Savage River Farm
When I tell people that I grew up in Garrett County, MD, they assume that I am a country bumpkin who spent all of my childhood growing up on a farm. That, however, is not the case. I didn’t grow up with an extensive knowledge about how the local farms differed from the industrial farms that most of the food my mom bought in the grocery stores came from.
Over the past few years, I have taken an interest in the food I’m eating and, by extension, where it comes from. Because of that, I have become increasingly interested in farming practices and organic produce. After seeing many sources report how factory and industrial farms operate, I became interested in learning why small farming operations are better. While small farms aren’t going to be able to feed all 7+ billion of us, it’s nice to know that they are around for the people who are fortunate enough to buy from them.
A few months ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to Savage River Farm in Avilton, MD where the owners, Ben and Hana Yoder, showed me what it’s like to be on a small farm.
Savage River Farm is a small, 25 acre sustainable farm. They use practices that protect the environment, the surrounding communities, and animal welfare. Ben and Hana are very much interested in using safe environmental practices because they want to maintain the plot of land they farm on; however, the main reason they farm is to help their small community.
Ben comments, “In our area, in Appalachia, control of our food, food sovereignty, a real rich food culture, was a key component of Appalachia culture. It has gone out the window with the explosion of cheap food from grocery stores. I felt like, at some point, that I wanted to be a part of bringing that back to my hometown area.”
When I asked Ben why he thinks factory farms are so successful, he said, “I think because they’re efficient, they run more cheaply. Because of the terrible gap in wealth, some people rely on cheaper food. It perpetuates factory farms’ growth. If you can provide a source of cheap food, then people can get even poorer and the wealth gap can become even larger and larger.”
In order to help some members of the community get away from grocery shopping at Walmart, Ben and Hana decided that they needed to create a farming model that was powered by diversity. They could easily produce only one product in order to make a large profit, but that wouldn’t help the community. Ben says, “The idea is that [customers] can come here to get a wide variety of stuff, so we’re constantly experimenting with things that might not be very profitable, but it doesn’t matter because it’s the diversity and full diet that bring people in.”
Each year from April until the end of November, Ben, Hana, and their employees allow locals to try some of the freshest, organic produce in Western Maryland. A relatively large selection of their produce can be bought at local farmer’s markets.
While that’s great, they offer a more extensive variety at their co-op. Every Wednesday during the farming season, members of the co-op can choose from a wide variety of vegetables, some fruit, baked goods, honey, and various meats that are raised on the farm.
Joining the co-op is a great way to get to know the farmers. They’ll tell you all about how the food you’re buying is produced and they’ll even let you help out on the farm if you’d like to try it out.
To view photos of the farm and learn more about the co-op, visit www.savageriverfarm.com