Backbone Food Farm
will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a special Farm Day event on Sunday, August 18th, from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m.
“Farm Day is a celebration of our 20 years here, doing what we do,” said Katharine Dubansky, who owns and operates the farm with her husband, Max. “We enjoy sharing our farm with our friends and customers.”
Planned events include music, food from The Farm Up Truck food truck and tours of the farm, its mushroom operation, hemp project and livestock. In addition, fun activities will be offered for kids.
The farm is located at 530 Lynndale Road in the Oakland area.
The Dubanskys have four children. Their oldest, Grace (21) lives and works on the farm currently and manages livestock operations. Leon (19) is building mountain biking trails in the county with a Tucker County, West Virginia , company. Iris (12) and Tessa (9) are “happy farm kids who help around the place.”
Max’s mother and Katharine’s parents also moved to the Oakland area to be close to the family.
Katharine explained that Max moved to Garrett County from Baltimore with his family when he was 5 years old. They wanted to live a more rural lifestyle .
“His mother, Riitta, is from Finland and wanted to live where winter was snowier,” she said. “She ran a cross-country ski rental business out of her basement for skiers going to New Germany State Park. Max helped with this business, and also helped his dad with backyard organic gardens and fruits.”
Katharine moved to the area in 1990 to attend Frostburg State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary/middle education.
“We began a farm and a family in 1997 after realizing that we both desired to work outside, be self-employed and provide clean, healthy food for our family and community,” she said. “It was also very important to us that we could be home to raise our children on the farm.”
Their original round at farming was in the Savage River Forest area, but they started Backbone Food Farm in 1999.
“This farm had not been farmed other than to make hay for many years,” Dubansky said. “The infrastructure was run down, and we worked for several years to build the things we needed for our operation.”
Over the years, the Dubanskys added fences, a well, a greenhouse, a packing shed, high tunnels and more.
“We are continually working at building healthy, active soil, which is the cornerstone of a healthy farm ecology,” Dubansky said.
Today, the main operations at Backbone are certified naturally grown produce and berries, shiitake and oyster mushrooms and pastured pork. In addition, the Dubanskys have a small beef herd, raise cut flowers and make hay.
In the first years at the farm, the family operated Backbone Mountain Cross-Country Ski Farm. This included 12 miles of groomed trails and a small rental shop and lodge. The ski shop closed in 2011.
“In the 20 years we have been here, we have been continually improving, trying new crops, expanding on ideas that are successful and looking towards what might be the next best thing for our farm,” Dubansky said. “We have turned the ski shop into a small Air BnB and began Farm Camp four years ago. We enjoy hosting school and civic groups and educating people about organic and sustainable agriculture and mycology.”
This year, the farm obtained a permit from the Maryland Department of Agriculture to participate in the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program.
“We have 100 CBD-rich plants growing this year and are looking forward to seeing the results of the trial,” Dubansky said. “We have partnered with Frostburg State University and are gathering information on varieties and how hemp performs in the climate of Garrett County.”
The Dubanskys said they hope to keep on farming well into their later years.
“We would like to see opportunities for young people interested in farming to grow in the county,” Dubansky said. “We have experienced so much support from citizens of the county and surrounding counties. This is an excellent place to live and raise a family.”
Dubansky noted that the local Extension Office has been very helpful over the years, and they have been able to learn from the local farming community as well.
“Not having come from farming families, a lot of what we have learned has been trial by fire, and we are grateful for all the help we have received over the years,” she said.
The farm has belonged to the Mountain Fresh Farmers Market “family” for over 20 years, and the Dubanskys have found it to be an excellent outlet for their products and have appreciated having a kind, generous group of people to offer encouragement.
“We hope the farm economy will continue to grow, and that more people will realize that Garrett County has a rich collection of farms and farm products to offer,” Dubansky said.