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Farm showcase highlights growing trend toward local foods

By Staff | Jan 26, 2018

Vanessa McGuigan/Chronicle Leslie Randall and Lars Prillaman from Green Gate Farm in Shepherdstown.

Many Shepherdstown restaurants have been using and selling as much local food as possible for some time. The Community Garden Market on South Princess Street offers locally sourced groceries for purchase and, of course, the Shepherdstown Farmer’s Market operates every Sunday from March until late fall.

However, the organizers of the WVMD Farm Showcase, which took place at Town Run Tap House on Sunday, wanted an opportunity to promote some of the local farmers and herbalists in the panhandle and surrounding community.

Local farmers work long, hard hours to provide sustainably sourced produce and ethically raised meat, motivated by the reward of feeding the community.

John and Dori Goepel, from Milk and Honey farm in Smithsburg, Maryland, grow over 40 different varieties of vegetables on the farm and offer Community Supported Agriculture shares at an investment of 20 weeks for $600.

Goepel said people don’t have to volunteer to be part of the CSA, but occasionally they do ask for volunteers via a “call to arms” list to aid with skinning the greenhouse, weeding some of the crops and, of course, for harvest.

“We are a salad farm,” Goepel said. “We think it’s really important for family dinner. Everybody can come together and get a great bunch of nutrients locally from a salad and all the veggies that come along with it. That’s how we base our shares throughout the year.”

Milk and Honey, along with many of the other farms, is looking for summer interns. Goepel said the interns are helpful to them, but also they’re just trying to get people to farm.

“Internship is how I started,” Geopel said. “I interned for three years and I’m still learning every season. It’s really amazing to have mentors who have been in the industry and who know the market. We get stronger together.”

Goepel says joining a CSA is worth the investment.

“Community. The first word of the CSA is community,” she said. Not only are we supporting agriculture, we are truly supporting our neighbors. We’re supporting the region … We vote with our dollars, and if we’re investing in a farm, we are investing in the ideas behind it.”

As for the increased interest in consuming locally sourced foods, Geopel called it “the Appalachian revival,” and said in a world where nothing seems controllable, people are clamoring to get control of their health and the origins of their food sources.

Belle Prairie Farm is a Certified Naturally Grown farm in Big Pool, Maryland. CNG is a nonprofit alternative certification program tailored for small-scale, direct-market farmers using natural methods with the same standards as national USDA certifications.

“This certification can be trusted just like any national designation, but it’s less costly and feels more real because I go and inspect farms and other farmers come and inspect me, instead of having an outside person,” said owner Anis Elkharroubi. “I believe that small farms go above and beyond in terms of organic standards, and this (certification) is more centered on small farms.”

Green Gate Farm in Shepherdstown, owned and operated by Lars Prillaman and Leslie Randall, has a unique production method: it uses Percheron draft horses for much of the farm work. Prillaman says that anything someone would do with a tractor or a small farm truck, he does using the horses in harnesses. Green Gate Farm offers a CSA with pick up in Shepherdstown, Charles Town and Bethesda, Maryland.

Sacred Roots Herbal Sanctuary is helping to supply the demand of consumers who want to explore natural herbal medicines. Owner Hillary Banachowski said their focus is medicinal herbs.

“We want to empower people to take their health back into their own hands and grow their own healthcare,” Banachowski said. “With our healthcare system and with people’s finances and the way things are going, we wanted to be an antidote to (the system). Walk outside your door and I can show you 20 plants that will heal you that cost no money.”

Sacred Roots cultivates around 50 different herbs on its land, and offers classes that teach people how to make their own medicine.

Many of these farmers and growers attend either the Charles Town Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or the Shepherdstown Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings during the market season. The farmer’s markets and the Community Garden Market grocery store all accept SNAP benefits to allow everyone to make healthy food choices.