Shlagel Farms is celebrating our 106th year of continuous farming this year. Russell Shlagel is the third generation of Shlagels to farm this same land. His grandfather; Otto came to America because of advertisements by the German American Colonization Company for good farmland, and he bought the original tract in North Waldorf in 1912. Sadly, he died within a few years while clearing land in the pasture. His wife also passed within 6 weeks and left 5 minor children on the farm. Of those, George; who was 12 at the time, was determined to stay on the farm and make it profitable. Except for a stint in the US Army George spent his entire life on the farm and loved the land until his last breath. He passed his love of the land on to his son Russell who farms fulltime along with sons.
We are conventional growers. We use no till planting whenever possible to reduce the disturbance and loss of the soil. We use Integrated Pest Management strategies to reduce the use of pesticides. Russ and Karl have their Private Pesticide Applicators License which involves testing and continuing education for renewal. We also employ a Professor Emeritus with The University of Maryland; Bob, who is a retired Extension Educator with the Wye Research Facility, specializing in small fruits and vegetables. Bob scouts our fields on a regular basis to spot problems before they become overwhelming. When a crop protectant is necessary Farmer Russ will always use an organic approved product as his first line of defense.
We use BMP; (Best Management Practices), which focuses on the management of inputs to provide for economic, environmental and agronomic efficiency in production agriculture.
We raise a large portion of our vegetables on plastic mulch with drip tapes to speed production time, reduce herbicide use and conserves water.
Russ and Eileen are certified by The Maryland Department of Agriculture to write the farm’s Nutrient Management Plan. This is a state mandate for any agricultural enterprise grossing $2500 or more or having more than 8 animal units. This law was passed in 1998 to comply with the Maryland State Water Quality Improvement Act which sought to reduce run off and pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. This is a comprehensive and very detailed plan of nutrition that monitors total fertilizer use and nutrient loading of the soil. The plan can only be developed by trained and certified personnel utilizing extensive soil, water and manure testing. With knowledge of that and how these tests pertain to every management unit of land;( this involves many, many individual tests), a forward plan is developed of every crop to be planted on a certain piece of land with the knowledge of what each individual crop’s nutritional requirements are based on soil tests and potential yield. This way of projected planning insures that there is never any extra nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium etc. applied to the land that won’t be completely utilized. In addition 2 of our sons have Nutrient Management Vouchers which are required for safe application of nutrients for anyone fertilizing 10 acres or more. Other States do not require the vigorous testing and record keeping of nutrient loading .
In 2015 we were awarded our USDA Harmonized GAP;third party certification. The focus is food safety at all times and in all processes of the operation from harvest to packing. This is a costly inspection that demonstrates total commitment to food safety and brings us in to compliance with the Obama administration's Food Safety and Modernization Act. In 2016 we once again passed our certification.
We sell our fruits and vegetables to several chain grocery stores and produce brokers. We also sell at multiple Farmer’s Markets in the D.C./ Baltimore area. In 2014 we added a modified CSA/Buyers Club to our operation. The ordering is done on-line and pick up is Saturday mornings at the farm. For 2016 we are pleased to add Angus beef as well as pork to Saturday sales.
We work closely with the United States Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service to integrate and employ the most up to date soil conservation practices. This year we put in our third new grass waterway for collection of rainwater. Excess rainwater is directed through these waterways where it is filtered by the grass and flows into collection ponds where it can be used for irrigation. This helps greatly with water conservation as well as prevention of soil erosion. It has been the motto of this farm since Otto Shlagel walked behind the horse and plow on this very land that he purchased in 1912, that “if we don’t take care of this land, it won’t take care of us”. What was true for him, remains our truth today.
Shlagel Farms LLC