My career in agriculture began at age 14 with a job at Homestead Farm, in nearby
Poolesville, Maryland. Over the following decade, I did everything from bail hay
to pick sweet corn and tend the pigs on Benoni Allnutt’s 230-acre spread—an
experience that left me eager and determined to one day operate my own farm.
My primary interest in farming, which was forged early in my Homestead
employment, has remained intact to this day: quite simply, I believe that eating
locally grown food is more healthy for both humans and the environment.
This philosophy is of course widely shared, and has become even more prominent
as our collective attention has increasingly turned to community-supported
agriculture, farmers’ markets, natural-food co-ops, and other components of the
local-food movement. But at the same time, I’ve watched with dismay as one farm
after another in the northern reaches of Montgomery County have been razed for
development—a trend that has regrettably altered the very soul of the
once-pristine and wildlife-friendly upcounty. As local farmland is given over to
subdivisions and five-acre home plots, the process by which food find its way to
our tables becomes, for many, increasingly mysterious.
Good Life Farm is a small—yet hopefully effective—foil against that
ever-encroaching sprawl, which now presses in on all sides of our 40 acres.
We have been farming this land since 1995, although we only ramped up production
for direct-to-the-public sale in the spring of 2008. Over that time, my wife
Laura and I—along with our three children—have better learned the ins and outs
of growing reliable, great-tasting crops.
And Good Life Farm is certainly an ideal place to do that, thanks to our unique
soil: unlike surrounding farms, whose land is largely a mixture of sand and
hard, red clay, we plant our crops in soil upon which chestnut trees once grew
in great abundance. As the chestnuts fell to the earth each autumn, the land was
richly fertilized with carbon, nitrogen, and minerals. By the time those trees
died off, in the early 20th century, a rich loam was left beneath them.
It is in this soil that each year we plant a changing variety of fruits,
vegetables, herbs, and flowers. That mix always includes the reliable local
favorites: sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelons, and cucumbers, for example. But I
also like to experiment with entirely new crops or new varieties of the popular
standbys. I pore over seed catalogs and talk to peers in my search for crops
that may grow well in this environment. I’ll sometimes even accommodate a
regular client by planting seeds he or she has brought home from afar.
I also have a keen interest in chickens and miniature horses, and utilize them
in my farming practices. I believe in biodiversity, and so one-half of our
acreage is in agricultural production and the rest remains old-growth oak
forest. Finally, I enjoy educating the public about farming and locally grown
produce. To that end, we open our farm to school trips and give individual tours
to all who are interested. So give a call, then drive up our rocky, quarter-mile
road for a look around. There’s plenty to see, and I’m always glad to show it