Farm visit day to show agriculture flourishing


Where corn and wheat once grew, townhouses and condos have sprouted. Rolling green fields are now bisected by blacktop, and wooded areas are laid bare by bulldozers. Harford County's landscape is changing rapidly. In the past 100 years, farmland acreage has been cut by more than half, from 229,000 acres to about 97,000 acres today. Some of the remaining farms in the county are surrounded by residential developments.

But farming is alive and well in Harford, even though the county's population has tripled in the past 30 years. Agriculture is a major industry in Harford -- there are 695 farming enterprises in the county, producing more than $24 million in sales.

To educate Harford residents about the county's agricultural heritage, Harford County Farm Visitation Day will be June 25 at five agricultural businesses throughout the county. From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., residents can visit two produce farms, a winery, a dairy and crop farm and a horseback-riding academy.

Harford is one of the last counties in the state to offer a visitation day, said county Extension Agent Robert Halman. He believes that the visitation day is especially important here.

"Because we are getting an awful lot of people in the county with an urban or suburban background, it is important to show them where their food comes from," he said.

Farmers are producing goods that are geared to a more urban population, including fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, cut flowers, honey, sod and nursery plants. Corn grain is the most heavily produced traditional crop in the county, followed by soybeans, wheat and barley. Although education is the primary aim of Farm Visitation Day, fun will also be a big part of the day's activities. There will be hayrides, tours, refreshments and displays at many of the locations.

Here are the five sites that will be open to the public:

* Mount Felix Farm, off Level Road in Havre de Grace, is a modern dairy and crop farm. Residents can see the milking operation, as well as calves, cows and field crops. The milking herd is made up of 88 Holsteins. The milk is processed for butter, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products. To reach the farm, take Route 155 east out of Havre de Grace. Mount Felix is the first farm on the left before crossing Interstate 95.

* Mount Pleasant Orchards off Chapel Road in Havre de Grace includes 300 acres devoted to strawberries, blackberries, peaches, pears, apples, sweet corn, tomatoes, melons, peppers, eggplant, squash, pumpkins and gourds. Visitors can pick their own produce. From Route 40 in Havre de Grace, head north on Ohio Street, turn left on Ontario Street and continue out of the city, where it becomes Chapel Road. There will be a farm sign on the left.

* Betty's Rest Saddlery and Riding Academy, also on Chapel Road in Havre de Grace, specializes in serving the English rider and covers the disciplines of stadium jumping, dressage, pleasure riding and eventing. Fifteen horses live at Betty's Rest, ranging from Mollie, a 5-year-old Shetland pony, to Scribbles, a -- 23-year old paint mare.

* Lorh's Orchard on Snake Lane near Churchville produces peaches, apples, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, green beans and pumpkins for pick-your-own sales. Fresh cider, from an on-site cider mill, is also produced, but not during the summer months. The farm is about 1.5 miles east of Churchville off Route 22.

* Fiore Winery on Whiteford Road in Pylesville is dedicated to producing premium wines. There are 10 varieties of grapes, including several experimental varieties not widely grown in the East. The winery produces 7,000 gallons of wine annually, including 12 different types. Take Route 24 north, turn right onto Route 136 (Whiteford Road). The winery is about one mile on the right at the top of a hill.

Copies of a brochure highlighting the five businesses are available at all branches of the Harford County Library, or by calling the Economic Development Office (638-3059) or the Cooperative Extension Service (638-3255).

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