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Down on the Farm

Misty Meadow shows where food originates

By Cheryl M. Keyser and photos by Turner Photography Studio

Wandering past the various pens and enclosures where the animals are housed at Misty Meadow Farm, I carefully inched up to a lovely brown nanny goat. As I neared, she stuck her nose through the fence. I bent to pet her, and at the same time her newborn kid came up and started to nurse. The nanny was totally blasé, but I was totally thrilled.

This is the kind of unforgettable moment that both adults and children can experience at Misty Meadow Farm in Smithsburg. It’s a place where one can feel the restorative balm of the apparently simple life on the farm.

The land is bordered by blue-shaded mountains forming a panoramic backdrop for the buildings, including the creamery and animal pens. The land still retains the sense of peace and serenity that was undoubtedly experienced by the original owners, Raymond and Mary Herbst, in 1918. It passed on to their son, John, in 1950.

Today it is still in the Herbst family, operated by David and Betsy Herbst, and entering into its fourth generation as Andrew Herbst and sister Jennifer Malott begin to assume their responsibilities.

Relax on the porch of the Misty Meadow Farm Creamery with ice cream, listening to the soft sounds of the various animals, mentally transporting yourself to another time when the world moved more slowly.

The connection of birth and regeneration is the signature element that pervades the ethos of Misty Meadow. In a time when family farms are disappearing, this operation still honors and respects its roots and has revitalized itself through generations. And, if the wishes of daughter Jennifer comes true will continue for at least two more.

This month, Misty Meadow will celebrate its 100th anniversary in the same family, most probably a record in this day when corporations are more likely to be owners of agricultural land.

Initially, it was a small farm of 50 acres. By the time son John Herbst took over the land on all four corners of the intersection where Md. 418 crosses 64, it expanded to 387 acres with some of the original acreage still being farmed.

A variety of farm products, such as corn, soy, alfalfa, and wheat, are sold and the straw is used as bedding material for the animals. All the “stock” at Misty Meadow are quintessential farm animals, or "production animals." They provide some benefit for the farmer, whether meat, milk, wool, or eggs. An added benefit, and a thrill for visitors young or old, is that they can get up close to the animals.

The farm is part of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation Program, which restricts development on prime farmland. It provides an education for all ages in the importance of agriculture with signage everywhere explaining the various aspects of farming. For the curious, there are several pieces of old farm equipment on display.

As part of an effort to develop alternative means to sustain the land and keep it in the family, the Creamery was established with its singular commercial product, Creamline Milk, and everyone's favorite—ice cream. It now features prominently on Maryland's Best Ice Cream Trail.

During regular hours, cars are parked around the building as visitors stop to try some 24 different flavors from the traditional vanilla and chocolate to Misty Meadow's own creations, such as Granny's Crumbs and Dizzy Cow (flavors change periodically). The milk for all the ice cream comes directly from the herd of some 300 cows on the farm.

The Creamery also provides sandwiches, coffee, including espresso, cheese curds in several flavors, and package items, such as locally raised beef and pork. Take home some of their fresh eggs.

During the season, farm tours are offered. Visitors travel on a wagon hooked to a tractor, for a look around other areas of the farm. The trip, narrated by Betsy Herbst, is so popular it attracts international visitors. One of the highlights is going through the cow stable, where some greet you with an inquisitive look, while others are too busy munching their meal.

Recognizing the challenge smaller farms face and wishing to retain their legacy, the Herbsts, together with advisers, decided to add the Creamery, which has been a great success. Its milk and other products, are sold to communities out-side of Washington, D.C., as Betsy heads to Fairfax, Va., on Wednesdays and Saturdays to sell farm products.

You could say that caring for the animals and farming the acreage is the classic chore of the farmer, one that most of us would be reluctant to undertake. Or, you could echo David Herbst, "I never questioned what I wanted to do. This is the most important work I can do." And, speaking for his own father, he added, "my Dad would say he never worked a day in his life. This isn't a job, it is what I do. It's a different feeling when you get up and do what you want to." On behalf of those of us who support the family's endeavors, and indeed may even envy them, we say a humble "Thank you."

Misty Meadow is located at 14325 Misty Meadow Road in Smithsburg. Phone 301-624-2112 or visit www.mistymeadowsfarmcreamery.com