105-year-old Shlagel farm honored by comptroller
Presents owners with proclamation, celebrating 105 years in operation
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.”
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.