Crosses inducted into Hall of Fame
ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Gov. Larry Hogan and Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder inducted the Cross family of Prince George’s County into the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame during the Maryland Agriculture Council’s “Taste of Maryland Agriculture” event, held virtually on Feb. 4.
“This year more than ever, it is clear how incredibly important the work of our farmers and producers is to each and every Marylander,” said Hogan. “The resilience and perseverance of the Cross family has allowed their operation to grow and serve their community for more than a century.
“They represent the best of Maryland’s agriculture industry and it is an honor to induct the Cross family into the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame.”
The Cross family is the 53rd inductee in the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame.
The Cross Family has been farming in Prince George’s County since John and Elizabeth Cross moved to North Keys in the mid 1800s, where they raised their 11 children.
The Crosses used to grow tobacco and served as the local market for other growers in the area, routing the packed tobacco to the Baltimore tobacco sales market.
Brothers Russell and Louis Cross also operated a small feed and fertilizer store.
“The farmers would come in, they’d pull up a hand of tobacco and they’d sit there and strip with you and while they were there they’d pick up a bag of fertilizer, maybe a bag of feed,” said Sandra Cross, current store owner. “That’s how it started out.”
Later, the store grew to become a Southern States Cooperative franchise location, giving them the ability to expand their market and serve a wider range of Maryland farmers.
In addition to their tobacco and feed businesses, the Cross’ grew a variety of field crops and raised beef cattle and chickens.
As their operation continued to grow, the family decided to incorporate the family business in 1986, making Sandra Cross the president and 100-percent stockholder of R&D Cross, Inc.
In recent years, the family made the decision to transition away from tobacco to growing corn and soybeans in rotation with hay, which are sold as feed at the family’s store.
The farm’s embrace of cover crops is one example of the family’s commitment to conservation practices.
“The Cross family have been Cooperators with the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District for more than 70 years. They are leaders in soil and water conservation efforts and have installed multiple best management practices including … one of the largest grade stabilization drop pipe structures in Prince George’s County,” said Steve Darcey, Prince George’s Soil Conservation District district manager. “In the farming community, the R&D Cross farm store is the ‘go-to’ business for all the necessary farm supplies needed to install agronomic best management practices.
“They are also recognized as a leader in the construction of the area’s finest equestrian riding facilities. The Cross family exemplifies the true spirit of the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame.”
The Cross family also hosts an annual public education dinner event on their farm that emphasizes various agricultural topics, including chemical and fertilizer use, equine updates, safety practices, and information on agricultural products.
Their efforts to embrace conservation practices and educate the public earned them the honor of being named the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year in 2009.
As an essential business, R&D Cross Inc. has kept their operations running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with stringent safety measures in place to protect their workers and customers.
With curbside pickup and expanded delivery options, their store has been able to continue providing critical supplies to farmers, gardeners, and animal owners during these unprecedented times.
But, the family added, they have put an emphasis on service as long as they’ve been in business.
“We just strive on the customer service and really going that extra mile,” said Susan Sedgwick, Sandra’s daughter and vice president of R&D Cross. “If we don’t know the customers we get to know them.
“When they come back we remember them and I think that makes a difference.”
Off the farm, the family is also very active in their surrounding community, playing various roles supporting 4-H groups, scouts, and Little League sports teams.
Sandra Cross has taken on an active leadership role in the family’s church, where she is celebrating 60 years of volunteer service as the organist and choir director.
Sponsored by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame was created in 1991 by then Gov. William Donald Schaefer to honor agricultural leaders who exemplify high standards of achievement and commitment to the industry and their communities.
Nominations are accepted at local University of Maryland Extension offices.
“Maryland farm families are the backbone of our state’s agriculture industry,” said Bartenfelder. “The Cross family are leaders in their community, committed to conservation, and passionate about what they do.
“This is a well-deserved honor and I commend the Cross family for their decades of service to the agriculture community in Prince George’s and across the state.”