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Ernst family farm is one to admire in Washington County

August 31, 2010|By JEFF SEMLER

Drive west from Hagerstown on Broadfording Road and you will be treated to wonderful views of the farms and fields that make up the pastoral countryside. This corridor, like many back roads across our county, reminds us of our agrian roots and our agricultural heart. As you make this trek, you cross St. Paul Road and drop down a hill and around a corner which opens up to Ernst Grain and Livestock Farm sitting to your north.

This family farm was recently recognized by the Maryland Department of Agriculture for its stewardship of this farm. The award is known as the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program. To earn this award, the landowner needs to meet requirements that have been established by the Agricultural Conservation Stewardship Certification Standard having two main components: nutrient management and conservation best management practices.

The Ernst family would tell you they are not much different than their neighbors, just stewards of the land that has been entrusted to them. Their livelihood depends on healthy soil, producing bountiful crops, which are fed to healthy, content livestock.

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The current lineup running this farm is F. Carlton Ernst; his wife, Arnita; and their son, Steve, and his family. The Ernst family started farming in Washington County in 1842. The original family farm is near the corner of Mercersburg and Blairs Valley roads. Fred Ernst, Carlton's father, and his brother farmed at that location until Fred moved to the current location in 1942. The Ernsts are sort of local legends with their Poland China hogs, which they began raising in 1922.

Fred Ernst and Son raised sheep, Polled Hereford cattle, and of course, the Polands. Today, the day-to-day work is done by Steve and his four sons, who are the seventh generation of Ernsts to get their hands dirty farming. The operation produces corn, wheat, soybeans and hay as well as sheep and hogs, and yes, they still raise some Polands.

The farm consists of 333 acres owned by the family - a portion by Carlton - and other parcels owned by his sisters, Vera Mae Schultz and Betty Ann Bauer. In addition, they rent neighbor Oscar Lohman's farm, who just like his lifelong neighbors has actively implemented soil conservation measures.

Agriculture still runs deep in veins of the family members. Vera Mae is a tree farmer as well as holds a seat on the State Agriculture Preservation Board.

Additionally, Carlton and Arnita's other children, who were raised and learned their values on this farm, are scattered around the country. Stan is an agricultural marketing specialist at Ohio State University. Matt is a pastor and writes and edits scientific papers in Missouri. The youngest, Susie, is a fulltime mom in Colver, Pa. Between the four siblings, they have eight sons and one daughter.

In addition to his on farm responsibilities, Steve is a crop consultant with Martin's Elevator. So you have heard it before and many farm families are proof, a farm is a great place to raise children. They certainly learn values, not the least of which is a work ethic.

So whether it is the Ernst family or any of the hundreds of families that till the soil, thank them for caring for their land and producing our food. And remember the words of President Dwight Eisenhower, "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the cornfield."

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at jsemler@umd.edu">jsemler@umd.edu

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