Bowl­ings named Farm Fam­ily of the Year

Bowl­ings named Charles County Farm Fam­ily of the Year

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

Chip Bowl­ing be­lieves his re­spon­si­bil­ity as a farmer is to spread a pos­i­tive mes­sage about farm­ing and the fam­i­lies that have made it their life’s work.

A man who grew up sow­ing seeds and tend­ing an­i­mals, he is a third gen­er­a­tion farmer.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to live here and work here,” Bowl­ing said of life on the farm. “I’ve got 12 other cousins and a brother that still want the farm and en­joy the farm but they didn’t stay farm­ing. But we all en­joyed grow­ing up here, fish­ing, hunt­ing and work­ing the fields.”

The Bowl­ing fam­ily of Bunker Hill Farm in New­burg was named the 2016 Charles County Farm Fam­ily of the Year. De­cided by mem­bers of the Charles County agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity, each year a fam­ily is rec­og­nized with the ti­tle based on agri­cul­tural lead­er­ship, com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties, and tech­no­log­i­cal and man­age­ment ad­vance­ments.

The Bunker Hill story be­gan in 1944 when Wal­lace and Martha Bowl­ing pur­chased a 271-acre farm in New­burg and raised their eight chil­dren: Elizabeth Davis, Margaret Bowl­ing, Ed­ward, Calvin, Han­nah Han­cock, Charles Sr., James and Howard. Like many oth­ers in the area, the farm’s main crop was to­bacco and was sup­ple­mented by cows, hogs and grain.

As time marched on, Wal­lace passed away and his sons be­gan to take over the farm’s op­er­a­tions. They con­tin­ued to raise to­bacco un­til 2000 when the broth­ers de­cided to take the state’s to­bacco buy­out pro­gram and the fam­ily looked for ways to keep the farm vi­able with­out the to­bacco cash crop. Today, the farm grows corn, soy­beans, wheat and grain and sorghum. The reins were handed down to Chip, Charles Sr.’s son, who grew the grain crops from 200 acres in the late ’90s up to 1,000 acres through farm­ing on leased fields nearby. Along with two full-time em­ploy­ees, Bill Higgs and Sonny Goldey, Chip’s fa­ther, Calvin, and un­cle Ed­die help out on the farm. Lynn, Chip’s wife, main­tains the farm’s records and books, and also works as an ac­coun­tant off site. Bunker Hill LLC is owned by the en­tire fam­ily, in­clud­ing Ed­die, Bucky, Dan, Steve, Wally, Charles, Chip, Dale, Teri, Donna, Joann, Howard, James Jr., Gary, Cathy and Kim.

“Some peo­ple are meant to do things,” Chip said. “Farm­ing is in my blood and I’ve al­ways en­joyed work­ing out­side, grow­ing some­thing and op­er­at­ing equip­ment.”

The fam­ily also has a tra­di­tion of help­ing out in the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing be­ing ac­tive in the lo­cal 4-H pro­gram and Charles County Fair Board. They’ve been mem­bers of the Charles County Farm Bureau since the 1940s and Chip served as di­rec­tor for six years. He has also served in many state and na­tional lead­er­ship roles and has tes­ti­fied be­fore Congress on be­half of the Na­tional Corn Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and is cur­rently chair­man of that board.

“Our fam­ily has done this our whole life,” Chip said. “We’re com­mit­ted as a fam­ily to keep [the farm] a farm for gen­er­a­tions to come be­cause we want our chil­dren to have the ad­van­tages of own­ing a farm. We feel like that we have been good farm­ers and still are and we have par­tic­i­pated in the com­mu­nity our whole life whether it’s church or lit­tle league sports or fire depart­ment func­tions or just be­ing good peo­ple in the com­mu­nity. We have al­ways done the right thing for con­ser­va­tion, nat­u­ral re­sources and wildlife, and that’s part of own­ing a farm, not just plant­ing crops but mak­ing sure you leave it in a bet­ter place then when you got it.”

Chip said he some­times re­ceives back­lash about those ef­forts due to per­cep­tions about farm­ing prac­tices.

“I want to get out the mes­sage that whether you grow or­ganic crops or GMO [ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­ism] crops like I do, it’s still safe and it’s still healthy and it’s okay to do. I want to get out that we pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and that we are good stew­ards of the land,” Chip said. “We have to con­tin­u­ally tell our story be­cause I am not go­ing to grow a crop and give it to my fam­ily if I thought it was un­safe … that’s the back­lash I find es­pe­cially liv­ing here where not a lot of peo­ple [are] farm­ing. There’s a lot of farms around but there’s not a lot of peo­ple farm­ing for a liv­ing. We do have a lot of or­ganic grow­ers which is fine but ev­ery­body can’t do that.”

Chip said his plans are to keep the farm in the fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions. He said he has neph­ews who help him on the farm dur­ing the sum­mers and hopes one of them — or one of his nieces — will want to take over in the fu­ture.

“The way we’re farm­ing is safe and sus­tain­able,” Chip said. “It’s good there are fam­i­lies like ours who want to keep own­ing their farm and keep it in the fam­ily in­stead of turn­ing it into a sub­di­vi­sion.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY SARA NEW­MAN

A rail­road line cuts through Bunker Hill Farm in New­burg. The farm has been owned by the Bowl­ing fam­ily since the 1940s.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Bowl­ing fam­ily of New­burg was hon­ored at the Charles County Farm Bureau Ban­quet March 4 at the New­burg Res­cue Squad. There were over 200 in at­ten­dance and the fam­ily was pre­sented with a plaque and ci­ta­tions for its many con­tri­bu­tions to agri­cul­ture. From left to right: Danny Bowl­ing, Steven Bowl­ing, Charles Bowl­ing Sr., Ed­ward Bowl­ing, James Bowl­ing, Howard Bowl­ing, Calvin Bowl­ing, Charles County Farm Bureau Pres­i­dent David Han­cock, Chip Bowl­ing and Chair­man of Charles Soil Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict Charles Rice.

STAFF PHOTO BY SARA NEW­MAN

Chip Bowl­ing stands in front of si­los at his farm, Bunker Hill Farm in New­burg. The Bowl­ing fam­ily was named 2016 Charles County Farm Fam­ily of the Year by mem­bers of the Charles County agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity.

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