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Englands power on through diversity
By CARYL VELISEK
MT. AIRY, Md. (June 17, 2014) — Both raised in agriculture, Jeff and Judy England came to their farm, England Acres, after they married in 1985 and started a dairy farm.
“We milked an average of 120 cows until 1996,” said Jeff who was farming with an uncle before marrying Judy. “We enjoyed the dairy and have no regrets but when the bottom fell out of the market, we sold out.”
They spent the next year not certain what to do to keep the farm going, he said.
“We raised custom dairy heifers for a farm in Florida for a while,” Jeff said, “and leased to a Red Angus breeder for a time.
“We got started in the beef business for ourselves when we took some to a sale and bought some steers.”
They now feed about 40 Angus steers and heifers and 40 sheep at a time, selling live animals, hay and straw off the farm and run a retail market selling produce and meat raised on the farm and from other local growers.
The livestock are pasture and forage raised.
“We sell privately and through the farm market here,” Judy said. Sales include beef, lamb, chicken, layers, broilers, eggs, honey, vegetables and fruit.
A hallmark of their business, the Englands said, is the ability to offer customers insight into where their food comes from and how it is produced.
“People enjoy sharing and networking and we also network and offer produce for other small, family farms and other local growers, like Pleasant Hill Produce in Walkersville, that sells at England Acres on Saturday during the season,” Judy said. “We offer farm tours and other activities to give a local face to our produce and help people re-connect with their food source.”
The Englands have also extended their dual-purpose sheep breeding operation, which includes Cheviot ewes bred to Romney rams, with an addition this past year of a Cotswold ram to improve their wool. A Frederick County Sheep Breeders field day was held at England Acres, earlier this summer.
“We also sell wool to cottage industry fiber mills,” Judy added.
Open for on-farm sales on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m., with special hours during sweet corn season.
Other times, there is usually someone at the farm to give children, and adults, a hands-on lesson about where their food comes from and how it is grown.
Participants can not only see the animals and other products, but are given the chance to safely touch some as well.
The 235-acre farm dates from the 1870’s and was originally a part of two farms, according to Jeff.
The farm’s Civil War-era home has been completely remodeled and restored and is the first thing visitors see when pulling into the farm entrance.
The farm has been continually farmed since the land was originally cleared in the 1800’s and is registered in the Maryland Ag Preservation Program.
With two grown sons, the farm employs family members and some part-time employees like Emily Henning-Powell and Hannah Chaney, to help with the farm sales.
Another 600 acres is also rented.
“We have a sense of community here” she added. “We do a demonstration garden and encourage our customers to bring a blanket and a picnic dinner and watch the sun set over the hills of Frederick.”