Every year, as Market Master, I perform a market inspection of each farm and business that sells at the Potomac Village Farmers Market (PVFM). An onsite farm visit helps ensure you, the customer, are getting real food from a real farmer. It’s also a way for me to get to know the farmer better. This relationship is one of respect and mutual beneficence. In touring the farm, I meet with the farmer(s) and often their family (sometimes friends and summer interns too). We talk about their experience, farm history, the animals, growing practices, and the produce. Actually, we talk about almost anything and I tour. Some farms are too big to walk in the allotted time so driving is the only way to preview its fields, orchards, and pastures. However, on Friday July 5th, I visited Andrew and Mary Katherine at their farm, Open Book located in Myersville, MD and walked the tour.
Open Book Farm is owned and run by married couple Andrew and Mary Katherine Barnett. These two relative new comers started farming in 2011 by leasing the land that they now call home to Open Book in Myersville, MD. Myersville is just south west of Fredrick, MD. There is a lot of work to be done each day at Open Book Farm. Both Andrew and Mary Katherine are up early in the morning and start the day with chores. Animal husbandry is the domain of Andrew who, at one point, interned with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms (featured in Omnivores Dilemma) in Virginia. He tends all Open Book’s farm animals including its chickens, hens and pigs on pasture, ensuring they have plenty of fresh water, green grass, and protection from the elements and predators. Andrew is also the head poultry butcher at Open Book. Mary Katherine tends to the farms’ vegetable field and grow tunnel providing delicious produce including vine ripened tomatoes and incredible French green beans. As we walked through the rows of trellised plants, Mary Katherine spotted a tomato horn worm on one of the trellised tomato vines. Mentioning its natural predator the parasitic wasp hadn’t arrived yet, she quickly removed the big fat green gooey worm.
Both Andrew and Mary Katherine when not busy tending the farm, share in the care of their baby boy Sylvan. When not in the fields and pastures, their Great Pyrenees dog Patou, watches carefully and patiently over the flock of egg laying hens, the drove of pigs out on pasture and of course, the chickens located in mobile coops. Patou enjoys his watch dog role and is good at it!
The Barnett’s utilize sustainable farming practices most recognizable and exemplified in the quality of their pastured poultry, pork, turkey, fresh eggs and vegetables. When the baby chickens are too young for pasture, in response to customer requests, they provide soy-free feed to a subset of their chickens for those seeking soy-free chicken. Their poultry, meat, and vegetable products are served in several top area restaurants including Volt of Frederick.
Even though it was almost 100 degrees the day I visited, I was glad I walked the tour. With each step along tractor worn farm roads and trampled grass paths, the structure and organic’ness of the farm including its buildings, kept revealing itself a little bit at a time, much like the pages of a book reveal its story. Open Book Farm is a well-run, true to word, family farm. So, stop by Mary Katherine this Thursday at PVFM. The breakfast sausage, pork shoulder, and chicken products including whole chicken are my favorites but then again, the French green beans are really good too! Check out their website for more information on Open Book Farm: www.openbookfarm.com
The Potomac Village Farmers Market operates May through October (and sometimes into November) on Thursdays from 2 to 6:30 p.m., rain or shine, in the parking lot of the Potomac United Methodist Church (9908 S. Glen Rd., Potomac, at the corner of the intersection of Falls Road and Democracy Boulevard).