Koinonia Organic Farm is the oldest certified organic farm in Maryland. Started in 1951, the farm currently supplies culinary herbs to Whole Foods Market, Giant and Graul’s Market.

Located on the 45-acre estate of the prestigious Gramercy Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Stevenson, MD, they also supply herbs to season the breakfasts served there.

The organic farm was started as part of the Koinonia Foundation, an ecumenical training center formed by a group of 12 Christian missionaries. Their focus changed after the creation of the Peace Corps in 1961, which worked in a similar (though non-religious) vein.

The foundation became a learning center for yoga, meditation, dance, art and organic gardening while fostering community. Members studied organic gardening in two large garden plots under the tutelage of the center’s beloved Richard Falkenstein, best known as Dick.

According to the memoir “Three-Day Journey: Stories of a Twelve-Year-Old Korean Refugee,” written by Duk-Joong Won, Ph.D. of economics, Won met Falkenstein in September 1965 at the Koinonia Center. He stayed there briefly when he first came to this country as a 12-year-old refugee. He assisted Falkenstein in the garden. According to Won, Falkenstein originally came from Minnesota and had been a chemistry teacher teaching as a missionary in China when his vocal cords were severely damaged by a liquid chemical while working in a lab. As a result, Falkenstein could only speak in a whisper. Working in the garden transcended language barriers.

Unfortunately, the center brought in little revenue. By 1985, it faced bankruptcy and the estate was auctioned off. Dr. Ronald and Anne Pomykala were visiting Baltimore and put in the winning bid. They infused the property with care and brought the historic estate back to life.

This allowed the farm to continue. The farm currently has four full-time employees and 14 to 18 seasonal workers. They grow organic basil, chives, cilantro, dill, French tarragon, oregano, spearmint, Thai basil and other herbs. There are three greenhouses offering approximately 45,000 square feet of cover.

Anne Pomykala, owner of Koinonia Organic Farm and the Gramercy Mansion in Stevenson, MD, welcomes guests. Photo by Laura Rodley

Full-time manager Raina Gover has worked at Koinonia Farm for 17 years. “The best thing about working here is it’s like working for family,” she said. Owner and lynchpin Anne Pomykala is on site, both on the farm and in the mansion.

The farm cultivates seven outside acres. Three of these acres are currently lying fallow under cover crops of winter wheat, red clover, hairy vetch and rye, with an aim toward improving the phosphorus of the soil. The cover crops will be mowed under with composted leaves.

“If we need to, we use organic pelleted fertilizer,” said Gover.

Though the USDA allows approved organic pesticides, Koinonia Farm chooses other methods. In the past, they have used garlic spray. They also use barriers, traps and beneficial insects. Planting ground cover also disrupts the weed cycle and further discourages insects.

Their growing season inside the greenhouses is March through December. Back in mid-February, Gover and her crew were repairing the back corner of one of the greenhouses where two or three bays were damaged during a fire that started off the property.

The greenhouses are off limits to the public, however, in season, tours are offered of the gardens and the Gramercy Mansion. For more information visit koinoniaorganicfarm.com.

by Laura Rodley