by Chris O’Connor

A Snapshot of my Friends at the Farm

It was kismet that I met David and Marge Harman of Sunnyside Hill Farm in Sabillasville, around fifteen years ago. My daughter attended school in Emmitsburg; but, after two years, we made the fortuitous choice to transfer her to Sabillasville Elementary.  One day, I happily noticed that the Harmans had round hay bales for sale, and so began our friendship.

Driving to the new school was down Route 550 that dissects the Sunnyside Hill Farm’s picturesque farm fields like a lazy river at an amusement park. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the road has become more like a Grand Prix race course, where most don’t heed the speed limit or the signs that indicate a farm entrance just over a blind hill.

After meeting the Harmans, I broke my leg.  Marge Harman would drive me to the doctor in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, then we’d go eat at the former Waynesboro Mountain Gate Restaurant. Then it was on to rehab in Thurmont after the cast was removed until I finally regained some function of my busted wheel.  Marge would haul me down there, then back to the farm where she’d fix me something to eat, then she’d run me back to the house where I strived to limp another day.

Very early one summer morning, I went to their farm to spend a few hours on the front lawn to view the Perseid meteor showers. David and Marge got up at the crack of dawn and went into town, returning with fresh donuts. I went inside shortly after, and David fixed me bacon and eggs. Bacon and eggs are especially delectable when one is covered in morning dew.

When I go for hay, David ties the bales down with quick-release knots. Knot-tying is one of many lessons David learned during his formative years climbing the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America. He was inspired to a life of service and hard work then, earning innumerable badges while helping build camp sites and the lake for the scouts at Camp Tuckahoe near Biglerville, Pennsylvania. He often aided the camp’s cook by “bugling” in the scouts for chow time.

David became an Eagle Scout, honing many life skills, including swimming and lifesaving. Few know that David saved a boy’s life when the boy panicked and found himself in too deep in a pond.

David and Marge became acquainted in 1955 while he was a produce manager at Acme Grocery store in Gettysburg. Marge happened in one December evening with members of her family.

Marge is the second to the youngest of Pauline and Walter “Buck” Lantz’s five kids. David strived to visit the farm to join in the celebration of Marge’s sixteenth birthday, but was unable to find the farm that her parents acquired in 1942.

David recalls how folks he approached to get directions were confused when he referred to Marge’s father as Walter Lantz. 

The second time David came to Sabillasville looking for directions to Walter Lantz’s place, someone asked if he was referring to “Buck” Lantz. Bingo! David finally found the farm and the girl of his dreams.  They learned they shared a sense of morals, work ethic, humility…and a sense of humor.

The rest is history.

David and Marge married in June 1958. He shipped out to Army boot camp in New Jersey for six months, before transferring to radar school at Ft. Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma.

David, home on leave for their first wedding anniversary, brought Marge a dozen roses. Then they packed a ’55 Plymouth to the gills.   Soon, it was pedal to the metal, westward-bound for the high desert of Ft. Carson, Colorado Springs, Colorado, a marked contrast to the verdant hills of north central Maryland. At Ft. Carson, David was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Upon discharge from the Army, David secured a position at The Thurmont Bank as consumer loans manager. He spent a few decades there, during which time the bank changed hands in succession by Suburban, Sovran, CNS Sovran, then Nations bank. He played all positions in the bank: manager of consumer loans, teller, and head teller, until being promoted to manager in 1981, where he remained until his retirement in 1993.  

All the while, David helped his father-in-law, Buck, with the farm.  David would milk the dairy cows in the morning, then clean up and go to work at the bank. He urged Buck to acquire a baler to help streamline the hay harvest. At that point, they were harvesting using one of two mules and storing hay in loose stacks in the mow.

These days, Marge and David, their sons, extended family, and good friends throw in together, whether its time to sow or harvest or help is needed with the endless chores. 

They raise crops to feed livestock, which has included dairy cows, mules, hogs, chickens, goats, cattle, and their pet donkeys. Now they market beef, hay, straw, corn, and soybeans.

Generations of accumulated knowledge, work ethic, modern farm equipment, newer outbuildings, and mechanical acumen has been integral to the success of a farm. Common sense, mathematical ability, and team work are important—especially now considering the increasingly demanding regulatory environment that requires ever-mounting paperwork and accountability as to any farmer’s methods and practices.

The Harmans strive to maintain their way of life while balancing the vagaries of nature and considering the complexities of all the external variables.  

That being said, visiting my adopted home place is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.   

And I’ve never left hungry.


Marge and David Harman

Photo by Deb Spalding

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