Written by Fair Farms intern Grace Callahan
About two weeks after moving to Maryland from Florida in a truck stuffed with parts of a hoop house shelter, David and Vicki Haberkorn got their first batch of broiler chickens. They hit the ground running in 2018 when they started Morris Hill Farm in Tracy’s Landing and they haven’t slowed down. This season their farm has about 400 laying hens, 2000 broilers, 250 turkeys, 200 ducks, and 90 pigs.
Vicki grew up on the Morris Hill property in Anne Arundel County, but her family never farmed the 13 acres of land. She and David learned to farm when they co-founded Trailbale Farm in Florida with friends. When the couple had the opportunity to return to Vicki’s childhood home, they scouted local markets to determine if there was space for them to sell locally raised chicken and hogs. They didn’t see too many people practicing pastured poultry or rotational grazing, so they decided to lease the Morris Hill land and establish the farm. Morris Hill has grown steadily every year, “The local community is supportive, the farmers’ market customers are great and, if anything, our biggest problem has been keeping up with demand,” said David.
“As we begin our partnership with this land we shall grow our farm with an appreciation of nature’s intended uses in mind. To protect our environment, produce a clean high quality product, and provide an enriched life for our animals is the goal.”
When David first visited other farms and saw pigs crammed onto concrete slabs and shoved into crowded stalls he thought, “This isn’t how it should be.” The couple’s pigs and chickens roam the wooded hillsides of their property and the two nearby parcels of land that they lease.
As David and Vicki have experimented with different rotational grazing techniques, they’ve experienced how the practice positively affects the land. If they let the sheep graze in one area for 10 days, it gets a little too beaten down, but if they move them every few days, the fields bounce back and look better than ever. The owner of the leased property is amazed at how much better his fields look after just one season. David thinks a lot of environmentally-sound farming practices are just common sense. He doesn’t feel that Morris Hill does anything especially unique to protect the environment; they just take a bit of extra time to think about the land. For example, they don’t let their pigs near the streams on their property. As David said, “Why would we? That’s just common sense.”
As David talked about the learning process behind the Morris Hill rotational grazing system he paused to talk to his 2 1/2 year old daughter. Take a second to imagine running an expanding farm, raising two kids under six, and finding time to learn and experiment with new farming techniques! When asked about this juggling act, David laughed and said that they definitely don’t have a lot of free time. Most of his current education is observation and experimentation on his own.
For example, last winter David gave the laying hens some compost because he noticed that they have fun rooting around in it. As he watched them play he saw how effectively they spread the compost, and a lightbulb went off. What if he put piles of compost on the hills after the pigs stripped them and then let the hens loose? Would they spread the compost to create a nice layer to help the land recover? The answer was yes! David was happy to see how healthy the hills looked after the win-win of happy hens and minimal work on his part.
If you want to support this amazing family while eating delicious food, you can find them at Honey’s Harvest Farmer’s Market, Severna Park Farmer’s Market, and Anne Arundel County Farmer’s Market. You can also order online for on-farm pick up at a time that’s convenient for you.
David’s advice to those who want to support small family farms is to strike up a relationship with a local farmer. “Most of the people who do this are nice people and would love to talk to you about what they do,” he says. “If they don’t, don’t trust them.” If you aren’t sure how to go about meeting a farmer, here are some ideas:
- Visit a local farmers’ market and ask one of the vendors about their farm
- Buy a CSA share from a local farm
- Search for a list of small farms in your region and research one that catches your eye (hint: our Fair Farms partner page is a great place to start)
- Find a farm that allows visitors or offers tours and sign up
Fair Farms can’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Month than building connections with the people and the land that bring us food.