Introducing the Insight of Environmental Educator, Tom Harbold

Tom Harbold, Guest Blogger for Maryland Food and Farming Association
Tom Harbold, Guest Blogger for Maryland Food and Farming Association

My name is Tom Harbold, and I’m honored to have been asked by Holly Heintz Budd to serve as a guest blogger for the Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association’s new website. What are my qualifications? Since 1998, I have been working mostly as an outdoor or environmental educator. I hold a BA and a Masters in humanities disciplines, and in 2001, I graduated with a certificate in park management with a concentration in environmental education from Frederick Community College.

I’ve served as an educator at the Carroll County Outdoor School, a flagship week-long educational enrichment program for Carroll County 6th graders, and as a naturalist at both the local (Piney Run, in Sykesville) and State (Cunningham Falls, near Thurmont) levels. I’ve been a conservation educator for the Carroll County chapter of Pheasants Forever, an international upland conservation organization. And from 2005-2009, I was active with Spoutwood Farm Center, Inc., an educational and community-supported agriculture farm in Glen Rock, PA, starting as a working shareholder with the CSA, and working my way up.

From 2007-2009, I served as Education Coordinator for Spoutwood, and also coordinated the work-and-learn (intern and apprentice) program for the farm. Spoutwood’s programs include a 100+ member CSA, the aforementioned work-and-learn program for those interested in learning to practice natural farming/sustainable agriculture, an excellent observatory which holds regular “Evenings of Wonder” to share the glory of the night sky, and (since my tenure there) “Teen Battle Chefs,” a youth development program exploring culinary arts, food systems and gardening education, while battling obesity and chronic disease.

In addition, Spoutwood offers two major public programs: the annual May Day Fairie Festival, a celebration of the mythic arts and the warming Earth, now in its 22nd year, and the Mother Earth Harvest Festival in September, dedicated to sustainable agriculture and sustainable living in general. Spoutwood is not certified organic, but has used organic techniques since its inception; and its CSA is Certified Naturally Grown. Spoutwood is a proud and active member of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, and its President, CEO, and chief land steward, Rob Wood, has served on the PASA board.

Spoutwood helped to turn my interest in sustainable and organic agriculture into a passion, but that interest goes back to my childhood, where my maternal grandparents were early adopters of the organic movement. I remember sitting fascinated for hours, in the living room of the old farmhouse in Dennisville, NJ, poring over copies of Rodale’s “Organic Gardening and Farming” magazine, or digging gallon ice-cream pails of kitchen scraps into their big garden to enrich the soil. My paternal grandmother lived on a workiing – though, sadly, not organic – farm in Highland, MD, so I got bitten by the farm bug on both sides!

As regards writing, since 2004 I have written a regular op-ed column for the Carroll County Times, which frequently deals with agricultural, environmental, or sustainability issues. I have also written essays and articles which have been published in The Bay Journal, the sadly now-defunct Edible Chesapeake, the Upland Journal, and Farming: People, Land, Community.

My interests include sustainable and organic agriculture education (obviously!), whole and natural foods cooking, environmental education and the relationship between agriculture and environmental stewardship, draft animal power (especially horses and oxen) for small farms and woodlots, renewable and alternative energy, green building, and supporting and empowering local communities. Not to mention growing and cooking with fresh, natural, and local, foods!

Influences include, but are not limited to, the inimitable Wendell Berry, Amish farmer, author and philosopher David Kline, and “the father of modern conservation,” Aldo Leopold. I also draw wisdom and inspiration from the likes of Nina Planck (“Real Food”), Joann S. Grohman (“Keeping a Family Cow,” and the online “Heifer Diary”), Barbara Kingsolver (“Animal, Vegetable, Mineral”), Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” etc.), Richard Kunstler (“The Long Emergency”), Kim Hartke (“Hartke Online” blog), Mark Sissons and his “Primal Blueprint,” and the Weston A. Price Foundation, among others.

I appreciate the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with the MOFFA community, and look forward to getting to know you! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or comments, and I shall do my best to respond in a timely manner. Happy and healthy farming, and eating!

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to treat it with love and respect.” ~ Aldo Leopold

Tom Harbold lives in Hampstead, Maryland. Contact him at

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