“Eight pigs! And we have no idea where they could be,” said Barb Haigwood, 43, who co-manages P.A. Bowen Farmstead with her 44-year-old husband, Mike.
Maybe they were hiding in the poplar trees on this 96-acre farm. Could they have walked uphill to where the Jersey cows play or gone to bother the free-range chickens? Or did they simply cross the road into the netherworld of brick houses and tidy lawns that once threatened the very existence of a farm like theirs?
Just eight years ago, developers were snatching up farmland for subdivisions. But when the housing boom went bust, an emerging generation of farmers bought the once-coveted land at cheap prices. They’ve rehabbed abandoned farms and tobacco barns and started to harvest new crops, fusing the county’s rural past with its trendy future.
“We’ve seen a complete revitalization and a realization of the resources we have in southern Prince George’s County,” said Yates Clagett, president of the county Farm Bureau. “Everyone wants local and organic,” he said, adding that this food movement is far from fad.
In a county more recognized for its suburban sprawl, a new ag-culture has led to the county’s first winery and a surge in community-shared agriculture programs, in which customers pay farmers up front for seeds to receive boxes of their bloom in return. At least one farm hosts birthday parties.
No one is completely sure just how many farms there are in the county, Clagett said, although a census is underway. The last count was done in 2007, revealing 357 farms in Prince George’s, a 17 percent decrease from 2002.
He expects that number to increase because of farms such as the P.A. Bowen Farmstead.
In July 2009, a former herdsman from New Zealand, Geoffrey Morell, and his wife, natural food activist and California native Sally Fallon Morell, harvested their dream and spent $1.2 million for the farm, a pricey but unharvested piece of land that has been in southeast Prince George’s since 1655. Last year, they became the county’s only dairy farm.
Night and day, the farm’s workers oversee this land, offering an alternative view of the future when compared with the struggling upscale subdivision next door that broke ground in 2010. Only two lots have been developed at Garrett’s Chance, which is being used to store excess hay.
At 6:15 each morning, the Haigwoods wake to a cacophony of warbling roosters and oinking pigs. Mike and Barb jump into overalls and galoshes to begin the day’s chores.
Barb leads nine brown cows to a shed called the milking parlor. There, the divas — with names inspired by opera singers such as Joan Sutherland and Kiri Te Kanawa — will eat grain and release as much as 70 gallons of milk into jugs to the sounds of a Mozart violin sonata.