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Clear Spring's Bur Oak added to Century Farm Program

February 22, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Bur Oak Farm near Clear Spring has been in the same family since 1875. Situated along Conococheague Creek, it is the site of the state's largest bur oak tree, a stately bit of nature stretching 100 feet into the air, with a trunk circumference of more than 18 feet.

On Tuesday, Bur Oak Farm was one of 11 around the state to be honored for inclusion in the Department of Agriculture's Century Farm Program.

Established in 1994, the Century Farm Program honors families who have farmed the same land for more than 100 years.

Owners George and Marie Shinham traveled to Annapolis with their sons, Donald and David, for Tuesday's ceremony with Gov. Robert Ehrlich. It was George's great-grandfather who first purchased the farm, Marie said. Their great-granddaughter lives on the farm - the sixth generation of Shinhams to occupy the land.

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Son David, who researched the farm's history for the application, said the family had been farming just over the state line in Pennsylvania when George Adam Shinham purchased the farm from a family named Miller.

George, who celebrates his 82nd birthday Thursday, doesn't farm much anymore. But the Shinhams still care about the land - a recent project was the planting of 6,000 trees of various varieties on 13.5 acres along the Conococheague to prevent soil erosion. The "riparian buffer" is part of the Chesapeake Bay restoration program.

And agriculture is still a family affair; David Shinham has been working for the Maryland Department of Agriculture for the past 30 years, concentrating on animal health for Washington, Frederick and Montgomery counties. He's retiring in one week, he said, and while he hasn't made solid post-retirement plans - other than jury duty until March 10 - he said he'd like to continue working in agriculture.

Ehrlich praised the families honored Tuesday - three of which had been continuously farming the same land for more than 200 years - for their commitment to agriculture.

"Thank you for feeding us," Ehrlich said. "Thank you for your way of life thank you for protecting the countryside."

Since its inception in 1994, the award program has recognized 128 Maryland farms, according to Secretary of Agriculture Lewis R. Riley. Eight of those are in Washington County.

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