Spotlight on Cross Farms and Carol Cross

Cross Farms: Carol and Shawn Cross

Carol Cross grew up in a farming family. She spent her childhood tending the family garden, canning vegetables for the winter, and watching her father and grandfather farm their 500 acres. She decided to continue the family tradition with her husband, Shawn. They have been growing their own food for over 25 years. About a decade ago, their small vegetable garden began garnering interest from their neighbors, and nine years ago Cross Farms was born. What began as a lifestyle choice, has grown into a 3½ acre Naturally Grown farm in Berlin, Maryland. Cross Farms is dedicated to providing for the needs of their community. When you choose to buy local, you are supporting committed and passionate farmers like Carol and Shawn.

Farmer Carol Cross on her farm in Showell. Photo Credit: Sarah Murray

To meet the high market demand for certain products while maintaining their natural growing methods, Carol and Shawn intercrop their plants with “friend” plants. “Some vegetables you can plant side by side and they do extremely well, such as amaranth next to tomatoes, peas next to carrots, and cabbage next to lettuce. All these pairings grow well together and do not have any competition. But, say you put a watermelon next to your potatoes, you will not get any watermelon, you want to follow a ‘friend’ list, as well as know your ‘enemy’ plants.” Carol is referring to the concept of companion (or friend) planting. 

Companion planting is a natural growth method utilized by many small-scale farms to help improve the vigor and health of plants in a small space. Companion plants can improve flavor, repel insects, deter diseases, and encourage faster growth. For example, basil is a good companion plant for tomatoes because it deters aphids, which can devastate tomato crops. However, cabbage would be an “enemy” plant because it will take away nutrients from the tomato plants, preventing growth. Intercropping is only one of the many ways Carol and Shawn protect their crops and their land.

Produce growing on Cross Farms in Showell. Photo Credit: Sarah Murray

DID YOU KNOW? 3/4 of the world’s flowering plants and approximately 35% of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. It is estimated that 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, beetles, and other insects. Another cost-effective way to encourage growth and protect the environment is to plant pollinators. One of Carol’s major recommendations for any gardener or farmer would be to focus on building up habitat that attracts birds, insects, and other pollinators. “Something as simple as a wildflower garden can be beneficial.” On Cross Farms, they have various groups of wildflowers to attract pollinators,and on-farm pollinator conservation is a win-win situation for Cross Farms and the pollinators. Pollinator populations are declining in many parts of the U.S., and these declines are harmful to agricultural productivity and the health of our natural environment. Adding pollinator habitat to farm production increases the number of crop pollinators, which, in turn, leads to higher quality and quantity crop yields.

A shot of Cross Farms. Photo Credit: Sarah Murray

Carol understands the important role farmers play in the Coastal Bays watershed and she encourages everyone to come to their farm to simply learn. “I absolutely encourage people to come and experience the farm.

Cross Farms produce is currently available at their farm stand located at 9933 Pitts Road, Berlin, MD. They also sell at The Berlin Farmers Market (open May – September), which is open on Sundays from 9:00am – 1:00pm. Please call (410) 251-6824 to schedule a pick-up or delivery. They also offer a variety of boxed vegetables at wholesale prices. For further inquiries please email or visit their Facebook or Instagram.

Carol also sat down with Maryland Coastal Bays Program to talk about her passion for food. Watch it here

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