Farm stays in the family -- with 18 holes in it

September 23, 1992|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Staff Writer

THURMONT -- The offer was on the table: $1.8 million for the farm.

The Mosers, who wanted to quit farming, considered it -- for about five minutes. Then they rejected it.

They rejected it for one reason: They didn't want the 200 acres they had farmed for 50 years destroyed by development. They didn't want their homes, which they intended to keep, surrounded by new houses.

The Mosers found a way to keep their land green and the view pastoral. They turned their farm into a golf course.

The first nine holes of Maple Run Golf Course, outside Thurmont in Frederick County, opened in July. The Mosers are working on the second nine, which should be ready next spring or early summer.

"It's tough," Russell Moser says. "It's tough even turning it into agolf course. We're basically farmers. You've heard that farmers like to smell the dirt being turned? Well, that's us. We're dyed-in-the-wool farmers."

But they're adjusting. The five Moser siblings, ages 48 to 57, run the course. Their relatives work there.

It is a family operation from top to bottom. One day last week, 81-year-old George L. "Jerry" Moser, the father, trudged into the pro shop where his 1-year-old great-granddaughter, Emily Mae, was being fed lunch.

It was a family operation from the beginning, when Jerry and Mae Moser moved onto the farm in 1944 with their five children.

Four eventually found other careers, but Jim Moser remained a dairy farmer. He bought out his father in 1974, although his father retained the land and continued to work on it.

Two of Jim's brothers, Russell and Joe, are golfers. About 10 years ago, Jim says, one of them said, "Boy, if Jim ever quits farming, we ought to build a golf course. But Jim's never going to quit farming."

Jim always told them he'd farm until he died. And he always said he would live to be 125.

He's not halfway there -- he turns 56 next month -- but he is old enough to have had a painful blood clot in his leg that forced him to change his mind about farming.

He was getting older. His children didn't want to farm. He wasn't making much money, especially after a couple of years of drought.

"I didn't really want to quit when I quit," he says. "But the economy told me what I had to do."

The Mosers decided to build the golf course. They hired an architect and a design engineer, but Russell Moser, retired after building roads and bridges for the state, took charge of construction.

He ran into a problem or two. The state Department of Natural Resources says the Mosers destroyed wetlands when they built a pond for the irrigation system.

The Mosers say the land was not a wetland and refuse to move the pond.

The case has been argued before an administrative law judge, but no decision has been rendered.

Business has been "a little bit better than fair," Jim Moser says. About 45 people pay $13 each to play 18 holes on a weekday, and about 100 a day pay $15 on the weekend.

The Mosers tore down the barn and milking parlor to build the first tee but left the silo behind the ninth green.

The Catoctins rise to the west. Farmland lies to the east.

An old barn and silo stand along the fifth fairway, and the Mosers plan to place farm equipment and machinery around the course.

Russell Moser lives on the fifth fairway. His father lives next door. Jim Moser's son and family live between the third and fifth fairways. Joe Moser lives on the ninth fairway. His daughter and family live next to the putting green.

The Mosers see no new houses sprouting on their land. Where cows once grazed and corn once grew, they see two-legged animals with sticks slapping tiny balls around on the grass.

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