I've been in love with farming since 2008, when I started hanging out with Loran Shallenberger, a great guy and a very talented farmer who was living near the base of Sugarloaf mountain at the time. I started helping Loran, who had just begun his own farm project called North Comus Acres on a rented piece of farmland. Loran raised hogs, chickens and grew vegetables, and we became good friends. I helped Loran, alongside my daughter Amber, who was 7 or 8 at the time for the better part of 2 years. I learned a lot during our time together but what really stuck out to me was the overall sense of fulfillment that I felt when I was helping him with his farm. The sun on my face, my hands in the soil... being dirty, eating dinner after working hard; a dinner comprised of food that we grew... there was nothing in this world that I wanted more.
In the years following my work with Loran, I moved to the cozy little city of Frederick, MD, just north of where North Comus Acres was located. I started working as a server and a manager but soon began dreaming about creating a small farm to provide food directly for the restaurant. With the help of some of my best friends and the kindness of the Landau family, a wonderful group of people who offered a piece of their beautiful property in Mt. Airy for the farm project, we began work on the Nola Farm. For people who were not actually farmers, we had a pretty successful run. Our garden sat on roughly a 1/4 of an acre, on a gorgeous hillside overlooking the Landau's property. We raised a run of 29 chickens, which Amber, my daughter devoted most of her free time to, and we grew a large variety of heirloom vegetables for Cafe Nola. The three years I spent on this property, with this group of people, are some of the best years of my life and I'll hold the memories of those times close to me for the rest of my life.
I moved to Baltimore 2 years ago to start a life with my wife Sara. We live in the city and have a small garden in the backyard. Sara shares my passion for the farming lifestyle and together we really enjoy growing and preparing food. But there's been something missing from my life and that something is farming. This past summer I did some thinking about what my future holds for me. What am I to do with the rest of my life? How can I use my talents to help society? What do I believe is important and how can I lend my skills to the people around me? I decided that I want to farm. But I'm not ready to move out into the country and be far away from the flow of creative energy that a city provides. I've been paying close attention to the urban farming movement in Baltimore; I've even been volunteering my time with Slow Food Baltimore, a chapter of Slow Food - a worldwide organization that champions restaurants and farms that provide citizens with good, healthy, locally produced food. All of this has led me to the decision that I want to create a farm in Downtown Frederick.
I'm calling the project "Farm Frederick" and I'm going to get the ball rolling in the fall of 2014. I plan to start the project as an intensive 'greens' growing operation and grow on available land in the downtown Frederick area. I want to implement programs to aid neighboring communities who don't have access to healthy food, create work-based learning programs for local children and partner with downtown organizations dedicated to changing the food system for the better. This is going to be a big endeavor. I've very excited and very nervous to be pursuing something that I believe in so strongly. I plan to document the entire process through photos, videos and writings right here on this homegrown page. Sometime soon, I will launch www.farmfrederick.org which will be the farm's primary website..
More than anything, I want this farm to be something that helps the citizens of downtown Frederick by enhancing the city's food security, offering education and aid to those who need it most; as well as providing citizens with delicious, naturally grown food produced right in the downtown area. It's going to take a lot of hard work, patience and help from my community. If anyone would like to sign up to volunteer or be a part of the project, please email Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If this is your first time visiting my homegrown page, check out the photos and blog entries from my time managing the Nola Farm. I'll keep you all posted as things move forward.