Sowers win national recognition in Iowa
MIDDLETOWN, Md. — The kids are all right at South Mountain Creamery.
Ben and Kate Sowers, owners of the well-known Frederick County farm operation, were one of four couples across the nation named National Outstanding Young Farmers by the Outstanding Farmers of America this month.
The Sowers, who took over the family business from Ben’s father, Randy, in 2017, were honored at the organization’s annual awards congress in Bettendorf, Iowa, from Feb. 7-10. The four winners were chosen from 10 finalists based on the progress of their careers, use of soil and water conservation practices and contributions to the wellbeing of their community, state and the nation.
But friendships might be the biggest takeaway from the weekend, said Ben, 37.
“Everyone of these guys should have won,” he said, pointing to a picture of the award finalists last week. “We were no better than anybody else.”
The Sowers family farms 2,200 acres in western Frederick County and milks more than 500 cows, raises more than 100 beef cattle each year and manages 16,000 laying chickens. South Mountain Creamery employs more than 75 people, delivers food to more than 9,000 customers and is owned by Ben and Kate, Ben’s sister, Abby Brusco, and brother-in-law Tony. It also announced the opening of Hometown Harvest Kitchen, a farm-to-fork restaurant and ice cream shop to be run by Bruscos in downtown Frederick.
Since taking over the operation, they have diversified and expanded. South Mountain Creamery opened a wholesale division and built a plastic bottling facility last year to sell more milk to restaurants and institutional customers. It also announced the opening of a new farm-to-fork restaurant and ice cream shop, Hometown Harvest Kitchen, in downtown Frederick to be run by the Bruscos.
“We feel like this is going to be our growth year,” Ben said. “We got everything together.”
Ben and Kate also have a personal connection to the Outstanding Farmers of America: Ben’s parents, Randy and Karen, were finalists for the national award in 1987. Ben was 6. He said he remembers traveling with his parents across the country in the years following the ceremony, often staying on the farms of his parents’ fellow finalists.
“You’re all in the same boat. You’re all in the agriculture boat,” he said. “You have the same fears and anxieties and wishes.”
The association and its ceremony is also a useful networking and educational opportunity, Ben said. Over several days, the finalists tour farms and different facilities run by John Deere, the award program’s sponsor. There’s also plenty of time to socialize and discuss agronomic issues from cover crops to row spacing. Ben said he also left the ceremony with a refreshed pride for being part of Maryland’s agricultural community.
“You don’t really think of Maryland as a grain state, but we’re sitting in an excellent position,” he said. “Those guys out there in the Midwest are taking corn off, and they’re putting it in a bin, and they’re delivering it to the Mississippi River this week at $3.75, and I’m delivering corn down to Harrisonburg, Virginia, for $5.”
The other winners were Brandon and Jessica Batten of North Carolina; Derek and Renee Martin of Illinois; and Ben and Susan Albright of Iowa. He expects they’ll be lifelong friends.
“We’re all struggling together,” he said. “We want to be farmers. That’s why we’re doing it. … I’ve got all their phone numbers now.”
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P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925