Orchard land in Western MD

Asked May 24, 2016, 10:19 PM EDT

I am moving to the Frostburg area of Maryland and am interested in setting up a personal orchard and small fruit farm if possible. Ideally we could sell extra at farmers markets and have some pick-your-own, but this wouldn't be a financial endeavor (potential extra income for a single-income family). I am wondering if there is suitable land in this part of the state (Garrett & Allegany Counties) and if so, what to look for when purchasing land?

Garrett County Maryland

3 Responses

Hello. Thanks for asking this question. Garrett County's high elevation and late frosts can make growing many fruit varieties complicated. I'm including a great link for planning and preparing a new orchard site, which will hopefully give you some idea of what to look for.
http://extension.psu.edu/business/start-farming/news/2015/planning-and-preparing-a-site-for-a-new-orchard-begins-2-to-3-years-ahead-of-planting

We have a very short growing season in Garrett County, we usually can not plant frost sensitive plants before June 5th or Memorial Day and we can get a frost as early as mid-September, so we have a short window of opportunity for producing anything. What types of fruit are you thinking about?

Tree fruit, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, hardy kiwi, currants? Please tell me more and I would be happy to discuss additional details and ideas for extending the growing season such as high tunnels, low tunnels, floating row covers, etc.

You will want to select later maturing varieties so that hopefully the frost won't damage flowers/early buds.

There is also an "new" invasive fruit fly called the spotted wind drosphila that has to be managed if growing soft berries- blueberries, raspberries, blackberries.

Please contact me at abachtel@umd.edu or call our office at 301-334-6960 for more information or resources.

Ashley, Thank you for the info and the great link. Very helpful. I didn't know about the spotted wing drosophila. That's definitely a concern since we were particularly interested in raspberries and blueberries in addition to fruit trees. From what I've now read, it doesn't seem like there are great control methods: spraying at start of ripening, super fine netting, early harvest, and removal of fallen berries. This would definitely be a challenge for large rows of berries and for ever-bearing raspberries. We are also interested in apple and peach trees. In the future it would be fun to consider cherry and plum. I currently have a couple hardy kiwi and would probably have a small crop of those for fun. Maybe some grapes. We're coming from southeastern NH, so it seems like the climate in eastern Garrett county valleys would be fairly similar, but I don't know anything about the soil in the area. We definitely want to have at least a very small hobby farm (personal consumption and for friends) but are considering the potential for a small amount of income through larger pick-your-own and/or farmers market sales. We will likely wait until next spring to purchase property, but want to start looking and planning now to evaluate our options. Originally we were thinking of apples and berries as our primary crops, but that's in part because of what we're most familiar with here. Thanks again

Best of luck to you in your pursuit of land. If University of Maryland Extension can be of any help in the future please let us know. We have offices in Allegany County (Cumberland, MD) and here in Garrett County (Mt. Lake Park, MD). Several of our faculty and staff have worked with producers just getting started in selling to fresh farmers markets.

Also, there is a helpful website to help you evaluate soil types through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS & USDA) called Web Soil Survey which you can use to map out potential properties- Just go the website below and enter an address to explore soil properties. There are several Youtube Extension videos that can help walk you through the steps to use the website. Let me know if you need any help.
http://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm

The Garrett office number is 301-334-6960.

Best of Luck!