New to Digital Maryland: Dairy Farms of Montgomery County

Alan Belt Farm #1, Beallsville, Maryland

Need some time away from the city? You’re one click away from the Dairy Farms of Montgomery County thanks to a new collection available on Digital Maryland. Until World War II, farming was a primary industry in Montgomery County.  The completion of the B&O Metropolitan branch railroad helped boost the rise of dairy farms across Montgomery County, so much so it was known as the “milk train.” This line made it possible for farmers to bring their milk into their local rail station for fast delivery to Washington, D.C.  At one point in the 1950’s, there were over 300 family-operated dairy farms in Montgomery County.

Walter Bryan Farm, Etchison, MD

The second half of the 20th century saw a rapid decline in Montgomery County farms due to development pressures, ever increasing government health regulations, and a Federal Government Whole Herd Buy-out Program via the Dairy Termination Program (DTP). Families could make more money selling their land to developers or selling their herds than they could make farming. Although the county has been making efforts to limit development and to preserve farmland via its Agricultural Reserve, Montgomery County dairy farms continue to disappear.

Les Woodfield Farm, Damascus, Maryland

In 2017, the number of operating dairy farms in the county fell to four. To help preserve the history of dairy farms in Montgomery County, Richard Rowe has been photographing them and displaying the images at the King Barn Dairy MOOseum in Germantown, Maryland. Many of the farm structures he has captured no longer exist.

Check out Richard Rowe’s Photography collection on Digital Maryland.