Bowlings named Farm Family of the Year
Bowlings named Charles County Farm Family of the Year
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.”
A railroad line cuts through Bunker Hill Farm in Newburg. The farm has been owned by the Bowling family since the 1940s.
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.
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.