When John Dove was a kid helping his Dad on their 200-acre farm in Howard County Maryland he did not realize that one day he would be transitioning the family business from hay and soybeans to a diversity of naturally-grown vegetable crops. Johns says that he must have always been a farmer at heart though, because after studying Environmental Science at Towson University, he enrolled in the New Farmer Training Program at Calvert’s Gift Farm. Through the program, John immersed himself in a different sort of agriculture: one where there were not just two or three crops, but 30. Working with Jack and Beckie Gurley at Calvert’s Gift Farm, was at first overwhelming, but while the style of farming was different, the strong work ethic of the farmers was familiar. It was this experience that gave John the inspiration and confidence to think that he could make a living in agriculture.
Shortly after completing the internship, John carved out one acre of his family’s land and established Love Dove Farms. The 200 acres of land, currently owned by his grandmother and farmed for four generations, was originally purchased as a dairy farm. In the late 1980s, John’s parents sold the last of the dairy cows and began growing sweet corn, soybeans and hay. While John’s father still grows hay on about 100 acres, John is expanding vegetable production on his section.
Now entering his third season in operation, John hopes to cultivate five to six acres with the help of his girlfriend, Courtney, who returns from her full-time job every day to work in the fields and sell at farmers markets. The two grow a wide variety of vegetables from radishes to garlic, lettuce mix to sweet potatoes, all “naturally grown.” For John, naturally grown means that they use no chemicals or pesticides. The natural biodiversity on the farm is his biggest defense against pests. For example, by dispersing the potatoes in several sections over the cultivated acres, he’s able to confuse the potato beetles enough that they don’t get a strong foothold – although he does still need to do a fair amount of hand-squishing.
John has considered pursuing a certification system such as the national organic program. But he finds the face-to-face marketing at farmers markets and being able to share his story and farming practices directly with customers is much more important than any label. For now at least, John plans to focus on growing delicious vegetables and developing the business one step at a time. Visit John and Courtney on Saturdays at the Downtown Silver Spring FRESHFARM Market this season, and also check out their CSA.
Post by Laura Genello, FRESHFARM Markets Newsletter