For several Frederick County families, Old Fashion Day at the 154th Great Frederick Fair was a chance to look to the past and future of farming families.
Agriculture has been a mainstay for the county and the Crum family. Clyde Crum, 81, is on the fair’s board of directors and has seven generations of farmers in his family, including his great-great-great-grandfather, who started farming in Frederick County in the 1700s.
Clyde Crum grew up on a dairy farm, then opened his own in northern Frederick with his wife, Kitty Crum, 78.
The Crums married when Kitty was 18 years old; they attended Frederick High School together, she said. In March, they will celebrate their 60th anniversary.
“I didn’t know I was going to end up marrying a farmer,” Kitty Crum said.
Kitty grew up on East Second Street in Frederick. She remembers her parents taking her to The Great Frederick Fair as soon as she could walk and watching animals coming in the Sunday before the fair. She recalls drives through the county and deciding that farms were beautiful, she said.
“I grew up always thinking I wanted a farm and [to] live on one,” Kitty Crum said.
In 2015 in Maryland, 350,000 people were employed by some aspect of farming and 2.02 million acres of state land was used for agriculture, according to the Maryland Manual On-Line.
Farmland attracted John and Caryn Kuster to Frederick County. Their son, Mike Kuster, 41, moved to Frederick County when he was 9 years old. His parents opened Woodwinds Farm to raise horses and beef cattle.
The farm was later renamed Carousel Acres, after John and Caryn Kuster purchased a painted carousel horse now on display in their home, he said. John Kuster, 65, is hired to break and train horses across the state, Mike Kuster said. His parents still own horses.
The fair ties generations together. Jameson Kuster, 11, was named Junior Prince in the Junior Royalty Contest this year in the footsteps of his father, Mike Kuster, who was crowned 4-H King in 1992.
Mike Kuster and his wife, Emily Kuster, have relatives who come from all over the country to attend the fair.
“It’s kind of a rule,” Mike Kuster said. “You can’t miss the fair.”
The Great Frederick Fair is the largest agricultural classroom in the state, which life member and Frederick County Agricultural Society and fair President Joe Devilbiss does not take lightly. Educating the public about where food comes from is a key to keeping agriculture relevant and teaching people life skills, he said.
The Devilbiss family settled in Frederick County in 1753. Devilbiss now operates a 356-acre farm. He raises beef cattle, hay and corn and uses the fair as a vector to teach the public about food.
“To us, it was a way of life,” Devilbiss said of his childhood helping his grandfather raise goldfish in his 127 man-made ponds. He did not grow up on a farm, but he grew to love the idea of it as a boy.
Farmers built Frederick County, said Chip Jewell, director of Frederick County’s Division of Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services, who has written two books on fire companies in the city of Frederick and Frederick County.
Fire service in Frederick County stretches back to 1764, making it the second oldest in the state behind Baltimore city, Jewell said.
Farmers ran the original volunteer fire services because they were nearby, able to leave work and a part of the community, he said.
In Frederick County, there are also families with roots in farming but generations removed from the farm.
Joanne Poole Baum, 56, is a member of the Frederick Daughters of the American Revolution.
One of her ancestors was a Hessian soldier — Germans hired by the English to fight in the American Revolution. He was captured and released when he pledged allegiance to the U.S. and married a widow from Frederick County, she said.
Today, the county affords people a rural experience, while providing the amenities of a city, she said. Together, these elements make Frederick County unique.
“I think we have preserved our past while growing to become a huge city,” Baum said.
Preservation is one of the best things the county has done to protect agriculture as well, Devilbiss said.
Baum said that, as an accountant, she understands the tough situation farmers are in with “immensely difficult” inheritance laws and pressure to provide for their family as crop prices go down and land values go up, she said. Also, the next generation has to have the passion to preserve the farm, she said.
“Our farms are dwindling in Frederick County every day,” Devilbiss said.
Technology changes and shifting environmental regulations are variables for the next generation, along with growing cities, with thousands of people disconnected from the farm, he said.
The onus is shifting more to the agricultural society to put on a fair that educates the public, Devilbiss said. Members of the next generation are stepping up, including Karen Crum, one of Clyde and Kitty Crum’s grandchildren. Karen Crum is the executive assistant for the fair.
The Crums’ eldest son, Cory, milks close to 200 cows. Farming is hard work, which takes a 24/7 commitment, Kitty Crum said.
Cory’s son helps him with the cows, but Kitty Crum said she did not see him ready to devote himself to continuing the farming legacy, she said.
Still, there is hope.
“I am hopeful agriculture and the agricultural community will remain in the area as long as it can,” Kitty Crum said.