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March 2022 | Volume 61 |
Catoctin Mountain Orchard perfects
Above, Robert (Bob) Black and his granddaughter Katlyn Robertson in an apple orchard at Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Thurmont, Maryland. About 80-100% of the produce grown
on the 100-acre farm is sold at the operation's popular farm market. Photos: Catoctin Mountain Orchard
By Gary Pullano
The story of Catoctin Mountain
Orchard in Thurmont, Maryland, is
marked by hard work and determination
since its foundation.
Robert (Bob) Black is 70 years old, and
has seen all of the farm's growth since his
father, the late Harry Black, took over the
operation in 1961.
It is Bob Black's own significant
involvement in the tree fruit industry,
particularly in the Mid-Atlantic region
and in national grower organizations,
that makes him a popular and
knowledgeable speaker at grower events.
His progressive commercial plantings
practices, along with his direct marketing
savvy, has allowed Catoctin Mountain
Orchard to become a bellwether
operation from which others can learn
" I want to thank a lot of the folks, like
(local grower) Evan Milburn, " Black
said. " We have got so much from so
many people. I think that's the thing
about this whole group, we are all
willing to share. I don't know anybody
that's not going to help you along. "
Bob Black outlined the history of
the current four-generation operation
in Frederick County, located in the
northern part of Maryland and just
six miles from the Pennsylvania state
line, during a presentation at the
recent Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable
Convention in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
" We have got so much
from so many people.
I think that's the thing
about this whole group, we
are all willing to share. "
− Bob Black,
Catoctin Mountain Orchard
Ira Kelbaugh, son of Johnny
Kelbaugh, planted an orchard along
Kelbaugh Road. Bob's father, Harry,
worked for Ira during World War II.
When Ira semi-retired, he told Harry he
would sell him the orchard. For years,
Harry took care of the orchard for half
the profit and eventually bought it.
" My grandfather died when my dad
was 16, " Black said. " My dad graduated
in 11th grade. That's what they had, 11
grades. He lived right across the street
from the farm. The 1930s were tough.
So, Mr. Kelbaugh approached my dad
and asked him if he wanted to work
weekends and evenings to help make
ends meet. My dad built a chicken house.
They bartered eggs. They sold chickens
and the neighbor dairy farmer gave my
dad's family milk for free because they
knew my dad's father had died. "
" Mr. Kelbaugh said, 'Harry, do you
want to work for me?' So, my dad
started working, and Mr. Kelbaugh said,
'you've really taken an interest in this.'
Dad was self-taught. He just liked it. Mr.
Kelbaugh said, 'do you want to help me
manage this farm?' So, he did. He liked
the work so much, he started looking for
a farm in another area in West Virginia.
That farm is a housing development
now, so I'm so glad dad didn't do it.
" The word got back to Mr. Kelbaugh,
and he said, 'Harry, do you want to work
out a deal? You help grow the best crops
we can, and we'll split the profits.' That's
See CATOCTIN, page 6
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