July-August 2010 | EARTHLY CREATIONS

EARTHLY CREATIONS
Quindocqua Farms owner Lawrence McDonaldEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONSEARTHLY CREATIONS

FLAVORS

EARTHLY CREATIONS

Lawrence McDonald’s passion for produce has grown into one of the region’s only federally certified organic farms

Written By: | Photographer: Stephen Cherry

Four days a week in the summer, Lawrence McDonald loads up his 1997 red Ford pick-up truck and heads into town. When he arrives, usually a chorus of friendly greetings, handshakes and anticipation are awaiting him, in part because McDonald is the proprietor of Quindocqua Farms, one of the region’s only certified organic farms.

The approbation seems well placed, for to be such a farm is apparently no mean feat.
“The soil must be fallowed for at least seven years before the farm is eligible for federal organic certification,” said McDonald. “Additionally, the U.S.D.A. has very strict mandates in terms of applied techniques as well as seed variety and history, then follows it up with annual inspections to ensure compliance.”
 
The result is produce that is ostensibly much better for your body than the conventional alternative, yet more distinct and even more flavorful.
 
“I like to think my produce possesses more personality and character than what you get from my non-organic counterparts,” offered the 42-year-old farmer, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Geoscience from Salisbury University and is currently pursuing his master’s in English from the same institution. “It may not look exactly like what you grew up seeing at your local grocery store, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
 
Neither would his loyal stable of customers, which includes such estimable eateries as The Shark on the Harbor in West Ocean City and Planet X Cafe in Rehoboth Beach. During peak season, McDonald reports that his client base is pretty much evenly
divided between restaurants and farm markets.
 
Located in sleepy little Marion Station, Md. – the Eastern Shore’s only officially designated ghost town (compliments of ghosttown.com) and the erstwhile worldwide capital of strawberry production – Quindocqua Farms is an idyllic tract of roughly 25 acres, of which McDonald usually works 10 to 15 actively. That’s where you’ll find him cultivating cold crops such as radishes, lettuce, kale, broccoli and broccoli rabe,
cauliflower, arugula, onions and leeks, beets, spinach, potatoes, garlic and more.
 
In the summer, the farm may be relied on for top-grade watermelon, eggplant, squash,  peppers, zucchini and heirloom-variety tomatoes, but the former Washington D.C. city boy-turned-agronomist reports that the productive management of such a relatively small parcel of land is as much an art as it is a science.
 
“You have to be judicious about how you best use a farm this size,” he said. “For example, growing corn would be a total misuse of space here, which is obviously why I don’t grow it. But that same decision gives me the freedom to do other, more creative things with the land.
 
“I like to bring something new and innovative to the market each year,” McDonald continued, “something that will have people intrigued and talking. I really do look upon what I do here as a creative vocation.”
 
Part of that perspective is no doubt innate, but McDonald – who began farming professionally in 1995 and was first certified organic in 1997 – is quick to credit Dale Johnson as part of his inspiration.
 
“Dale Johnson was this professor of sociology and department chair at Rutgers University who eventually became this somewhat iconic figure among organic farmers,” explained McDonald. “I had the good fortune of having worked side by side with him, and I know that a substantial part of the way I think about organic farming today was positively influenced by him.”
 
McDonald is clad on this day as he is most days: blue jeans, steel-toed work boots and a straw hat. With his wavy dark-brown hair, piercingly bright eyes and chiseled features, he may just cast one of the more striking images of a farmer since Harrison Ford decided to hide out among the Amish in Witness. But there are other similarities. Like Ford, there is a certain flourish of showbiz within the soul of the athletic and health-conscious farmer.
 
His band, Bells Of, is the most recent manifestation of his 20-plus years as a musician and performer. April 2010 marked the release of his fifth CD, Young McDonald and the Five Season Farmers. While his musical roots are clearly the D.C. punk movement of the ’80s, even a quick sampling of McDonald’s work clearly demonstrates a style that has evolved, if not been reinvented, over the years. In fact, one of the only discernible common threads is that each of his CDs has a number in the title. Regardless, it’s crystal clear that the word “static” doesn’t exist in Lawrence McDonald’s vocabulary.
 
“I like to see my life as one giant art project,” he explained. “And it’s the expansion of that lifelong canvas of creation that lets me greet each new day with enthusiasm.”


Editor’s note
: Quindocqua Farms and Bells Of can be found on Facebook.com.


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