, Dave, daughter, Serenity, 11, son, Cayman, 3, and daughter, Sydney, age 1. She said her family’s next-door neighbors keep cows and chickens on their property, but she enjoyed seeing a “working farm” at Clear Meadow.
“This is nice because they have the large equipment, and it’s actually a working farm,” Ungham said.
Zach Rose and his brother, Greg, operate the farm with support from their parents, David and Nancy Rose. Clear Meadow has been in his family since his grandfather, Harold “Hap” Smith, purchased the property in the 1940s.
Zach and the Clear Meadow workers spent much of Sunday harvesting grain crops, working as the farm visitation continued. The Roses and other Harford farmers have been battling rainy weather throughout the spring and summer, and the rain has continued into the cooler months — Farm Visitation Day was postponed to Sunday from Sept. 16 because of concerns about Hurricane Florence.
“The wet weather, it’s been killing us trying to get everything done,” Zach Rose said.
He said farmers have not been able to harvest because of the muddy ground, soybeans have become moldy and premature sprouts have been seen growing from the kernels of some ears of corn.
Zach Rose did note the benefit to the public of Farm Visitation Day — he said this year is the first Clear Meadow has hosted it.
“They need to see where the food comes from, what is involved,” he said.
Farm Visitation Day has been an annual event in Harford County for at least 50 years, said Janet Archer, president of the Farm Bureau. The event helps educate a public that has become more disconnected from agriculture, so people can see what farmers do and “what we’re all about,” Archer said.
“It used to be that everybody had an uncle, an aunt, a grandfather or somebody who lived on a farm,” she said.
The Harford County Farm Bureau, like its local counterparts around the state, advocates on behalf of farmers, natural resources and agricultural communities, according to the Maryland Farm Bureau website.
Archer encouraged people to attend the Harford organization’s second annual Bull and Shrimp Roast, a fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, from 7 to 11 p.m., at Jarrettsville Gardens at 3825 Federal Hill Road, according to a flyer she provided.
Tickets are $50 per person or $450 for a group of 10; contact Megan Keyes at 410-459-4596 or email@example.com, or Paige Mullhausen at 410-322-7604 or firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets.
The next generation
County Councilman Chad Shrodes watched as his 8-year-old daughter, Maddie, sat on a hay bale on a flatbed vehicle. Chad Shrodes, who lives in Norrisville, represents northern Harford County, where much of the land remains in agricultural use.
Maddie was joined on the hay bale by her cousins, Patrick and Alayna Shrodes, ages 15 and 11, respectively, of Norrisville. All three ate Keyes Creamery ice cream, and Patrick gave some to little Curt Rose, the 1-year-old son of Zach and Rachel Rose, after Curt and his mother greeted them and she put her son on the truck, too.
Patrick, a freshman at North Harford High School in Pylesville, is in the school’s Natural Resources and Agricultural Science magnet program, and he has been helping Zach Rose on the farm recently. He and his sister and cousin, Maddie, also helped out during the farm visitation. They worked with Joyce Browning, horticulturist and master gardener coordinator with the University of Maryland Extension office in Harford County, to separate seed heads from perennials such as sunflowers. The seeds were provided to people to take home and plant to attract pollinator insects, Browning said.
“It’s fun,” Alayna Shrodes, a sixth-grader at North Harford Middle School, said of her experience. “I liked doing the sunflower seed [project].”
Chad Shrodes stressed the need for Harford County residents to support their local farmers by buying locally-raised products and for young people to understand Harford’s agricultural heritage and its importance to the present-day economy.
“[The county] can preserve all the farmland you want, but economically you have to have viable farming operations to pass on to the future generation,” he said.