Gannons are the Queen Anne's County Farm Family of the Year

Tom and Dottie Gannon, center, with members of their family. 

CENTREVILLE — The Gannons are the farm family that will be recognized Wednesday evening, Aug. 11, during the Queen Anne’s County Fair. Tom and Dottie Gannon are so proud of what they have accomplished in their 39 years of marriage.

Tom was born and raised just north of Centreville on his parents John and Catherine Gannon’s farm. It was a goal of Tom’s to own his own farm one day. Growing up raising grain crops, sheep, swine, beef cows and poultry there was never a shortage of work to do on the farm.

Tom’s dad tried growing tobacco for a few years. Tom said, “My dad always told me the next job would be easier, but it never did get easier! That was the hardest work I ever did; it was all manual labor, and it was always hot, plus the smell of the tobacco was terrible.”

One of the jobs Tom recalls doing, when working with tobacco, was to look for green horned worms, pull them off the tobacco plants and squish them.

“They always smelled like tobacco when they were squished, it was terrible,” Tom said with a smile.

Dottie was not raised on a farm. She was born in Baltimore County, where her father was a state trooper. The family moved to Queenstown when Dottie was 12, when her father was transferred to the Centreville barracks. She went to Queen Anne’s County High School, where she met Tom. It wasn’t until they both graduated from high school that they started to date.

“We broke up a few times, but she chased me until she caught me,” Tom said with a laugh.

They got married in 1982, and five years later their oldest daughter was born. Catherine now lives in Delaware with her son, Bryan, and her significant other, Sean Forsyth. Catherine stays very busy raising a rising freshman in high school along with being a nurse practitioner.

Bryan is anxious to see what high school has in store for him. One thing he enjoys and is very good at is making chocolate chip cookies. He has enjoyed 4-H showing sheep, but now he has his eyes set on figuring what he wants to do with his future.

Catherine and Sean are both nurse practitioners and both help on the farm running equipment and sorting pigs.

Two years after Catherine was born, daughter Dot arrived. Growing up, she loved to show sheep and ride horses in 4-H alongside Catherine. She believes taking care of the animals at home instilled a great work ethic.

Dot also is following in her sister and mom’s career path; she chose to work in the respiratory therapy field.

Dot married Dale Alexander, who is crane operator on the water. Dale knew marrying into the Gannon family he would have the opportunity to help on the farm.

Dale remembers thinking, “I’m going to drive the combine,” although Dot had other plans. “You can’t start out running the combine you have to start at the bottom driving the grain cart and work your way up,” Dot said.

Dale said he has learned much working with the family and how it takes everyone to do their part to make the farm work.

Tom and Dottie’s last daughter, Jenn, is enrolled at the University of Maryland, studying agri-business. When asked why she chose that major, Jenn replied, “It is just a good fit for me. I was very active in FFA in high school and in 4-H. Growing up and seeing how my family ran the farm made my decision easy.”

Jenn, who has worked on the farm her entire life, said, “It never was made to feel like work, we all work together, laugh together and we just get it done.”

Even Jenn’s boyfriend, Matt Thompson, helps when harvest time rolls around. It truly is a family operation.

Tom and Dottie have always stayed busy with the farming operation, as well as volunteering and off-the-farm employment.

Dottie has worked as an ICU nurse at the hospital in Easton for the past 36 years. Along with working on and off the farm, she found time to run the Pony Express 4-H Club for seven years. Their family has been a member of the club for more than 20 years.

Tom has also given much of his time to 4-H, working at the Queen Anne’s County Fair as the chairman of the sheep show, 4-H Park board member for 13 years, treasurer for nine years, fair chairman for five years and has sat on the Grain Producers Board.

He and Dottie both acknowledge their love of having the kids in 4-H grow into young adults.

Having been asked, “What has been your biggest challenge?” Dottie and Tom both agree the weather and deer damage are the biggest factors with respect to growing crops.

Tom also commented, “Surviving three daughters has been my biggest accomplishment!”

Being able to keep the family farm outside of Centreville has been very important to Tom along with the heritage of their family farm where they live.

“We bought this farm from Vachel Downes 30 years ago. He made us promise we would never develop it. The farm had been in the Downes family for 145 years. We promised Mr. Downes it would stay as a farm.”

Diversifying the farm operation has helped them keep it going. In the last five years they have been raising pigs from “weanies,” which are piglets around 15 pounds, to “market weight hogs,” which is around 285 pounds, for processing. One of the family events that the Gannon family enjoys is “scrapple day” when they process a few pigs for their families, and they make scrapple.

Dot said, “While the scrapple is still hot, we eat scrapple gravy on top of biscuits. It’s the best thing you’ll ever eat. I wish we could figure out a way to keep it that way and sell it. It’s so delicious.”

The Gannon family has a heritage of agriculture and health care, but the bottom line is they work together as a family to make their farming operation a success.

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