Five dynamic women are bringing a new Farmer’s Market to Garrett County. Located at Garrett College in McHenry, the market will open on May 27th with over 30 vendors with a diverse background of products and booths throughout the summer on Fridays from 3 PM – 7 PM.
I was impressed with the scope and scale what these women were planning, so I invited them to my place in Accident for an informal dinner to learn more about their collective vision. My daughter Lucy made deviled eggs, just like the ones they have at Firewater with a slice of avocado in them. I couldn’t help but think to myself how thrilled I was to have her witness these women taking control of the balance of food scarcity in our little community tucked away in the mountains. As they sat with us in our living room, detailing their high standard for product and vendors, their all female board of directors, and their vision for alleviating the food deserts in Garrett County, it clarified the idea that these women were taking control of the situation and had real solutions. They are a force to be reckoned with.
Yet when we got down to talking specifics, these women all spoke with great humility. They effortlessly complimented each other. They overflowed with positive things to say about Maureen Sheaffer, their fellow board member and charter member of the Farmers Market, who was not able to attend the gathering. They spoke of her other areas of expertise and her involvement with the local burgeoning Mountain Mamas Podcast with local renaissance woman Jessica Fike. They admitted that while Jessica is not a member of the Farmer’s Market, she did help take press photos and is an unofficial partner. They talked about the diversity of the vendors they have lined up for the opening day. They are getting late applications from jewelry, pottery, and soap vendors. There is a vendor for bee products like wax and honey. A hot tub vendor is coming as well as a hatmaker. A guy who makes homemade fishing lures, alpaca wool vendor, a hemp vendor, and a resin and wood design booth also signed up.
When asked about their individual farms, they spoke about how they had all discovered each other on Instagram and said they were surprised to find so many like-minded souls in the area who are already doing farmers markets and trying to farm. They began to run into each other at other farmers markets and began to formulate a plan to collaborate. Allison Boyd, who runs Honey Moon Farm (https://honeymoonfarmmd.com) runs a CSA and does the Cumberland Farmers Market, said she was pleased to have found her fellow farmers. Originally from Massachusetts and having moved here to farm, she said that aside from metro areas like Boston, Massachusetts is actually very similar to Maryland. In her 20s Allison moved around to various spots and met her husband in Baltimore. He was originally from Cumberland, and before they knew it, they were in Western Maryland farming. She mentioned doing a farm stand on Sang Run Road across from Mountain State Brewery and the idea evolving from there as they made further connections.
“We agreed that the market should be on the 219 corridor and these other ladies were our obvious first partners who we approached, and the idea evolved from there,” Allison said. She continued, “Another important aspect of our market is that it’s producer only. We really wanted to highlight locals making and selling their products. So there’s no reselling of other people’s products. We want to highlight people going the extra mile to use local ingredients grown on local property. We feel like we can help incubate these local businesses.”
As the evening progressed, it was clear that each member of this collective had unique ideas that meshed perfectly with the others. Alea McClintock-Donahue runs Yorkie Acres Farm and Herbal Earth Apothecary outside of Friendsville where she raises lamb and medicinal herbs. Their farm has a new focus on agri-tourism and their yurt. According to their website (www.yorkieacresfarm.com) they’re “a small, family farm offering rustic barn event rental, overnight glamping in our yurt, farm visits, pasture raised lamb and health+wellness consultations, and products.”
“My background is medical,” Alea mentioned as we began dinner. “I’m originally a nurse practitioner. One of the things I did for research on my dissertation was community programs based on diet and exercise. As I interviewed people and began to ask about their barriers to healthy eating, one of the main things that came up was the lack of access to fresh produce. So when this idea came around, it was a no brainer.”
According to Jennifer Robinson, author of The Farmers’ Market Book: Growing Food, Cultivating Community, “Farmers’ markets help maintain important social ties, linking rural and urban populations and even close neighbors or businesses in a mutually rewarding exchange.” Furthermore, “Reduced transport, storage, and refrigeration can benefit communities through lower transport storage and refrigeration energy costs.”
Haeli Gustafson, one of the charter members of the McHenry Farmers Market, whom we spoke to when we previously covered Meadow Mountain Hemp Farm (www.meadowmountainhemp.farm), spoke to this concept: “We all saw a need for this locally — to connect vendors and produce to the people. So when the idea was first brought up, it didn’t take much convincing.”
While serving in the Peace Corps in Tanzania, Gustafson, orignially from California, met Garrett County native Darryl Glotfelty. The pair shared the same desire to promote sustainable living. After their 40 months of service in Africa teaching sustainable agriculture, the couple took jobs in Washington, DC, and eventually moved to Bittinger near Darryl’s grandparents’ 100 year old farm to grow and sell hemp products.
Later during dessert, Haeli spoke to the group’s mutually rewarding exchange. “We come from diverse backgrounds. We were all employed doing other things before becoming farmers. We have an extensive skill set between all of us. We can extend that knowledge to others in the community. There’s a lot of opportunity to fill a gap, to share information and gather at one communal spot to share food and ideas.”
Julie Friend of Wildom Farms arrived a bit after the others and regaled us with the struggle to move her pigs shelter through a river of mud on her own, right before coming to dinner.
Wildom Farms is “a regenerative farm that prioritizes animal welfare, ecology, and human health,” according to her website (www.wildomfarm.com). “Simply put, we produce food that’s good for the animals, the land, and you.Our heritage breed pigs are raised in the forest where they have a diverse mix of forage, plenty of shade and cover, and room to root.” Over dinner, Julie discovered that she and our other collaborator at The Lake-Front, Michael Fratz, are cousins. Julie is originally from Beaver, PA, but she is a “Friend” and her farm on Sang Run borders Michael’s family farm and has been in her family since the 1970s. She described how she runs that farm stand with Allison after their Farm Yoga and how that led to this point. Beyond yoga they do farm tours, camping and several curated dinners at Wildom Farms.
After dessert, when the basic getting-to-know-you was over and the ideas were flowing, Julie exclaimed, “What if we had a talk on fashion in agriculture. We could have a speaker or like a class at the market on how wool fiber is sustainable and then maybe connect that to the Textiles or Alpaca Wool Vendor!” As all of her partners’ heads began nodding in unison, it was apparent that this was not the last of the innovative ideas that this crew would be trying out.
Pictured Above: McHenry Farmer’s Market Board of Directors (L to R): Allison Boyd, Julie Friend, Alea McClintock-Donahue, Maureen Sheaffer, and Haeli Gustafson.
Written by Collen DuBose