Planted Firmly at Horsmon Farm
Cosgroves keep the family business growing in St. Leonard
Writer: Angela Mattingly Breck | Photographer: August Selckmann | Fall 2021
It is a hot summer day, and Cathy Horsmon-Cosgrove stands in the center of her family’s 55-acre St. Leonard farm.
Her roots run deep here. She is the fourth generation to run Horsmon Farm. With her in this farming endeavor is husband J.R. Cosgrove and their two children.
J.R. is also from a farming family. He grew up helping his grandfather on their farm in Prince Frederick. Cathy and J.R. met while attending Calvert High School.
Cathy says J.R. was wearing something with a farming emblem on it (though they disagree whether it was on his hat or jacket). Only another farmer would have recognized it, she says. Whatever it was, it was a conversation starter. That’s when she first spoke to him.
“Back then, kids didn’t advertise they were farmers, but he did,” she says. “That’s what attracted me to him.”
She points out her childhood home off to the right, and behind her up on a hill is the house where she lives now.
On the Horsmon Farm property, there are barns, of course; fields in all directions, some green with tall Sudan grass. A large pumpkin patch with big leafy plants is starting to take shape. There’s a produce garden with squash, zucchini, tomatoes and other vegetables that must be picked daily. This year, the Cosgroves have grown Korean melons and Armenian cucumbers, too.
There’s a play area for children. Cows can be seen in one field, some cute little goats and a hen in a nearby pen.
At the turn into the farm sits a produce stand that daughter Kaitlyn, 16, and son Wesley, 14, see to each day. Purchases are on an honor system. Prices are listed and honest customers drop the payments into a wooden cash box.
Cathy also points out the spot where the largest barn on the property once stood until destroyed by a March 2021 fire. Luckily, metal siding recently installed on a nearby structure saved that one. Some equipment, tools, other farm items and straw that was being stored in the big barn were destroyed. No animals or people were hurt.
Despite that loss, the work continues.
2020 BROUGHT CHANGES
It is no secret that 2020 was a tough year. The pandemic caused much uncertainty for just about everyone. Farmers were no exception. The Cosgroves knew they needed to make changes.
While the pandemic created new difficulties for the farm, Cathy points out a positive. People started to think more about where their food was coming from.
The Cosgroves began a membership subscription program that offered a steady clientele for their fresh, locally-raised produce and locally-raised beef and pork. Members signed up to receive vegetables and/or meat each week. They drove to the farm to pick it up or ordered it delivered. The program gave assurances that the farm could move what it was producing.
“That might have saved us,” Cathy says.
Food being “fresh and local” appealed to many. What the Cosgroves don’t grow they source from other farms as close to home as possible.
Also, 2020 was the year that Cathy’s father Richard “Dickie” Horsmon retired. (Cathy’s mother Phyllis passed away about five years ago. Phyllis is credited with pushing for the farm to concentrate on producing mums and other fall products.)
Cathy also decided to homeschool her children.
“Homeschooling last year taught me so much about them,” she says. Between lessons, they learned a lot by helping on the farm every day. Kaitlyn enjoys working with the animals and packing the subscription boxes. Wesley keeps busy with lots of chores and fieldwork.
FALL TIME, FUN TIME
In fall, one of the large fields of Sudan grass will become a maze for younger children, and the pumpkin patch will be filled with bright orange pumpkins perfect for picking. Mums, for which the farm is known, will be bursting with color, too. The plan is to bring back the farm’s popular fall events, which were put on hold during the pandemic.
The Cosgroves are looking forward to resuming school field trips, hayrides, grass maze, a petting zoo, corn box (think corn kernels instead of sand,) educational hikes, scavenger hunts, and other kid-friendly and popular agritourism activities.
But before fall arrives, the family remains busy.
The subscription plan instituted last year helped keep things running then and are keeping them busy this year. Cathy says the farm has 80 produce and 50 meat memberships.
Cathy and J.R. are full-time farmers. J.R. is also a full-time civil engineer and then he comes home to work the farm . . . full time, too. She likes to say she works “double time” on the farm.
Horsmon Farm also leases nearby land and operates other farms in the St. Leonard area.
Cathy misses her father’s expertise. Dickie now lives in Florida. It seems relocating was the only way he could retire.
“In order for him to truly be retired, he has to take himself completely away, or he’d still be doing the work,” she says.
But just because he’s not around doesn’t mean she doesn’t need him. She talks to him a lot, calling often for advice.
“He’s an excellent role model,” she says. “And probably one of the best people to work for. . . . His wisdom is just beyond anybody I know.”
Cathy sees herself working on the farm for a long time, saying, “I’m not going anywhere. I tried working at other jobs and tried to do nine-to-five jobs, something that makes more money. But this is so much more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done.”
She takes pride in knowing her children want to continue to work on the farm. The fall will be a busy time for them. They’ll be greeting customers, helping to run the weekend events and hayrides. They will be going back to in-school learning.
Cathy believes her ancestors would be proud to see what is being done today at Horsmon Farm and to see that the next generation is stepping up to continue the family business. ▪
Horsmon Farm is at 1865 Horsmon Farm Road in St. Leonard. The schedule for fall events will be posted on the farm’s website. Learn more at horsmonfarm.com or call 443-532-5761.