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Harford County Farms
Agriculture has always been essential
to the traditions and character of
Harford County the rich soils,
abundant streams and gentle hills
have provided grain and tobacco
fields, horse and dairy farms, and
vegetable crops. Today, there are
approximately 700 working farms
in the county. Half are the more
"traditional size" farms of over 50
acres, while the other half are
"farmettes" under 50 acres in size.
According to Ben Lloyd, Harford
County Agriculture, there are
approximately 75,000 acres of
farmland, 46,000 of which have
been permanently preserved through
county or state programs.
For many of us, exposure to Harford County
farms and Harford County farmers is limited
to relaxing drives through the northern part
of the county or visits to the Farmers'
Markets, held in Bel Air, Havre de Grace
and Edgewood from April through October
each year. The markets provide fresh,
seasonal, local produce, along with meats,
dairy products, breads, plants, and cut flowers.
Local produce is also available at a number
of farms and farms stands:
Wilson's Farm
Market, Brad's Produce, Sunny Hill Farm,
Harman's Farm Market, Hopkins Produce,
Lohr's Orchards and Applewood Farm.
We'd be mistaken in thinking that the
farmers are merely bucolic rustics, enjoying
the open air, letting nature do the work of
growing crops.
These farms support approximately 2,000
full-time jobs in Harford County and
part-time or seasonal employment for
another estimated 3,000. That means that
Harford County farming, taken as a whole,
is the second largest private sector employee
in the county, right behind
Chesapeake Health Systems. In fact, a
recent independent study for Harford
County Government puts the economic
impact on the county's economy from
agriculture at $139 million. Hardly `small
Harford County farmers see themselves as
business owners managing their acreage,
coordinating and marketing their products,
supervising staff and balancing budgets.
Janelle Vane
(Wilson's Farm Market) told
us, "We meet all the payroll taxes, workman's
compensation premiums, unemployment
taxes and everything else that any other
business has to. We keep track of hours,
vacations, sick days just like any other
employer. And we're doing it 7 days a week!"
In the winter months, farmers catch up on
paperwork, and plan the next year's crops.
According to Brad Milton, "We listen to the
consumers, and try new produce. Last year
we introduced edamame and found that our
customers really liked them. Next year
we'll plant more . . . We give recipes on our
website for how to use different vegetables,
so people can try new flavors."
In addition to selling produce at farm stands
and markets, farmers are partnering with
local restaurants, like
Pairings Bistro in Bel
Air and
Laurrapin Grille in Havre de Grace;
a number of the public schools serve seasonal
local produce for school lunches and
breakfasts, helping to build more awareness
of the importance of Keeping it Local.
Supporting sustainable local agriculture
maintains this tried and true component
of our local heritage and the culture of
Harford County.
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