Russell Baugher takes pride in a life of farming At 93, he works nearly every day HOWARD COUNTY SENIORS


Russell H. Baugher has never shopped in a grocery store, nor has he ever had a vacation, but he doesn't seem to mind.

A farmer for most of his 93 years, Mr. Baugher is used to raising crops and eating the bounty from his 34-acre farm, located on New Cut Road in Ellicott City.

"I never have been in one of those chain stores," said the farmer. "I didn't want nothing to do with that."

And vacations are something Mr. Baugher hardly thinks about.

"We never went anywhere. When we first moved here, we were poor; we had to work hard to make a living. All I ever knew was work," he said.

Although the farm and a produce stand, a local landmark, are now in the hands of his son, James, 63, and daughter-in-law, Joan, 57, the senior farmer still does his share.

During the busy harvest season, Mr. Baugher spends two to three hours every day hand-picking vegetables or fruit. He also helps spray the crops.

"After two or three hours, I'm played out," Mr. Baugher admitted.

When the winter comes, there's more time, but "always something to do," like cleaning up around the farm and cutting wood from old peach trees.

Despite the hard work, Mr. Baugher, whose 94th birthday is in November, seems content with his way of life.

Sitting in the kitchen of the farmhouse he built in 1925, with the help of a $5-a-day carpenter, Mr. Baugher recalled the years when he and his wife, Emma Charlotte, raised nine children, each of whom was born on the farm.

Having been raised on a 370-acre farm on St. Johns Lane in Ellicott City, Mr. Baugher was ready to establish his own farm when he purchased the land for $130 an acre in 1922.

He recalled when St. Johns Lane, Waterloo Road (now Route 104) and Montgomery Road were dirt paths. New Cut Road, also unpaved, was used by travelers headed to downtown Ellicott City.

"People couldn't go straight ahead on Montgomery Road; it was a mud road," Mr. Baugher said.

He also remembers county farmers buying cattle each year from a Baltimore stockyard, then herding them through Ellicott City and along Route 144 to Clarksville.

"After you got them fat for a year, you would drive them back to the stockyards," Mr. Baugher said.

In those days, before Daylight Savings Time or tractors, he would go to bed at 9 p.m. and rise at 5 a.m., spending an hour each morning before breakfast feeding and preparing the horses for work in the fields.

After 10 hours in the field, the harnesses would be removed from the horses and the animals fed.

"Now, you turn the tractor off and come in and eat," Mr. Baugher said with a chuckle.

Mr. Baugher also recalled an Ellicott City doctor who would make house calls for $2.50.

"One time we had a blizzard and several of my neighbors had the flu," Mr. Baugher said. "The doctor couldn't make it up here with his car -- the county never cleaned the roads in those days. I took my horse and sleigh and met him down the road, picked him up, and left him off at each of my sick neighbors' houses."

Over the years, the dirt roads were paved and the horses replaced by machines. Gradually, the area's rural character began to change.

"When they started to buy up land for Columbia, people couldn't get over that the farmers were selling their land," Mr. Baugher said. "One person who sold his property for $750 an acre was happy with the price until he found out about another neighbor who sold his for $1,500 per acre. People didn't know what was going on. It wasn't always fair."

Today, some 26 years later, Montgomery Road is a main thoroughfare that changes into Route 103. Housing developments have displaced farmland on both sides of the highway.

Mr. Baugher's produce stand -- located for 46 years at the intersection of Montgomery Road and New Cut Road -- is now around the corner on New Cut Road. The increase in traffic and the addition of two lanes on Montgomery Road had made it hazardous for customers trying to get to or from the stand.

Three years ago, Mr. Baugher said, developers offered him $50,000 per acre for his property. He thought about it, figured the government would get a third of the money in taxes, and decided not to sell.

"I didn't need the money," Mr. Baugher said. "Why should I let the government have it?"

Discussing this year's crop of fruits and vegetables, he talked about the work involved in growing sugar corn, a case study in the ups and downs of farming.

"We used weed killer and fertilizer, but we had no way to irrigate it," he said. The dry weather proved to be disastrous.

"We lost the whole works -- but the big harvest of peaches made up for it," Mr. Baugher said. "You can't expect all of the crops to be good."

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad