100 years of growing up at Baugher's

Farm: Generations of success keep a Carroll family proud of its business, which includes a popular restaurant and orchard.

September 12, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

If not for an employee's reminder, the Baugher family might have skipped any fanfare marking the centennial of its business.

These Westminster farmers, whose fifth generation has started in the business by busing tables at Baugher's Restaurant, are more in tune to the daily grind than to milestones.

"We keep busy doing what we have to," said Dwight Baugher, 30.

But as his father, Allan Baugher, 68, said, "100 years still growing and passing it down is worth a mention. We are proud of our heritage here and the idea that we are giving another generation a chance to make a living."

Baugher's will mark its Founders Day this weekend at the orchards north of Westminster. The farm has grown tenfold to more than 600 acres from the parcel where Daniel Baugher once sold peaches, potatoes and apples from wash basins in the front yard to customers in horse-drawn buggies.

His descendants farm more than 1,300 acres of their own and leased land, employ more than 200 people and ship fresh fruit to markets in Baltimore.

Baugher's Enterprises encompasses a grain farm, orchards, two retail markets, a restaurant and a bakery. It is the destination for countless school field trips, pick-your-own treks and searches for the perfect pumpkin.

"People just come out here to have fun doing what we take for granted every day," said Dwight Baugher.

Last year, Baugher's sold 120,000 bushels of apples, its signature fruit, at $10 a bushel. The family grows peaches, nectarines, pumpkins, cherries, strawberries, cantaloupes and watermelons.

"I grew up in the business, watching my mom and dad," said Allan Baugher, whose earliest memories are of riding in a red wagon behind his father's plow.

"I watched and my dad cultivated," he said. "We worked all hours, hard work, but there was love in the family."

His parents, Edward and Romaine Baugher, took out a $5,500 mortgage to buy the farm after Daniel Baugher's death in 1933. To help pay off the debt, Romaine Baugher baked pies in her basement and sold them door-to-door in Westminster.

Lorraine Baugher Jones, 31, coaxed those redolent recipes from her "Gram," who is retired, and "stepped in where my grandmother left off" to run the bakery, she said.

When in doubt, Jones asks her father to sample. "He has tasted them all, and he is my worst critic," she said.

"Gram was so good," she said. "She talked about a handful or a pinch, not any measurement. It took a while to figure out and write the recipes down so others could follow them. We do a lot, but it is not about quantity. It's about quality."

During the week before Thanksgiving, the bakery will make and sell 4,000 pies and countless dinner rolls, apple fritters and dumplings. Last year, Baugher's sold more than 50,000 pies with more than 30 fillings.

During World War II, a neighboring farmer offered to sell Edward Baugher his farm at whatever price he could pay. Along with that farm came five foster children who all went to work for Baugher's. Many of their descendants work for the family.

"If there is one place where you can use a set of hands, it's a farm," said Dwight Baugher, who manages much of the operation. "The family just made room for more children. Eventually, we rope everybody in."

In 1948, Ed and Romaine built Baugher's Restaurant, using their farm equipment, their own labor and help from neighbors. Their goal "was to connect the farm products with country cooking and fair prices in a clean and friendly atmosphere, close to town and Western Maryland College," according to a family history.

As much as any of the regular diners, the college, now named McDaniel, its students and their parents helped spread the restaurant's reputation for affordable, home-cooked meals.

"The college helps us go far," said Kay Ripley, Allan's oldest daughter.

The Baughers have run into former customers near and far, most recently on a camping trip in Montana and a visit to Washington state.

"It validates all the hard work for us," Dwight Baugher said.

Barbara Beverungen, director of tourism in Carroll County, said directions to Baugher's are among her most frequent inquiries. The business is included in restaurant lists and travelogues, she said.

"Even if they are not sure of the name, they have heard of the place itself," she said. "At the Ravens summer camp, `Where's Baugher's?' is the most-asked question. The second is, `Do they sell apples and make pies?' Part of its popularity is that it's a real family affair for families."

One customer recently returned an original menu that listed hamburgers and sundaes for 25 cents each and a banana split with three dips of homemade ice cream for 40 cents. Family members still make the ice cream in the basement of the restaurant.

Allan and the former Marjorie Hull married in 1961, and together they ran the farm. He did the heavy work, while she oversaw daily operations and kept the books. She remembers doing payroll with a manual adding machine from a hospital bed shortly after delivering her first child.

"We were a team," she said. "If we didn't work as a team, we would not have made it."

As soon as the children were able, they worked in the restaurant, at the county Farmers Market, where Baugher's is a staple, in the orchards or at the bakery. They recalled how they disliked rising at dawn and racing home from school to farm chores, but, as adults, they cherish the experience.

"We were young and allowed to make decisions," said Dwight Baugher. "This business won't make you rich, but it will give you good values."

Ripley said, "I now really appreciate that upbringing. To have three generations succeed in a business is rare. We are working on our fifth."

The low-key celebration this weekend will give visitors a chance to pick fruit, sample the wares, take a wagon ride, stop by the petting zoo and view family memorabilia, much as they would on any other day at the orchard and warehouse on Route 140 at Baugher Road.

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