Conrad Weaver thinks Frederick County’s farms are ready for their close up.
The documentary filmmaker and owner of Conjo Studios in Frederick is creating a series of videos highlighting the agriculture of Frederick, to be done in the hands-on style of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” which follows a host as he takes on some of the messiest, most difficult jobs in the world.
“I realized there wasn’t hardly anything done about Maryland agriculture — nothing I could find,” Weaver said. “I thought ‘There’s a lot of farming and agriculture right here in Frederick County, I wonder if this would be an interesting subject for people to learn about?’”
The videos — which will be hosted at www.americanfarmnetwork.com — will run between three and five minutes long.
The site currently has a brief preview showcasing the Thompson family dairy farm near Union Bridge, and the Bellasera alpaca farm in Union Bridge. Weaver said he hopes to have the first video ready in Sept.
Weaver said the initial concept was to showcase Frederick County, but that he hoped to expand it to surrounding counties and eventually the whole state if it were to be picked up by a cable network and expanded to a half-hour TV show.
Beginning at the end of July, Weaver shot video at the alpaca and dairy farms, as well as the Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Thurmont, with each highlighting a different type of agriculture available in the county.
Weaver said he wasn’t sure how much the project has cost thus far, but he is looking for partners, sponsors and advertisers to help cover the cost of the ongoing project.
Weaver, who grew up on a dairy farm in Ohio, said that background helped him in creating the farm videos.
“I really understand and get where the farmers are coming from,” he said. “A lot of people don’t really understand what a farmer does, how he does it, and why he does it.”
Colby Ferguson, an agricultural business development specialist with the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, is one of several people in the farm industry Weaver credits for helping get the project off the ground.
Ferguson said the videos offer a perspective on how farms work that they might not see normally.
“You’re getting an inside look that you don’t normally get when you go to an agritourism activity,” he said. “You’re seeing the backstage. You’re seeing the real aspects of farming and the effects of growth, of regulations and cost-of-living and production, and Mother Nature, and the curveballs she throws you.”
Robert Black, owner of Catoctin Mountain Orchard, is one of the farmers who’s given Weaver a behind-the-scenes look at the way his farm works. Black said he occasionally gets tour groups who ask to see the farm, but most people just come to buy the fruit.
He said he took Weaver and his host, Jillian Murphy, all over the orchard, showing them the products he uses to catch stinkbugs, which can devastate crops, discussing the way the high temperatures of the summer have affected his crops — peaches will be sweeter, but the apricot harvest was all but wiped out — and picked some “Blondie” apples, a new variety he’s planted this year, to taste on camera.
Black also discussed the preparations he makes in winter, such as looking for new varieties of products, and shared some techniques for viewers to keep their produce fresh, like storing fruits and vegetables in plastic bags to retain moisture.
Black said he has known Weaver for several years, but had no idea how enthusiastic Weaver was about farms.
Weaver filmed about 70 minutes of footage, showcasing the fruits the farm grows, which include apples, peaches and berries, Black said. He said he viewed the video as a further extension of highlighting what his farm does.
“It’s what I like doing,” Black said. “[Farming’s] not all good, but the majority of it is. That’s the fun part — when people stop at the market and take a sample, and they say ‘Wow, this is a great apple, or peach.’ That’s what makes it worthwhile.”
Ferguson said the video series would help show off what farms do for the community.
“It’s something very much needed,” Ferguson said. “... I think it’s something that overall community can really appreciate. It’s kind of a novelty thing. Not many people have the ability to see how a farm works.”