Field trip: Farms open doors to visitors

CHARLES TOWN – Jane Tabb says she helped organize the first Jefferson County Farm Day 13 years ago because so many in our area don’t know as much about the local agriculture scene as they’d like to.

“I think people are curious about how farms work, and they can’t just walk on to farms and ask the farmers what they are doing,” said Tabb, a farmer herself and a member of the Jefferson County Commission. “The tour gives them that chance.”

Pam Miller of Miller Farms is looking forward to Saturday’s Jefferson County Farm Day.

Pam Miller of Miller Farms is looking forward
to Saturday’s Jefferson County Farm Day.

Saturday’s self-guided tour of four farms in Kearneysville, Shepherdstown and Charles Town is free, said Tabb, whose family has lived and farmed in Jefferson County since 1872.

“You have to be good neighbors,” said Tabb, noting Jefferson is home to 570 farms and one of West Virginia’s most productive agricultural communities. “Sometimes cattle get out, and farmers can’t be spreading manure when their neighbors are having Fourth of July picnics.

“Farmers and their neighbors need to understand each other.”

This year, visitors can get an up-close look at four farms:

  • Jim and Pam established Miller Farms in 1980 at 4120 Bower Road in Kearneysville. Today, they sell kale, collards and other greens as well as other produce they grow. Eggs from the family’s 50 chickens are also top sellers. Their daughter Cheryl Miller, who during the school year works as a Opportunity Learning Center teacher in Charles Town, greets customers from a stand at the end of their driveway along with her parents and Jim Miller’s 88-year-old mother, Dorothy Miller. Now that school’s out, the Millers’ farm stand is open seven days a week. The Millers take a natural approach to growing healthful food, though they have no interest in going through the rigmarole necessary to earn an official “organic” designation. “We make our compost and use it as fertilizer – and we don’t use any spray,” Pam Miller said. He grew up on a farm in Shepherdstown and expanded his garden after retiring from DuPont in Falling Waters 20 years ago. The Millers also board horses and offer riding instruction.
  • Irvin King owns Drilake Farm at 348 Smith Road in Charles Town. It’s the second time on the tour for King, whose 1,015-acre farm grows corn, soybeans, wheat, rye and hay. “I find most people don’t have a clue about farming,” said King, who has been farming more than 50 years. “They just aren’t familiar with it.” King said he worries about the future for farmers. “I’m 74 years old and can still work 15 hours a day,” he said. “A lot of people don’t want to do that.”
  • William Marshall owns Mars Hall Farm at 36 Vanderveer Lane in Shepherdstown, where a 72-foot-high tunnel allows him to grow year-round. Besides herbs, vegetables from eggplants and radishes to broccoli and cauliflower, Marshall also keeps bees for honey and hens for eggs. He sells directly from his farm seven days a week.
  • Joseph Ware founded Green Horizons Turf Farm in 2002. He produces turf grass sod on 400 acres on Darke Lane in Kearneysville and will offer demonstrations of his sod harvester.  Saturday will be Ware’s second time on the tour.

The Jefferson County Farm Bureau sponsors the tour along with Potomac Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Council, the Small Business Development Center of the Panhandle and West Virginia University’s Jefferson County Extension Service.

For more information, contact Tabb (304-725-4325 or Vinemont@frontiernet.net). Find driving directions and other information at JeffersonFarms.org.

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