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Farming is our 'family heritage'

Maryland salutes Cearfoss-area farm, two others in Frederick County

Maryland salutes Cearfoss-area farm, two others in Frederick County

March 07, 2006|by ARNOLD S. PLATOU

Three area farm families are among the 11 farms Maryland honored recently by designating their lands as Century Farms.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich, in ceremonies in Annapolis, recognized the families for their commitment to farming and leadership in preserving agricultural land. Each of the families has farmed the same ground for more than 100 years.

"Maryland's farmers are the backbone of our economy," Ehrlich said. "The Century Farm families we honor today have played a significant role in making agriculture the leading industry in Maryland."

Lewis Riley, state secretary of agriculture, said the best agricultural preservation program "is an economically healthy agriculture industry."

He said farming has been the basis of the nation's economy for hundreds of years. "The farm families we honor today are stewards of the land who have maintained family traditions and a continuity of agriculture important to our communities and our economy."

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Honored from Washington and Frederick counties are:

Bur Oak Farm, a 91-acre farm near Cearfoss. The farm is owned by George Fiery Shinham and his wife, Doris Marie. The property was purchased by George's great grandfather in 1875 and has produced a variety of crops and livestock over the years. The farm is home to the largest Bur Oak Tree listed in the Maryland Department of Natural Resource's records.

Glad-Ray Farm, a 164-acre dairy farm near Emmitsburg, Md. The farm, operated now by James T. and Sharon L. Keilholtz, was purchased in 1901 by cousins of the current owners, Charles E. and Clara Keilholtz, and has always been a crop and dairy farm. The original house and barn, built in 1900, are still used.

Venture & Luck Farm, a 297-acre crop and dairy operation in Frederick County. The farm is owned by David and Barbara Crum. The farm produces corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and alfalfa, and was purchased in 1891 by David's great great grandfather, Solomon Crum.

Having Bur Oak named one of Maryland's Century Farms "means a lot to me," said C. David Shinham, 55, whose parents own the farm. "It's our family heritage and our family history there."

Shinham, who retired recently after 30 years of working as a livestock inspector in the state agriculture department's animal health section, said his grandfather was the last Shinham to actually farm all of the acreage.

"My grandfather raised grains and he bought feeder steers. He'd raise them until they could be sold at market for slaughter purposes."

Since his own father bought the land, it has been rented out to another farmer.

The farm is off Fairview Road between Shinham Road, also known as Md. 494, and the Conococheague Creek.

Along the creek, which lays like a backwards C bordering much of the farm, the Shinhams have planted nearly 6,000 trees to maintain an environmental buffer between the farmland and the waterway. The buffer "keeps the nutrients and silt from making its way to the creek, and it provides cover for wildlife," Shinham said.

Keeping all of the farm in agriculture is of paramount importance, but Washington County's economic growth is making that more difficult, he said.

"You understand the economics of what we're talking about. The current real estate values that's creeping into Washington County."

Shinham said he hopes he, his brother and their two sisters, who all stand together to inherit the farm, will be able to form a partnership to keep it away from developers - unlike what happened recently to his grandfather's uncle's farm. A housing development is being built on it now, he said.

"I just hope that we could keep ours in the family as many more years as we can. ...To the Shinham family, agriculture was, is and continues to be important.

"I enjoy it. There's nothing more rewarding to me than to get out there in a couple of weeks, get your hands dirty and watch things grow. I mean to me, I just love that," he said.

As part of its recognition of the Shinhams' long achievement, Maryland gave the family a Century Farm plaque, Shinham said.

He said his family hopes, eventually, to incorporate the plaque into a sign "so people driving by can say, 'Well, hey! There's a Maryland Century Farm!'"

James Keilholtz is just as proud of the state's recognition of his family's farm near Emmitsburg.

Keilholtz, who said he has been farming there all his life, said he and his wife, Sharon, took control of the operation in 1983 when his father died. He said they are milking 65 cows there now.

The Crums couldn't be reached for comment.

Other Maryland farms honored include three that have been in the same family for more than 200 years. These are: the David L. and Nancy L. Greene Farm in Baltimore County; Friendship Farm in Harford County; and Four In One Farm in Somerset County.

The other farms are: Meadow Lane Farms in Caroline County; Thawley Farm in Caroline County; Ch-Lo-Ma Farms in Garrett County; Grubby Neck Farm in Talbot County; and Dunmore Heath Farm in Talbot County.

Since 1994, when the Century Farm program began, 128 farms have been honored. That's about one percent of the state's 12,100 farms, which average about 169 acres. In all, they earn a gross annual income of $2 billion, the state Department of Agriculture said.

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