Over the past several months I have written stories about many of the great and wonderful volunteers that reside here in Calvert County. And, we are deeply fortunate to have so many families whose dedication over many decades have made our home here the real land of pleasant living. But, there is one family that particularly stands out when there is talk of giving one’s self to others in need and, of course, that can be no other than our own Fowler Family! Now I know most of our citizens know of the great legacy of the family patriarch, former Maryland Senator and County Commissioner Bernie Fowler, Senior. His annual “Wade Ins” to improve the quality of the Patuxent River are legendary. His devotion to Southern Maryland and its people is unequalled! But his story will be saved for a few weeks until I can sit down with him and tell you about his personal side. My story this week is about that tall, handsome smiling gent with a grayish mustache and beard, and always standing nearby his dad, his son Bernie Fowler, Junior.
I am extremely pleased that I have the opportunity to speak about “Junior” during the week of Thanksgiving because his great efforts to feed the hungry over the past three years are absolutely phenomenal! It is truly amazing what he has accomplished with his group of friends and the multitude of organizations he has been able to harness to raise crops [and money] for feeding the many unfortunate members of the community. It is one of the most impressive stories of accomplishment here in Southern Maryland that I have known!
Bernie is a native of Calvert County. He was born here 54 years ago and is a graduate of Calvert High. In his youth, he dreamed of becoming a policeman and attended a 24 week Law Enforcement Academy followed by a 12 week of instruction with the U. S. Capitol Police K-9 Academy. He also completed courses with at the Community College. He also became involved with the housing industry and later owned his own firm building houses throughout Southern Maryland. But, for many of us in the real estate market, the down turn in the national economy during the period 2008-2011 created havoc and the demand for new homes was severely curtailed. Builders such as Bernie were devastated and many were put out of business or took a hiatus in order to fall back and regroup.
As he tells me, he felt a “spiritual calling” to become involved with assisting people who felt hopeless and helpless. He too was affected and felt the Lord had put him in “time out” for three years! He watched as many of his colleagues and friends suffered from the downturn in the economy. Then one day while visiting a Maryland Food Drop, he recognized several individuals there receiving food for their families. Many of these folks had completed contract work on homes Bernie’s company had built. They told him the food helped to keep the lights on and the mortgage paid if only for a few months. It was then he realized that by coming together as a community and working together he could help those folks who felt as though they had been forgotten. For Bernie, I believe, it was an epiphany and the start of a new means for looking at life around him. He emerged with a driven desire to serve and help others less fortunate then himself.
In 2012, Bernie founded “Farming 4 Hunger” to serve his neighbors in the Southern Maryland community. His experience in witnessing folks he knew resorting to accepting food handouts convinced him he wanted to ensure his neighbors had access to fresh fruit and vegetables “to augment the nutrient poor, canned and boxed goods distributed by food banks”. Additionally, he recognized the lack of nutrients in their diets led to struggles with the growing problems of childhood obesity and diabetes. He realized local farmers were also struggling to make ends meet and needed support as well. He saw that people were being fed, but that as a community we could do so much better.
Farming 4 Hunger was formed as a 501[c]3 non-profit organization. Its Mission is “to feed the hungry and help feed the soul”. Bernie states “Hunger comes in many different ways. Healing the mind, body, and spirit is at the core this organization. We believe if you serve others you too will be fed”. They accomplish this mission through unique partnerships Bernie has formed with local farms, churches, businesses, and schools, the Maryland Food Bank, and even the Department of Corrections in Charles County. It is all made possible by a very huge network of community volunteers.
In addition to providing community service for the inmate population, he works with the Calvert County Public Schools to provide opportunities for students to complete their requirements for community service while giving them a chance to learn about the benefits of farming and the importance of serving others in need. You may have seen pictures of the many groups from the University of Maryland athletic teams and our own High school athletes working the fields or operating equipment and packaging the produce at Serenity Farms across the Benedict Bridge. Bernie continues to broaden the impact of his organization by engaging the United Way of Calvert, the College of Southern Maryland, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Young Marines, and many area food pantries and hunger relief folks. This year he added 20 individuals from the Drug Court to work with Farming 4 Hunger to complete mandatory community service hours.
During the three years since, Bernie, with the help of more than 10,000 volunteers, started these efforts, they have been able to grow, harvest and distribute with the support of the local farmers more than 5 million pounds of produce to the area’s most needy! What a tremendous achievement my friend! He credits the great help and encouragement of his wife Rose, his mom and dad, Bernie, Sr. and Betty, and his family for their love and support to have made all this possible! I can think of no better person to highlight as our unsung hero here in Calvert during the Thanksgiving Holiday than the younger Mr. Fowler! Keep up the good work Junior!
If you would like to donate to their 2016 “Seed Drive” go to www.farming4hunger.com. Or you can write Bernie @ Farming4Hunger, P.O. Box 2348, Prince Frederick, MD 20678 to donate or become involved with this tremendous work.
Finally, if you feel you are just too busy to help out, please know Bernie and I conducted this interview as he was driving an RV seven hours across Florida on his “Honeymoon” no less! That’s what I call a real “Busy man”! Happy Thanksgiving my friend!
If you know of an unsung citizen of Calvert County, please contact Dave at email@example.com.