They come from all over on fall weekends, drawn by the promise of finding just the right pumpkin in a muddy field. In the spring, it's the strawberries and cherries by the pound.
For generations, people from throughout the region have known what they'll take home from Baugher's Orchards in Westminster -- memories of a pleasant afternoon in the country and lots of fresh fruit and homemade baked goods.
On an average weekend, about 1,000 people visit the pick-your-own farm and market on Route 140 three miles west of Westminster, said Allan Baugher, a third-generation owner.
"It's amazing what people want to do for fun these days. We just stand back in amazement," said his wife, Marjorie.
Perhaps even better known than the farm is the family's 163-seat restaurant on West Main Street where cars line the street in front every day at lunchtime.
The Baughers are an institution, their family name familiar to Carroll County residents who have developed a taste for their quick bacon-and-egg breakfasts and buttery baked goods, the meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Customers return for the Baugher brand of homemade, which isn't the least bit fancy or fat-free.
"To me, this is one of the hubs of Carroll County," said Westminster resident Brom Watkins, who stops by the restaurant as many as four times a day.
The business has grown and diversified since its beginnings in ++ the early 1900s, but the family has stuck with fresh ingredients and friendly service.
All Baugher products carry the company logo, a cartoon character with a large red apple for a head and a smiling face. It's a symbol familiar to the 1,800 Carroll County kindergarten students who tour the farm each year as well as Washington-area residents of Persian and Russian descent who come each spring to buy hundreds of pounds of sour cherries to use in their traditional recipes.
Allan and Marjorie Baugher lead many of the school tours, which occur twice a day during the fall. On a recent tour, he drove a red 1948 International tractor pulling two wagons with about 75 children to the apple orchard where the straight rows of trees seemed to stretch to the horizon.
"Carroll County, Maryland, United States of America," Mr. Baugher said as he drove. "Isn't it great?"
On the way back, he recited a poem about autumn that he memorized in elementary school, then pulled out a harmonica to play a medley of songs, including "America the Beautiful."
"They're downright country people," said Ken Whitaker, producbuyer for the Baltimore chain of 10 Farm Fresh Supermarkets. He discovered Baugher Enterprises while on a Sunday drive 14 years ago and has stocked its fruits and vegetables since.
"All the family members have similar personalities," said Mr. Watkins, 51, who has been eating at the restaurant since he was a child. "They're personable and industrious. They help each other."
This month, customers are buying apples and picking pumpkinsAs it gets closer to Thanksgiving, they'll be clamoring for pumpkin pies, which are made without preservatives and sell for $3.95 each.
Most of the produce can be found in one dish or another at the restaurant, which opens at 7:30 a.m. most days and closes at 9 p.m.
On a weekday at lunchtime, a steady stream of men sit elbow-to-elbow at the 10 or so counter seats to talk about politics or the news of the day and tease the waitresses.
"There's a whole social atmosphere here at lunch time," Mr. Watkins said. As a salesman, he said he has made valuable business contacts over a hamburger and a bowl of vegetable soup.
Many of the waitresses have worked at the eatery so long they said they know whether a customer wants regular or decaffeinated coffee, white or wheat toast and strawberry or grape jelly with their breakfasts.
Charlotte Koontz, 62, of Westminster, said she sent her four children to college with the money she earned as a waitress at Baugher's. "They try to stick to basic recipes. That's what brings people in. It's home cooking," she said.
ZTC Allan Baugher's grandfather started the business almost 100 years ago by planting a 12-acre orchard off Route 140 near Pleasant Valley.
His parents, Romaine and Edward Baugher, planted more acres, started the bakery and in 1948, opened the restaurant. Romaine, now 83, became known as "Ma Baugher," the expert pie baker. She continues to work daily.
Today, the family farms 2,000 acres, serves as many as 8,000 meals a week and employs almost 400 people full time and part time.
About a dozen of Allan Baugher's immediate family members work full time in the business, including his wife and three of their five children. Allan's younger brother, Dan, and his family operate a 1,450-acre grain and cattle farm that provides meat for the restaurant, and sister Dottie Dunn, works in the packing house and market. In-laws, nieces and cousins too numerous to count are on the payroll.
The business also includes a small ice-cream factory, a fruit market outside the restaurant and a petting zoo. A telephone hot line lets customers know which fruits and vegetables are in season, and a 14-foot red fiberglass apple points the way to the farm on Baugher Road.
Mr. Baugher, 60, began working on the farm after finishing high school in 1953. "Whenever you set out to do something, if you do it proper and right, it's probably going to work out," he said, adding, "I've done all the work and a lot of it."
His oldest daughter, Kay Ripley, 33, said, "He's just an all-around softhearted guy. Profit is not as big of a drive as it probably could be. My dad will make business decisions from the heart.
"We're not egotistical, headstrong type of people. We let things slide if they bother us," she said.
But youngest son, Dwight, 21, is there with the dollars-and-cents view. "He's got a good business head," his father said. "I guess I'm a piddler and a dreamer."
"I butt heads with my dad a lot," Dwight Baugher said. "He's more worried about making people happy."
The younger Baugher said he'd like to move the restaurant to the Baugher Road farm and capitalize on the farm theme. He hasn't persuaded other family members it could work.