When I look for a farm for the Natural Product Expo tours, I always try to consider where we have been in the past, the interest level for participants and, of course, the size and diversity of products a farm offers. Over the years we have visited farms that range from 5 acres to 200 acres. Some have been CSAs or farmers' market-only operations and others have been full-fledged production farms. This year we will visit a farm that is as diverse as it is large.
Let's say you ride or raise horses and would like to see an operation that grows certified organic hay. We've got you covered. Perhaps you work for a cereal company but have never seen certified organic corn grow—no problem; they grow it on this farm. If you would like to know the difference between organic and genetically modified soybeans, this tour can handle that, too, because it grows certified organic soybeans as well. Small-market gardeners can see how this farm grows seasonal fruit and vegetables such as pumpkins, watermelons and cantaloupes for the local farmers' market. Need more? How does learning about a free-range egg operation or raising certified organic dairy replacement heifers sound? The farm does that, too. If you are interested in learning about ways farms can help build community, this farm hosts the Anne Arundel County 4-H Dairy Leasing Club, which provides local and urban kids a hands-on agricultural experience by leasing farm animals to them for 4-H projects. I guess what I am saying is this year's farm has something for everyone.
I know you're thinking it sounds great but you're also wondering if you want to spend half a day on a bus to see this farm. That's the other wonderful part of this year's tour: Maryland Sunrise Farm in Gambrills, Md., is only about 30 minutes out of Baltimore—a short drive down the Beltway and off of Highway 175. It's hard to believe that Maryland's largest certified organic farm (it has 854 acres in production) is that close to the city, but it's true.
That could be why Marian Fry, who owns the farm with her husband Edwin, refers to it as "an agricultural and environmental gem in the midst of suburbia."
But that's not by accident; the Frys have worked hard to turn the former Naval Academy Dairy Farm into an agricultural oasis for its suburban neighbors.
Although the farm is a full-time operation designed for production agriculture, it is dedicated to using organic farming methods to maintain a healthy environment for people and animals. It produces some of the best food you can find in the area.
When you meet Ed and Marian, you'll understand that it just makes sense for them to build upon and preserve a rich agricultural tradition. Before they became the farm's managing partners, Ed and Marian were immersed in the Maryland farming community. Both were raised on Maryland farms and chose to stay close to their roots by attending and graduating from the University of Maryland.
Talking to this farming couple gives you a glimpse of Maryland's farming past, present and future. It also provides an agricultural perspective from half a world away. Farm Manager?Petr Bocharov and his wife, Oksana Bocharova, the farm's office manager, are agricultural engineering and agronomy graduates of Russian universities.
The diversity and the opportunity to meet great people has me excited about visiting this farm. I hope you are as well. But sign up soon—we already have filled one bus and are limited to 100 people for this tour.
We have changed the tour from Saturday to Wednesday so you can start your Natural Products Expo East show in an organic way. We will leave the Expo site at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4. Then after a beautiful autumn morning farm tour, we will enjoy lunch under a shaded canopy. You'll get back to the convention center in time for the rest of the day's activities.
See you there.
Mark Mulcahy runs Organic Options, an organic education and produce consulting firm. He can be reached at 707.939.8355 or at [email protected].
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 9/p. 21