The concept was simple...

The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) asked a group of beginning farmers to talk about the joys and challenges they faced (and continue to face) while gaining a foothold as a farmer today. Their backgrounds are varied: retirees exploring a new calling, middle-aged workers crossing over from former careers, young entrepreneurs building their first business. All were participants in Maryland FarmLINK's Mentor Match Program who generously agreed to share their stories in hopes that their experiences will be useful to others just beginning the journey.

Stories by Whitney Pipkin, Conni Leigh James and Priscilla Wentworth
Photography by Conni Leigh James

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Cultivating hope, one stem at a time

After a year of plowing through red tape, Walker Marsh's flower farm finally blooms In this Broadway East neighborhood in Baltimore, July heat bakes off abandoned buildings, boarded windows and broken glass. But on the corner of North Gay and Washington, an oasis of green is emerging, transforming a ... [read more]

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Working Over Thyme on a starter farm

Couple's farming adventure begins with too many seedlings, not enough space

Several years ago, Ross Margulies and Leah Puttkammer were searching for better quality—and better tasting—food. After a bit of research, they bought dozens of packs of heirloom seeds and started them all in a small room .... [read more]

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A creative use of suburban land

Jason James' "opportunist" spirit takes local to a whole new level

This two-story colonial looks much like many houses in Cockeysville, complete with old-growth trees, arched gravel drive and tow-headed toddlers romping on the lawn with the family dog. But around back, the view takes a decidedly rural twist ... [read more]

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Ditching the desk for an outdoor day job

Conner Self balances size/scale to make this market farm profitable

At age 21, Conner Self left the University of San Diego with a degree in International Studies and the clear knowledge that he preferred digging potatoes to desk work, flower bulbs to fluorescent bulbs, and the East Coast's cycle of ... [read more]

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A vocational farm grows from the ground up

Langton Green Community Farm provides workers with a place to thrive When asked if he considers himself a farmer, John laquinta pauses, then answers with a laugh, “I like to, on a good day, yes.” Farming is the most recent addition to laquinta's job description. He is mentor, trainer and friend to the residents of Langton ... [read more]
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Bringing value to vacant lots in Baltimore City

Building healthy soils benefits the community and the environment There was no farm infrastructure in place when Civic Works first took over this 1.5-acre site in Baltimore’s Pearlman Place neighborhood. Civic Works, a nonprofit offering job training, skills development and community service ... [read more]

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‘I’ve had a lot of mentors’

A trainer of farmers herself, Cathy Tipper is getting her own lessons on farming

Sporting overalls, farm boots and a braid, Cathy Tipper rinses a cluster of bright-green sorrel just picked from the field on a morning in early August. “I’m so excited about this sorrel,” she says of the lettuce that is prized by restaurants and... [read more]

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Getting the benefits out of full-time farming

Upper Marlboro farmer building a business that lets her take breaks

A former D.C. community organizer, Kristin Carbone left the city a decade ago to pursue the dream that every urbanite with a garden plot talks about while weeding after work: becoming a full-time farmer. [read more]

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Comforting camp food, straight from the farm

Pecometh Camp benefits from farm-oriented chef who grows his own produce

Nestled on the Eastern Shore of the Chester River, Pecometh Camp & Retreat Ministries has all the trappings of a summer day camp and adult retreat center, from bunk beds and splash pads to bucolic views... [read more]

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Growing food in suburbia

Moon Valley Farm sprouts in backyards, along roads

“It doesn’t look like a farm,” Emma Jagoz says when giving directions to the home base where she grows food for 85 people and a dozen restaurants in Cockeysville, Md., “It looks like a suburban house, but you’re in the right place.”... [read more]

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Hitting the ground growing

Upper Marlboro farmer makes the most of last-minute farmland find

On a searing August afternoon, garlic hangs to dry from the rafters of a barn loft and cherry tomatoes dehydrate in the sun at Primaterra Farm in Brandywine, Md. Inside the house’s small kitchen, extra tomatoes are becoming sauce on the stove and herbs hanging from twine are... [read more]

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Growing grass and birds

Navy family puts down roots, chickens in St. Mary’s County


Since starting a pastured meats business with his dad three years ago, Jackson Webb has learned plenty about licenses, lawns and how chickens think. “This one, she’ll come up and yell at you, " he says of a laying hen that’s making a ruckus at his feet during... [read more]

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Cashing in on Maryland’s vice du jour

Fourth generation on PG County farm turns tobacco lands into vineyard
 
It’s been two generations since Janie Vogt’s front yard in Brandywine, Md., has produced anything but grass, but it’s always been a farm to her. She remembers when her grandfather, Oscar Townshend, grew tobacco on this property, which measured 270 acres before parts of it were sold... [read more]

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Making the switch

Twin-run family farm eases into selling locally

Farmland has been in the Radanovich family for almost 70 years, but they didn’t think about using it to grow food for a local audience — and a business that could replace their day jobs — until a couple years ago. But when the lines for their roadside sweet corn stand started blocking traffic on the country roads, they decided ... [read more]