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Best of Waldorf: The Electrician Farmer
Waldorf, Charles County - 8/8/2007
By Staff Writer Heather Bartlett
You can often find Russell Burch in his straw hat, stacking produce on his portable wooden produce cart in Waldorf on the corner of Ned’s Lane and Mattawoman-Beantown Road. Ned’s Lane, incidentally, was named after his grandfather. Although Mr. Burch is a full-time power plant electrician and also runs his own business as an electrician, he still manages to find time to farm, and spends as many hours as possible at his stand. At heart, he’s an old fashioned farmer, pure and simple, working the land and doing what he loves.
“I’d rather be doing this than just about anything else in the world, but I can’t make a living at it.”
Mr. Burch’s family has worked the same stretch of Charles County farmland for several generations. In the early days they raised tobacco but that ended in 1996. “I think I still have some hanging out in the barn,” he added with a grin.
About twelve years ago, the land was sold to Chaney Enterprises. Mr. Burch still farms it by special arrangement with the company. According to Mr. Burch it’s slated become a golf course at some point. When that happens he said, “I guess I’ll retire.”
Standing in the blazing sun and muggy heat interviewing Mr. Burch, I find it difficult to imagine where gets his energy. For the half-hour I was there the stream of customers never relented. Everybody seemed familiar with Mr. Burch and some exchanged small talk with him.
Like other Southern Maryland farmers, Mr. Burch is suffering losses from the drought plaguing the region. He lost about a quarter acre of corn that never grew properly, and struggles to keep his tomato crops producing.
Today his cart is full of tomatoes, watermelon, onions, several varieties of squash, and some corn. He also has cucumbers which he’s unhappy with due to their whitish color. Mr. Burch is the Treasurer for the Southern Maryland Regional Farmers’ Market. Whatever items on the cart he doesn’t manage to harvest himself, he brought from other farmers to sell on his stand.
“I try to grab what I can from them and sell it here, to help everybody out.”
During his recent visit to Charles County, Governor Martin O’Malley encouraged the community to buy from local farms. I’ve eaten the corn, onion and tomatoes I purchased from Mr. Burch’s stand. And, I’ll be heading back this weekend for more.
Heather Bartlett is TheBayNet.com’s Waldorf and Arts Correspondent.
In her other life, she’s an artist , co-creator of the political group blog Charles County Café.
To contact her about this article, Waldorf issues or Arts events comment below or email email@example.com
Photos by Heather Bartlett for TheBayNet.com.
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