Springfield Farm

by Bonnie North

It’s a beautiful drive out to Springfield Farm. Once you’ve left the zoom of I-83 the road is narrow, winding gracefully up and down the rolling hills of Baltimore County. Miraculously, the pastoral landscape here isn’t marred with encroaching developments and what one senses, is the history of the area—a place where wealth and prosperity have always been wedded to hard work and good farmland.

Springfield was originally part of the immense holdings of the Gorsuch family. According to old land records, a Quaker named Charles Gorsuch once owned land reaching from west of Hereford almost out to Frederick.

Comprising just 67 acres of that original tract, Springfield Farm gets its name from the four running streams and the natural springs that bubble out from the hillsides on the property. The farm was eventually passed down more than 17 generations to David Smith, a smart and savvy retired Army Colonel, who has put the place on the “Locavore” map by standing out as one of the strongest proponents of the “Farm to Table” movement in our area.

Don’t let those bib overalls, mucking boots and visor cap fool you, David is a worldly man. His career with the U.S. Army took him all over Europe and the Middle East. In fact he met his wife Lily, while stationed in France, “We had to bring along an interpreter on our first dates. She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak French!” David laughs… When he retired from the Army he took a job as a marketing specialist with the military contractor Raytheon. This kind of experience didn’t go to waste when he decided to roll up his sleeves and revive the family farm at Springfield.

For one thing, David Smith was one of the first small farmers around here to see the possibilities of selling locally and direct to individual families and area restaurants. With the assistance of a small grant from the USDA’s Small Farm Success Project, Smith hired a communications firm to design and print a logo and brochure. The first time I met David was back in 2004 when he appeared at a Chesapeake Sustainable Business Alliance meeting dressed in those bibs and a green hat with the Springfield Farm logo…a display of fresh eggs laid out, brochures on hand, and a laptop running a PowerPoint presentation about the farm.

David’s savvy and commitment went much deeper than just smart marketing though. Early on he made a point of meeting and getting to know Joel Salatin, whose 550 acre Polyface Farm in northern Virginia has been immortalized in food author Michael Pollan’s books—most notably, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. At Polyface, Salatin pioneered an ecologically healthy approach to farming that has proven to be more profitable and environmentally sustainable than industrial farming.

At Springfield, David and his family have built their practices on the Polyface model. Two daughters and their families live on the farm—Valerie, Doug, Danielle and David Lafferty; and Catherine, Rachel and Jennifer Webb. The three generations all work hard to assure that the animals are treated humanely—they use no hormones, antibiotics, or heavy chemicals on the farm. Springfield produces chicken, duck and goose eggs; grass-fed and natural beef, lamb, pork and rabbit; a variety of poultry: chicken, duck (seasonal spring to fall), goose (seasonal Thanksgiving to Christmas), and turkey.

Walking out to tour the poultry pastures David explains the business end of producing genuine free-range eggs. “These birds we bring in are, ‘ready to lay.’ This group came in March at 15 weeks old. It takes about another 6 weeks or so before they get up to speed. They’ll be effective egg layers until April or so next year.  Then they’ll go into what they call a ‘molt’ for a month or 2, and then they’ll crank up again. This is a completely natural cycle.”

At Springfield they usually keep the laying hens for 2 or 3 cycles depending upon the season and the demand.
Turkeys destined for the holiday table are also an important part of the poultry operation. “We’ve got something like 600 of the heritage turkeys here right now. These we actually birth, or hatch, right here.
In addition to the natural open-field grazing, the pastured flocks eat a locally produced blend of corn, roasted soybean meal, vitamins and minerals.

This healthy diet and lifestyle pays off too. In 2007, Mother Earth News tested eggs from both commercial and pastured chickens and proved that pastured birds produce healthier eggs. Of the 14 free-range flocks tested, Springfield Farm had the lowest saturated fat content and the lowest cholesterol.

Another aspect of Salatin’s success that David has duplicated is diversification. He calls it “relationship marketing,” and it means developing a broad field of buyers through farmers’ markets, on-farm sales, restaurants, and neighborhood buying clubs. Springfield Farm participates in the new Sunday market at the Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills, the Saturday farmers’ market in Baltimore’s Harbor East and the Bethesda farmers’ market on Tuesdays. The on-site farm store is open for business Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5:30pm. David himself makes deliveries every week to restaurants and independent groceries.

“Demand is exploding,” Smith says. Smith has formed partnerships with other independent farming operations to meet the ever-growing demand for healthy meat and dairy products.

Springfield Farm is pro-active in many organizations that strive to improve the lives of smaller farmers: Slow Food USA, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Welfare Institute. They also offer what they call “Agri-tainment.”

Customers, their families, and friends often visit the farm, bring a picnic and enjoy the great outdoors, and visitors are always welcome by appointment.

Springfield Farm


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