Local farm named to Century Farm Program

May 19, 1999

Long farmBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

WILLIAMSPORT - Lawrence Long still rises early each morning to tend to his dairy farm as he has for most of his 75 years.

Like his father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him.

Long's grandsons will be the seventh generation to farm the 162-acre property off Spielman Road - if they want it.

The Longs were one of two Washington County families honored by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening Tuesday in the Maryland Century Farm Program.

The six-year-old program recognizes farms that have stayed in the same family for at least 100 years. Three other Washington County farms have been among the 85 farms acknowledged since the program began.


Robert Cline, the other county farmer who attended Tuesday's ceremony in Annapolis, said it is increasingly difficult to pass a farm to the next generation.

Cline, 69, owns a 145-acre farm on Dam No. 4 Road that has been in his family since 1880. He leases it to a farmer who grows produce.

It used to be a dairy farm, but milk prices were too low to keep it viable, Cline said. From his own farming experience and his days selling farm equipment, he said he sees a discouraging trend.

"One of the biggest problems we have in this country is people don't appreciate where their roots and heritage come from," he said. "Even many young farm boys don't realize all the work it takes to keep a family farm together."

No statistics

Harold Kanarek, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said the state does not keep statistics on how many Maryland families have maintained farms for more than a century.

"We don't know. This is one of the ways we're finding out," he said. "We're actually finding there are more than we anticipated."

Jeff Semler, a Washington County Agricultural Extension agent, said he does not know how many farms in Washington County fit that category, but he added there are far more than those for whom applications have been submitted.

"There's probably a lot of our Mennonite farms that have been in the same family for 100 years, but they'll never apply," he said. "They don't want the recognition."

Semler said it takes quite a bit of know-how and energy to keep a family farm going generation after generation.

"It takes not only economic and business prowess, but it also takes a lot of communication," he said. "It really takes a commitment by every member of the family."

Squabbling among siblings, disinterest among children, poor estate planning and bad business decisions can wipe out a farm, Semler said.

Long DeLite Farm has faced many of those challenges over the years.

All in the family

The farm dates back to 1831 when Isaac Long Jr., Lawrence Long's great-great-grandfather, bought 560 acres. Lawrence said the family believes Isaac came to Maryland from Lancaster County, Pa.

The property was divided into three smaller farms. When Isaac died in 1854, he had been so successful that he was able to leave a farm to each of his nine children.

Lawrence Long's great-grandfather, Simon, took over the plot he now farms and sold it to his son, McClellan, who was named after the Civil War general.

Simon passed the farm to his son, Brown Long, who in turn passed it to Lawrence.

Things were not always smooth for the Longs.

Lawrence said a debt left by Isaac nearly tore the family apart. The children fought over who was responsible for the repayment, a dispute that lasted about 20 years.

Tensions ran so high that one of Isaac's sons sent a slave to burn down Simon's barn, Lawrence said.

Modern challenges

Nothing as dramatic confronts the family now. But the Longs said the farm may not make it to the seventh generation.

Galen Long, 47, who assumed control when his father, Lawrence, officially retired 10 years ago, said his two sons say they want to remain on the farm. But he said he has his doubts.

Galen said his younger son, a high school sophomore, is a straight-A student and could go to college. He said he'd like his boys to take over, but added that he also knows the pitfalls.

"I'm in a dilemma," he said.

Galen said he thought of leaving the farm himself as a boy. But then his grandfather passed away when he was 15 and his father needed help.

"If the farm was going to continue at the present level, it was dependent on me," he said.

Lawrence Long never had such doubts about his own future.

"Never saw anything I'd sooner do. If I were starting over, I think I'd do the same thing," he said.

The house where he was born and has lived his entire life was built in the 1850s along with a barn.

The original barn burned when Lawrence's great-great-grandmother borrowed fire from a neighbor and accidentally dropped a hot piece of coal from the bucket on the way back, he said.

Long's wife, Hazel, also said she never desired any other kind of life. Through 56 years of marriage, she has been with her husband every step of the way.

"I rode the binder and I drove the tractor," she said.

Hazel Long said making a farm work is hard work but not a great mystery. "You've got to like what you do. And the family's got to like it too."

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