Spring is here, and no one knows that better than Frederick County farmers. There’s much to do to prepare for crop planting, orchard pruning, spring births of animals, equipment repairs, and much more. While it may not seem so, Frederick County is still 55 percent agricultural with 1,300 farms and more than 181,500 acres of farmland.
Even with this amount of farmland, many children who live here aren’t exposed to farming and agriculture. They don’t know where their food originates, or how fruit and vegetables are grown. They aren’t aware of the economic value that agriculture provides within the county or the environmental issues that agricultural professionals face.
Enter Frank and Bess Gladhill. Owners of a farm located in Monrovia since 1950, they are well-known in Frederick County agricultural circles not only as successful farmers but as people who have given back to the community in countless ways. They wanted children to learn about agriculture and farming, so in 1998, they established The Franklin and Bess Gladhill Fund for Agriculture Education specifically to provide agriculture-related opportunities to students attending Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS). The grants are part of an FCPS program called “Gifts for Education,” and what a gift this has been. More than $92,000 has helped bring a myriad of programs and benefits to students at all age levels.
Grants from the fund have allowed hundreds of children and youth to learn and experience what agriculture means. Pre-K students have enjoyed field trips to working farms, and through the “Growing Green with Worms” program, learned about composting. Elementary students from nearly every school in the county have visited a tree farm to learn about the interdependence of agriculture and economics, had access to the Agriculture in the Classroom Mobile Lab, the Mobile Agriscience Lab, and the Agricultural Products Lab. Other programs have included basic horse husbandry, creating a butterfly garden by researching the appropriate soil, plants and butterflies, hydroponics, and horticulture and landscape training. Several high schools benefitted from grants supporting their Future Farmer of America Clubs, helping them travel to national conventions and competitions.
Through their fund, Frank (now deceased) and Bess have truly given a gift of education. They have made a big difference in the lives of children and youth and promoted agriculture that is still so much a critical and integral part of our lives in Frederick County. Many children are going to remember their visit to a farm throughout their entire life. Some might even be inspired to have a career in or related to agriculture. We thank them for their vision and generosity.