COCKEYSVILLE, Md. — Each year, the Future Harvest community looks forward to two sets of awards: the “Grow, Eat, Shoot!” photo contest, whose winner graces the cover of Future Harvest’s annual conference program, and the Colchester Legacy and Farmer of the Foodshed Awards, which honor farmers who demonstrate stellar stewardship of their land, water, and business, and a commitment to educating and mentoring other farmers. This year’s Colchester Legacy awardee — awarded to a farmer from the Delmarva region — is the Fry Family at Fair Hill Farms in Maryland. Our Farmer of the Foodshed awardees are Renard and Chinette Turner of Vanguard Ranch in Virginia, Eric and Lori Rice at Country Pleasures Farm in Maryland, and Heinz Thomet at Next Step Produce in Maryland. The photo grand prize winner is Holding on to Each Other by Erik Darm; second place is #BlackExcellence by Farmer Chippy (Richie Francis), and third place is a tie between Flower Twin by Angela French and I Got it From My Momma by Maryn Jordan.
All awards are decided via a collaborative process. For the farmer awards, Future Harvest members, board, and staff submit their nominees, and the board votes. For the photo contest, a panel of photographers reviews and rates submissions, with the top-rated three winning grand prize, and second and third places respectively.
Colchester Legacy Award
The Fry Family of Fair Hill Farms near Chestertown, MD
This year’s Colchester Legacy recipient is The Fry Family of Fair Hill Farms. Fair Hill is a fourth-generation dairy and certified organic grain farm located near picturesque Chestertown on Maryland’s eastern shore. Ed, Marian, Matt, and Megan sell certified organic field crops and hay. In 2017, Fair Hill Farm rebuilt its milking parlor and took a leap into the future. The organic dairy now uses a massive rotary parlor with stalls for 50 cows and state-of-the-art data-gathering electronics. Rotating once every 11 minutes, the system can milk the farm’s 500 purebred Holsteins in under three hours. The Fry Family has also put into place a number of environmental practices, including erosion control, water conservation, nutrient control, and farmland preservation, and has generously shared their knowledge with other farmers and policymakers.
Farmer of the Foodshed Awards
Renard and Chinette Turner, Vanguard Ranch in central Virginia
Vanguard Ranch is a diversified farm business located in Louisa County just southeast of Gordonsville, Virginia. It is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Renard and Chinette Turner, who founded the business in 2007. They currently raise pastured heritage kiko goats and have recently developed a squabbery. Renard is a frequent speaker at farmer conferences and gatherings, focusing on goat husbandry, farming in ways that mimic nature, and making the case to young black people to return to an agrarian life, which many still associate with slavery. His work as a farmer was featured in The Color of Food by Natasha Bowens, on the popular food and agriculture website Civil Eats, and in the magazine Modern Farmer. Renard’s past and present leadership positions include president of The Virginia Association for Biological Farming for three years, national secretary of The American Kiko Goat Association, board member of the Virginia State University College of Agriculture, and member of The Minority Farm Advisory Councilunder former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. He is also currently a team member of the Community Ownership Empowerment and Prosperity project of The Chesapeake Foodshed Network. This year, Renard will join the board of Future Harvest.
Eric and Lori Rice of Country Pleasures Farm in Middletown, Maryland
Country Pleasures Farm, started in 1985, specializes today in value-added products such as preserves, fruit sauces, pesto, and heritage cider. It is the state’s first certified organic orchard, with more than 1,800 apple, cherry, pear, peach, and apricot trees. In the 1990s, Eric was part of the farmers market movement, a time when only six farmers markets existed in the state of Maryland. He helped create markets in Frederick and Hagerstown, and also in Dupont Circle in Washington D.C., where he still sells. As an early advocate for organic agriculture, Eric participated in the beginnings of the organic program in Maryland, collaborating to write the state’s regulations, as well as helping to found MOFFA, Maryland Organic Food & Farming Association. He also teaches at Johns Hopkins and has a consulting practice. In addition to farming, Lori has a private practice in a multi-disciplinary holistic center in Frederick Md. She is certified in CranioSacral Therapy.
Heinz Thomet of Next Step Produce in Newburg, MD
Heinz and his wife Gabrielle Lajoie manage Next Step Produce based on the philosophy of growing nourishing food in harmony with nature. After years of growing vegetables, in 2010 they planted their first grains for human consumption and have since added upland rice and dried beans to the rotation. Thomet sees building healthy soil that can sequester carbon as one of the essential tasks of the modern farmer. Thomet has long considered and been influential in the thinking about the impact of local food systems and identified unique crops to suit consumers’ needs – for example, rice hadn’t been commercially grown in the Chesapeake region for more than a century prior to his efforts in 2010. The grains he grows – heirloom varieties like pearl millet, rye, and buckwheat – have inspired and played a role in the establishment of several area bakeries. Thomet has also mentored farmers throughout the Chesapeake Bay foodshed; many have worked on his farm and he has generously shared his knowledge with younger generations looking to emulate his model and solutions.