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Festival at Farmer Tom's Aims to Keep Farmers Farming

Saturday's Farm Fest, put on by 1000 Friends of Maryland, will include games, music and lots of farm-fresh treats. The organization aims to keep Maryland's farmers farming.

Chances are you’ve heard the name. You’ve probably even seen their roadside produce stand on the street. But, in all likelihood, you have no idea where is located and what the place is all about.

Come Saturday, all that should change.

The farm on Cockeys Mill Road in Reisterstown, which has been owned and operated by the Reynolds family for almost 60 years, is hosting the second annual from 1-6 p.m. The fall festival is is put on by 1000 Friends of Maryland, a group intent on keeping independent local farmers in business by raising awareness of a service that communuties often take for granted these days.

The event features a stocked lineup of live music, food and drinks from about a dozen local vendors and activities like pumpkin picking, hay riding and even a petting zoo. Most importantly, people who attend will meet a hardworking group of individuals who struggle to stay financially afloat.

“I have to be supported by the community or I’m not going to last. All small farms do,” said farm owner Tom Reynolds, who jumped at the opportunity to host the event. “We can’t physically or economically compete with the guy that’s growing the corn on the Eastern Shore or in Carroll County where he’s got a 100-acre field, and we have two- and five-acre fields.”

Reynolds also hopes that by attending the event and meeting the farmers themselves, people will learn that the average farmer isn’t some uneducated man in dirty coveralls, but instead an intelligent, jack-of-all trades that has to juggle being a mechanic, an agronomist and an accountant all at the same time.

“It’s unbelievable what we have to do to survive as farmers,” Reynolds said.

That also includes dealing with the unpredictability of mother nature, which dealt local farmers a losing hand this summer with intense, dry heat swiftly followed by the punishing rains of Hurricane Irene.

Combine that with the reality that many farmers across the state are being forced to sell their lands to developers as a result of their struggles, and you get a dying breed of individuals pegged with the responsibility of stocking people's refrigerators and pantries—even if they don’t realize it.

Maryland is on pace to lose another 226,000 acres of farm land by the year 2035, according to 1000 Friends director of rural lands Kelly Carneal.

While Carneal hopes that Saturday’s festival will be educational and eye-opening for those who attend, she also knows people will have fun learning what farming is all about.

“We definitely don’t get up on the stage and have speeches going or anything, but it is informative and we try to make it interactive,” she said.  

Part of the fun will be the listening pleasure offered up by four different musical acts, who are volunteering their tunes to support the farmers.

Talk to Smooth Kentucky's bass player, Dave Frieman, and it's evident that Farm Fest isn’t just any old gig.

“Patronizing local keeps everything local,” said Frieman, whose band played at last year’s inaugural event as well. “If I can get fresh food instead of worrying about how much I have to wash it or where it came from or what chemicals are on it, I’m going to.”

Still, Reynolds is well aware that it’s going to take an entire community with Frieman’s attitude to continue doing what he loves to do. And that’s the message he’s going to convey at Saturday’s Farm Fest.

“Eat local. Support your farmer,” Reynolds said. “If you want good, honest produce and meats coming off a farm that you know, you have to support that farm.”

“It’s not so much going to a farmer’s market and supporting somebody that drove in from Pennsylvania. You have to support the guy that’s your neighbor, trying to survive in your community. That’s my message, otherwise I go away.”

Jennifer October 06, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Agree with Gus....poor planning....
Dru Schmidt-Perkins October 06, 2011 at 01:52 PM
We are very sorry about this event landing on such an important day. We did our best to find another day and could not. Dru Schmidt-Perkins, 1000 Friend of Maryland
Lloyd Lachow October 06, 2011 at 03:00 PM
This is not the first time events in Reisterstown were scheduled on this holiday. Let's hope it's the last one. Can anyone imagine an event scheduled for Christmas or Easter because "We did our best to find another day and could not?" Me neither.
Lloyd Lachow October 06, 2011 at 05:19 PM
I completely agree with the previous comment: let's be careful to schedule such an important event when the entire community can participate! Thank you for that excellent insight, Ms. Innis. And thanks to Farmer Tom, and all local farmers!
ZIG October 12, 2011 at 02:41 PM
Wanted to go, but could not, Yom kippur.

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