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Cecil County Life

From arugula to zucchini: It’s all growing at Flying Plow Farm

Dec 01, 2023 03:11PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

It was June of 2020 – when the panic of a worldwide pandemic began to change the dynamics of normalcy – and Rebecca Northrop had just begun her new job at Flying Plow Farm, a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in Rising Sun.

COVID-19 had reached Maryland, and seemingly overnight, food stores throughout Cecil County were transformed into aisle after aisle of masked-up customers and limited supplies of fresh produce. At Flying Plow, however, business tripled and the number of memberships in the CSA soared. Rather than muddle through the confusing directional markers at commercial markets and peck over diminished food supply, customers drove up farm’s the dusty driveway and patiently waited on line at the farm’s food stand to purchase fresh vegetables, eggs, meat and other essentials.

In most years, the farm filled about 30 home delivery orders a week during the early spring months of March and April, but in 2020, the number spiked to more than 300, but no one at the farm panicked; owners Tom Paduano and Sarah Rider had already kicked off their home delivery service system, converted its website to online purchasing and transitioned their staff to a professional crew.

Working together in cooperation with their members, their staff, supplying vendors and Mother Nature, Flying Plow Farm continued to grow, cultivate and provide sustainable, organic products to thousands of individuals and families in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania at a time when the world had practically shut itself down.

From Harford County to Rising Sun

While Flying Plow Farm is celebrating its tenth year in Rising Sun, owning a farm was not on the early radar of Tom and Sarah. When she first entered college in Washington, D.C., Sarah’s original intention was to pursue a major in international relations.

Then I began to read about the science of growing food, and everything began to shift for me,” she said.

Sarah was so intrigued that she changed her career focus and transferred to Penn State, where she became an agricultural major and began what would be a life in community supported farming. After college, she was a manager for a CSA in Chester County and met Tom Paduano, who was also a manager at a neighboring CSA. Together, they established the first Flying Plow Farm in Harford County in 2010, with a little more than 100 members. They moved their farm to Rising Sun in 2014.

Situated along Charles Johnson Farm Lane, the 56-acre Flying Plow Farm is a living, breathing testament to the vitality of CSA-based agriculture and the recognition of year-round growing and harvesting -- from multi-colored rows of vegetables that stretch for acres to the curved ceilings of incubator farms.

While Flying Plow is by simple definition a working organic farm, it is also the perfect cohesion of a sustainable ecosystem at work. The farm’s organic pastured laying hens and organic meat chickens provide fertility for growing grasses and clovers, which are used to feed the farm’s cattle and draft horses, who provide manure for composting that provides fertility for growing crops.

Thirteen of the farm’s acres are devoted entirely to growing a wide variety of seasonal food, from salad greens like arugula and lettuce to root vegetables like carrots, squash and turnips, and from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower to herbs, cooking greens, watermelons and strawberries.

The animals used on the farm are butchered to provide by-the-cut beef, chicken, pork and lamb, and the eggs from the farm’s hens are available all year long.

Today, Flying Plow Farm has close to 500 members and provides weekly home delivery of fresh produce to nearly 400 locations from Wilmington to Annapolis, as well as deliveries to 15 pick-up locations throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Operating the farm is an intricate system that every week involves determining what produce will be grown, what percentage of it will be harvested, packing, finalizing home delivery packages as well as gathering bundles of produce that will be sold at markets.

We started Flying Plow Farm in Harford County as a classic CSA model, meaning that we were ‘farmer-centric,’ and operated from the philosophy of ‘We grow what we grow and our customers will eat what we grow,’ but the model really only works for about a maximum of about 100 members,” Sarah said. “In order to really grow to about 200 members, we needed to transition to online sales in order to make it more convenient through payment plans and it allows them to specify what they prefer, as well as have infinite ways of being able to tinker with the frequency and options of deliveries and content of their packages.”

A quiet movement based in simplicity

Over the last two decades – against the decline of family-owned farms -- CSAs have continued to take root in the United States and have gradually grown to include as many as 2,500 farms spread over every region of the country that provide direct access to clean local food for thousands of families. Its grass-roots groundswell combines transformative potential with a quiet movement based in simplicity, bringing communities together in a unified pledge of mutual support and benefits.

Over the past several years, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has been encouraging Marylanders to join one of the more than 100 CSAs in the state. By purchasing local food from local farmers, CSA members keep dollars in Maryland and strengthen its economy.

The advantages are many:

  • Consumers save money by eliminating shipping and processing costs from the price of the produce

  • Consumers eat healthy, sustainably produced food that is at peak flavor and ripeness

  • Consumers learn about farming practices and techniques and enrich their cultural heritage and

  • Consumers have opportunities for community engagement, social and educational activities, and environmental stewardship

CSAs present a great opportunity to get fresh, local food — direct from a farmer,” Maryland Department of Agriculture Acting Secretary Kevin Atticks said to celebrate National Community Supported Agriculture Farms Week this past February. “This is the perfect time to sign up with a CSA farm so you don’t miss out on any of the season’s fruits and vegetables.” 

Sarah said that what Flying Plow Farm lacks in overall size and growing capacity, it makes up for in consistently being able to get fresh food into the hands of their members.

I am not sure the name ‘CSA’ is going to be around for that much longer, but the concept behind them will certainly be here for decades to come,” she said. “It’s becoming harder for individual farms to be able to serve more people, but we’re starting to see farms working collectively as organizations to reach that growing clientele.

Flying Plow Farm has this direct access to our consumers – a place at the table -- because we have developed and honor lur connection to thousands of people.”

I think people having a connection to their food can serve as a silver bullet to a lot of other issues,” said Northrop, Flying Plow Farm’s sales and harvest director. “It can remind us of our relationship with the land and water and inspire us to make better decisions about the way we use our resources and it can inspire us to nourish ourselves and our families better, which can have broader public health effects.

That’s the biggest thrill for me – to see people engage in these broader topics by getting inspired when they're a new customer and starting with something we hear a lot: ‘These carrots taste so much better than the carrots I purchase from the grocery store.’”

Flying Plow Farm is located at 96 Charles Johnson Farm Lane, Rising Sun. Md. 21911. To learn more about becoming a member or see a list of its produce and meats, visit, or contact (443) 686-9786 or send an email to: [email protected].

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].

Quality, in quantity.

Flying Plow Farm Members can pick up their goods at the following locations:

The Lotus Center, Elkton

Fresh Source Market, Elkton

Plum Creek Market, North East

Coffee Coffee, Bel Air

Baron’s K9, Bel Air

Private Residence - Franklinville Rd, Joppa

Moore Brothers Wine, Wilmington, Del.

Swigg, Wilmington, Del.

Newark Natural Foods Co-op Farmers Market, Newark, Del.

Little Goat Coffee, Newark, Del.

Paradocx Vineyard, Landenberg, Pa.

Farmer & Co., Unionville, Pa.

Whole Chiropractic, Odenton, Md.

Abundant Life Chiropractic, Nottingham, Md.

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