What a joy to visit with Ross Margulies, Leah Putkammer, and Rebecca Cecere Seward on a Mentor Match farm visit last week. Ross and Leah’s farm, Working over Thyme, is located on rolling hills near the Patuxent River in Prince George’s County. Rebecca’s farm, Prickly Pear Produce, is a 40-minute drive away, in Charles County.
Ross and Leah are college educated professionals working in Washington, D.C. who found that growing food is their passion. Previously, they had taken classes, grown their own gardens, worked in community gardens and sold seedlings. They decided to begin farming through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which consists of a community of individuals who pledge to financially support a farm operation and share the risks and benefits of food production. They applied for a mentor to help them learn how to turn the joy of growing vegetables into a business.
Rebecca graduated with a liberal arts degree from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, not the usual form of training for a farmer. However, while at the college, she decided to earn some cash working at the Even’ Star Organic Farm near the campus, which runs one of the largest CSAs in the state. She rose to a “forewoman” position at the farm and found that farming was a perfect trade for her to be able to work outdoors and to promote environmental sustainability and community. Over the last 10+ years, she has worked on a number of farms. Prior to starting her own farm last year, she managed a CSA and ran an apprenticeship program at the Accokeek Foundation’s Ecosystem Farm in Accokeek Maryland. She has agreed to serve as a mentor for Ross and Leah.
However, this mentorship meeting would not have happened without the help of Yates Clagett. Yates is not a newcomer to agriculture. His family has owned and operated a farm in Prince George’s County for decades and Yates is a District Ag Engineer for the Prince George’s County Soil Conservation District. Like many farms in the state, the family farm has a tenant house. When the tenant house became available, Yates reached out to see if a young farmer might be interested. With the help of Maryland FarmLINK, Ross and Leah met with Yates who offered to lease the tenant house and a small piece of land to help them get started in farming.
Maryland needs young farmers. Ross and Leah did not grow up on a vegetable farm, but farming has become their passion. Becky is willing to share her knowledge and experiences through the Mentor Match Program, supported by the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. And farm owners like the Clagett family give young farmers a chance to succeed!