105-year-old Sh­lagel farm hon­ored by comp­trol­ler

Presents own­ers with procla­ma­tion, cel­e­brat­ing 105 years in op­er­a­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

Southern Mary­land is known for its large farm­land and agri­cul­tural ef­forts to pro­mote or­ganic, healthy eat­ing. One of Charles County’s long­est op­er­at­ing farms, Sh­lagel Farms, re­ceived a visit from the state’s comp­trol­ler, in or­der to cel­e­brate its 105th year of con­tin­u­ous farm­ing and rec­og­nize the agri­cul­tural ef­forts.

Owner Rus­sell Sh­lagel is the third gen­er­a­tion of Sh­lagels to farm on the same land. His fa­ther passed his love of the land on to him and now he farms full- time along with his sons.

“My grand­fa­ther bought it in 1911, then he died in 1933, and my dad took over in 1933,” Rus­sell said. “We took over in the 1980s and three of our five chil­dren work here with us. Now as adults I can’t ex­press the feel­ing I have being able to work with them ev­ery­day. When Fran­chot stood there pre­sent­ing us the procla­ma­tion all I could think about was my fa­ther and what he would think about how far we have come.”

“We were so sur­prised that any­one would want to rec­og­nize us for what we feel is our ev­ery­day life,” Rus­sell’s wife, Eileen Sh­lagel, said. “We think about all the changes on the farm that we’ve made since Rus­sell’s dad passed away and how proud he would be.”

The Sh­lagel fam­ily are con­ven­tional grow­ers who fo­cus on pro­vid­ing eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and agro­nomic ef­fi­ciency in pro­duc­tion agri­cul­ture. The fam­ily makes an ef­fort to in­te­grate and em­ploy the most up to date soil con­ser­va­tion prac­tices by adding in a third new grass wa­ter­way for col­lec­tion of ex­cess rain­wa­ter, where it can be used for ir­ri­ga­tion.

Comp­trol­ler Peter Fran­chot ( D) said he ad­mires the com­bi­na­tion of a suc­cess­ful small busi­ness that is fam­ily owned and pro­duc­ing healthy and lo­cally grown food that is also great for the en­vi­ron­ment.

“They have good soil con­ser­va­tion prac­tices and ob­vi­ously a very tight op­er­a­tion” Fran­chot said. “I’ve never seen a kale plant be­fore [ in the field] and I was very im­pressed by the science and so­phis­ti­cated prac­tices that they have to pre­serve the en­vi­ron­ment and grow pro­duce and veg­eta­bles.”

Rus­sell said he con­sid­ers Shal­gel Farms a work­ing fam­ily farm.

“We want oth­ers to know it is truly a fam­ily farm and we want to raise healthy safe food for all of our neigh­bors,” Eileen said. “When we have field trips come visit, it’s more of a time where we put an im­pres­sion on the kids about how their food is grown and what it takes to run a farm.”

Cur­rently the farm grows kale, squash, pep­pers, egg­plant, cab­bage, ap­ples, onions, pump­kins, and also pro­duces cider and jam. Sh­lagel Farms sells its fruits and veg­eta­bles to sev­eral chain gro­cery stores and pro­duce bro­kers, and at mul­ti­ple farm­ers’ mar­kets in the Wash­ing­ton, D. C., and Bal­ti­more ar­eas. In 2014 the fam­ily added a mod­i­fied CSA/ buyers club to its op­er­a­tion to sell meat prod­ucts.

Sh­lagel Farms of­fers pri­vate group tours to school­child­ren on week­days and is open to the pub­lic on week­ends for wagon rides, a pet­ting zoo and pump­kin pick­ing. They also of­fer pick- yourown straw­ber­ries in the spring time.

Fran­chot vis­ited the Wal­dorf farm to present a procla­ma­tion to Rus­sell hon­or­ing his fam­ily’s 105th year of con­tin­u­ous farm­ing.

David Han­cock, pres­i­dent of the Southern Mary­land Farm Bureau, said it’s great to see some­one from Charles County get some recog­ni­tion and credit from An­napo­lis.

“The comp­trol­ler is well re­spected in the agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity,” Han­cock said. “It’s great to see him work with the gover­nor to put pol­i­tics aside and come up with good ideas that are ben­e­fi­cial to farm­ers. To me that is a breath of fresh air. School after La­bor Day is re­ally good for farm­ers. The young folks work on the farms dur­ing the sum­mer time and when they go back to school early they are out of a job, but now they can help us un­til school starts back.”

Ac­cord­ing to Fran­chot, by ex­ec­u­tive or­der, Gov. Larry Ho­gan ( R) has de­clared that school in Mary­land will be­gin after La­bor Day so that ev­ery­one is on the same cal­en­dar. Fran­chot said this is good for the state and the agri­cul­tural sec­tor be­cause there are ap­prox­i­mately 10,000 stu­dents in 4- H pro­grams who need to have school after La­bor Day so they have more prepa­ra­tion time to show their an­i­mals at the county fairs.

“I salute Russ and Eileen and thank them for run­ning a fab­u­lous busi­ness,” Fran­chot said. “Hope­fully their fam­ily is well po­si­tioned to carry it on for another hun­dred years.”

STAFF PHOTOS BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

Mary­land Comp­trol­ler Peter Fran­chot, right, pre­sented Sh­lagel Farms own­ers, Rus­sell and Eileen Sh­lagel, with a procla­ma­tion for 105 years of con­tin­u­ous farm­ing.

Rus­sell Sh­lagel leads the tour of Sh­lagel Farms on a hayride with Comp­trol­ler Peter Fran­chot, not pic­tured, last Thurs­day in Wal­dorf.

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