The fall season has officially arrived bringing with it pumpkins, scarecrow-making and Howard County's annual Farm-City Celebration. Started 13 years ago as a way to showcase farmers and how farms work, Farm-City is a group effort that brings together county government agencies, the public school system, Howard County Library System and local farmers.
"We try to include as many people as we can," said Kathy Johnson, agriculture development manager for Howard County Economic Development Authority. "We do quite a few events over Farm to City. It is a great way to introduce neighbors to what happens on a farm and how farmers work."
The event officially kicked off Sept. 17 and will run through Oct. 2. Each of the 16 days features something that relates to farming – whether a butter-making event for ages 2 to 5 at the Glenwood Branch library on Sept. 22 and 29, or a fermenting/pickling class by the University of Maryland Extension-Howard County on Sept. 30.
"I think it is a great event," said Martha Clark, owner of Clark's Elioak Farm in Ellicott City. "It's a way to highlight the connection between farms and suburban and city neighbors."
"I think all the local farmers try to support Howard County," said Cheryl Nodar, farm manager at Sharp's at Waterford Farm in Brookeville. "There is a camaraderie among all the farms in Howard County."
An average of 40,000 people attend the different Farm-City events, according to Johnson, though that number is a rough estimate. As co-chair of this year's Farm-City event, Clark, who was also the event's very first chairwoman, believes it has grown over the years, both in activities planned around the county and in attendance.
"More people know about it and more activities are identified as Farm-City events," said Clark, who is excited that Forrest Pritchard, author of "Growing Tomorrow: A Farm-to-Table Journey in Photos and Recipes," will talk at the Miller Branch library on Oct. 1 as part of this year's activities.
"His book is just fascinating. It makes you want to go out and start growing fruit," Christie Lassen, director of public relations for Howard County Library System, said of Pritchard. "We anticipate a large crowd."
The library system has been a part of the Fall-City Celebration since its start, offering farm-themed story times and classes for youth, as well as programs for adults, from how to raise chickens in your backyard on Sept. 26 at the Glenwood Branch library, to various sessions with a master gardener, Lassen said. Several branches also host a farmers' market throughout the year, too, she said.
"Given Howard County's rural roots, it makes sense there are so many wonderful farms," Lassen said. "People want to know where their food is coming from."
At Sharp's, visitors will see a "true, working farm," according to Nodar. A popular Fall-City event held every year at Sharp's is the Iron Bridge Hounds, which features horses, riders and 50 to 60 hounds, that will be held on Oct. 1.
"It is something you don't see every day," Nodar said, of the hounds and riders riding over the hills. "They stop and the dogs love the attention and everyone gets their pictures with the riders. Then they blow the horn, all the dogs get in place and off they ride. It is a cool sight."
Sharp's also offers hayrides to a pick-your-own pumpkin patch as well as face painting, scarecrow-making, an educational corn maze and more on Sept. 24 and 25 and on Oct. 1 and 2.
Clark's Elioak Farm opened its pumpkin patch on Sept. 17 as part of its Farm-City festivities, Clark said. A pumpkin coloring and craft activities weekend is planned for Sept. 24 and 25, while a teddy bear farm visit is planned for Oct. 1 and 2. The pumpkin patch, petting farm and Enchanted Pine Tree Forest will be open throughout the week and while there will be plenty of pumpkins available for fall decorations and carving, Clark hopes people will remember that pumpkins can also be eaten.
"We need to think of pumpkins as a food source, especially the little, smaller ones," Clark said. "We always have a lot at the end of the season. I can them and freeze them and make pumpkin soup. It's delicious and really healthy."
A four-course farm to table dinner will take place on Sept. 27 at Circle D Farm. Hosted by Howard County Farm Bureau, the dinner — which is $80 a person — will be prepared by three restaurants using locally grown food, Johnson said. The evening will also feature County Executive Alan Kittleman and Howie Feaga, Howard County Farm Bureau President, as guest speakers.
"It will show people where food comes from and how to use local food to cook delicious meals," Johnson said.
Howard County Conservancy traditionally holds its Fall Festival in conjunction with Farm-City events, said Meg Boyd, executive director of HCC. With a historic farm house on its grounds, the festival, which will be on Oct. 2, features traditional craftsmen's stations including chair caning, basket weaving and wood turning, as well as pumpkin decorating and hayrides. The historic farm house will also be open for the public to tour and the HCC's animals, including alpacas, Pygmy goats, chickens, snakes and owls will also be around.
"We have something for everyone," Boyd said, of the festival. "It's a lot of fun."
The conservancy also does programs with the library system, according to Lassen, including a discussion on owls that will feature two of the conservancy's owls in October.
"It is a full two weeks," Johnson said, of the Farm-City celebration. "It is an opportunity to showcase what our farms do and just enjoy the different produce."
Howard County Farm-City Celebration continues through Oct. 2 at various locations. For a full calendar of events, go to hceda.org.
The following farms will feature Farm-City events:
Clark's Elioak Farm, 10500 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, will have its petting farm, pumpkin patch and Enchanted Pine Tree Forest open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 410-730-4049 or clarklandfarm.com
Larriland Farms, 2415 Woodbine Road, Woodbine, will have pick your own apples, vegetables and pumpkins from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily. 301-854-6110 or pickyourown.com
Sharp's at Waterford Farm, 4003 Jennings Chapel Road, Brookeville, will have free hayrides and pick your own pumpkins on weekends beginning Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 410-489-2572 or sharpfarm.com