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Farm Bureau convention to feature tour

December 05, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

RINGGOLD - There are a lot of things about Misty Meadow Farms that the Herbst family would like to point out Monday, when farmers from across the state will come out for a tour.

If it's not too wet, they'll definitely take a drive up the hill, from which you can see the entire 400-acre spread, said David Herbst, who said he wants to show them the soil conservation practices he and his father, John, use on the dairy and grain farm.

If there's time, they'd like to show them the free-stall barn they built for their Holstein milking cows last year and the animal composting facility they've been experimenting with since the summer.

But they know time for the tour - part of the Maryland Farm Bureau's convention in Hagerstown - will be limited, said David Herbst, 45, who took over management of the farm from his father, 75, in 1985.

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The state group's 83rd annual meeting and convention will be held Sunday through Wednesday at the Ramada Inn Convention Center, said Maryland Farm Bureau spokeswoman Amy L. Miller.

Between 100 and 150 delegates from the 23 county farm bureaus in the state are expected to attend the convention, with close to 500 people at the banquet Tuesday night, Miller said.

Counting all the members of those local farm bureaus, the Maryland Farm Bureau has 14,100 member families across the state, she said.

The annual meeting and convention - when policy for the coming year and the agenda for lobbying in Annapolis and Washington, D.C., is set - hasn't been held in Hagerstown since 1989, Miller said.

It's the first time a farm tour has been incorporated into the itinerary, she said.

"We hope it works," Miller said.

Misty Meadow Farms was probably chosen because of the statewide recognition its owners received earlier this year, she said.

The Herbst family - consisting of John and Betty Herbst, their son and daughter-in-law David and Betsy Herbst and their four children - was named to the Governor's Agriculture Hall of Fame in Maryland, Miller said.

Created in 1991, the award is presented each year to a farm family that has been in the business for a number of years, has shown good stewardship of the land and has been active in agricultural and community organizations, she said.

The Herbst family has been farming on the same land on Ringgold Pike since John Herbst's great-grandfather migrated from Pennsylvania, he said.

John Herbst, who started for himself in 1950, said he decided in 1985 to "semi-retire," handing over the farm's management and the bills to son David and reducing his work day to about 10 hours.

David is the only farmer of three sons, he said.

He said he hopes the grandchildren will keep the farm going.

"I would like to see it stay in the family for many generations. It's hard work, but it's satisfying work. It's the most ideal place to raise a family," he said.

Misty Meadow Farms' main enterprise is dairy cows, with a variety of grains grown mainly for feed on the farm, David Herbst said.

As of Friday, there were 108 milking cows, with roughly the same amount of calves, he said.

The farm is very much a family operation, with each of the eight family members filling a role along with two full-time and one to two part-time workers, David Herbst said.

The children - ages 10, 12, 14 and 16 - all have chores, he said.

Eldest daughter, Katie, said she wants to become a large animal veterinarian, he said.

Only son Andrew, the youngest, insists he plans to follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, Betsy Herbst said.

The Herbsts are eager to show off the new 132-stall barn, built last November on an elevated spot with plenty of room to expand.

The barn, needed to accommodate a significant growth in their herd, was designed to allow the cows to pick out their own stall, to roam around inside, lay down and eat when they want, John Herbst said.

Its features include a manure storage system underneath the floor, which saves daily scraping of the barn and allows the manure to be pumped out when needed for crops, and an open design with curtain half-walls, a pitched roof and heat-pulling chimney for maximum ventilation, Herbst said.

The compost facility next to the barn was built this summer as an environmentally friendly way to dispose of animal carcasses on the farm, he said.

So far, that experiment is working well, the Herbsts said.

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