Making a go of farming depends on how you treat the land
Farm and conservation experts from around West Virginia made a special visit to the Highland Ridge area last week, touring the farming operations of Mark and Laura Glascock.
In May, the couple’s farm was named the Eastern Panhandle district conservation farm of the year.
They grow tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, beets, asparagus, beans, broccoli, eggplant, potatoes, onions, peppers, peas, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, turnips, okra, collards, and many more vegetables throughout the year.
Glascock’s Produce also harvests apple, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, pear and plum trees.
Conservation tools at work
Their visitors last week were the judging panel for the next level of conservation awards, which means the Glascock’s are in the running for recognition at a wider level.
Driving the recognition is the Glascock’s use of farming techniques that help them conserve water, reduce runoff, add natural nutrients to the soil and maximize their harvests.
Their conservation plan for their 300 acres includes planting an annual cover crop in the fall. The Ryegrass crop controls winter soil erosion and recovers key nutrients before corn planting.
Irrigation on the Glascock farm also encourages conservation. In 2005, the couple installed an irrigation pond, which is the starting point for a 4-acre drip-irrigation system.
By watering with low-pressure drip tape, moisture is more readily absorbed into their crops and soil doesn’t wash away with excess water.
Two more ponds are in the planning.
The Glascocks have also used plastic mulch for many of their crops, including tomatoes, squash and beets, for nearly 10 years. The material keeps weeds down, reducing the need for herbicides, and keeps the soil cooler for the plants.
Laura Glascock estimates that all of the conservation measures they’ve put to work – the mulch, irrigation and staking their tomato crop – have doubled their production over the years.
A family tradition
Farming is a family tradition for both of the Glascocks. Their company, Glascock’s Produce, has grown out of many generations of farming and working with the land. Their children, Rachel and Zach, have also worked actively in the business.
Mark’s grandfather, Gary Glascock, Sr., ran a dairy farm in Berkeley Springs. Glascock’s Orchard, which is still its own business, is the last commercial orchard in Morgan County, which used to boast a wealth of orchards.
The orchard’s first apple and peach trees were planted in 1955.
His father, Mark Stephen Glascock, owns Quail Hollow Farm.
Many members of Laura’s family worked in Morgan County’s tomato canning industries. She credits her grandmother, Hazel Hendershot, with teaching her gardening and canning skills, and passing along her signature fruit bread recipe, among other family secrets.
In fact, her grandmother and mother, Ann Hendershot, were instrumental in Glascock Produce’s production for many of its 20 years.
She wishes both of the women, who passed away in the last two years, were here to help celebrate the recent award.
Products add value
In addition to the crops harvested by the Glascock Family from the soil, their business sells products that have turned those fruits and vegetables into something unique.
They sell items at the Berkeley Springs Farmer’s Market, where they were the first vendor, and at markets around the tri-state region. They also sell products through their website.
Fruit butters are made from Glascock apples, pears, peaches and pumpkins. Pickles, jams, salsa, chutney and pie filling are also created from their produce. While the family used to make their own preserves, they now take their recipe and produce to Gourmet Central in Romney, which turns the items into a finished product.
They also make Bloody Mary Mix and barbeque sauce with their tomatoes and other vegetables.
Laura Glascock’s interest in heirloom tomatoes – tomatoes that have not been genetically modified from their original state – has recently in the Glascocks growing more than 60 varieties of tomatoes, including Red Zebra, Caspian Pink and Pineapple varieties.
Both Glascocks are still positive about farming as a future for them both.
Speaking about the conservation award, Laura Glascock said the recognition is nice.
“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve worked hard for 20 years,” she said.
As for the conservation practices that have been part of their success, Glascock sees them as common sense.
“You have to give to the soil for it to give back,” she said.