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Feeling at home on farms in Maryland

by Makhosazana Sika
Makhosazana Sika
Makhosazana is embarking on a career in soil science. She hopes to make meaningf
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on Aug 26 in Reflection 0 Comment

I grew up in Soweto, a township in the big city of gold - Johannesburg, and yet I have found another home in being in the countryside. I have spent the past few years studying in Stellenbosch, the heart of the South African wine lands. It is this environment and many encounters in Stellenbosch and the Western Cape Province (as I have experienced them) that have grown me in great devotion towards farming, and in particular agriculture.

 

While in Washington D.C., I had the opportunity to visit two family-owned farms in Montgomery County, Maryland. Thamsanqa, Tembanin, my SAWIP teammate, invited me to join him and Michele Rivard, his internship supervisor from the United States African Development Foundation (USADF).

 

We first visited Homestead Farm, a pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farm owned by the Allnutt family who have been farming on the land since 1763. Although we arrived unannounced, we were warmly received by the family. Ben Allnutt, the farm manager, took us on a tour of the farm. I felt at home enquiring about the soils, irrigation systems and general agricultural practices. On the day of our visit, we handpicked blackberries and yellow and white peaches as they were in season.

 

 

Our welcome into Homestead Farm on a scorching Saturday morning

 

 

Listening to Ben explain his irrigation system

 

 

Fresh from the cob. Definitely the sweetest sweet corn I had ever tasted

 

 

Blackberries for sale

 

The second farm we visited was a dairy farm called South Mountain Creamery. It is owned by the Sowers' family and they have been on the farm since 1981. In addition to the eventful day-to-day dairy farming activities, the farm prides itself in producing, processing and distributing operations. Since 2001, their farming business has grown into South Mountain Creamery being Maryland's first on-site milk processing plant. Today, they not only rear dairy cows, process and bottle milk, but they also deliver milk (and other dairy products) directly to homes in Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Concerning the future of the farm, the Sowers' believe in being a self-sustainable company. Among the many projects, they are working on installing a bio-diesel (conversion of soybeans to bio-fuel) plant.

 

 

A South Mountain Creamery delivery truck

 

 

Karen showing us the cowshed

 

 

Thamsanqa getting ready to feed the calves

 

 

Most of the calves were tyrants when we fed them. Thankfully, this little fellow was pleasant

 

I found both farm visits refreshing. I think that Homestead Farm's business model is a novel way of getting people to appreciate the source of their food. Although I understand that our South African agricultural is different, the idea of visiting a farm to pick my own fruit and vegetables is delightful. I was also inspired by the story of how the Sowers' started, grew, keep learning and sharing. I am impressed to see their tireless efforts also being harnessed into green energy. I believe that there is a promising future in adopting modern technologies in agriculture.

 

Thamsanqa and I with Ben Allnutt at Homestead Farm

 

Michele, Karen Sowers, Thamsanqa and I at South Mountain Creamery

 

I give thanks to Ben Allnut of Homestead Farm and Karen Sowers of South Mountain Creamery for allowing Michele, Thamsanqa and I to feel and be at home on their farms. It was a great pleasure.

 

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About the author

Makhosazana Sika

Makhosazana is embarking on a career in soil science. She hopes to make meaningful contributions in food security through agriculture and rural development. She also has a keen passion for environmental management with particular focus on soil rehabilitation. She enjoys music, board games and spending time in the kitchen. Her interests include running, writing haiku poems, and reading novels by African authors.

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