Across the Agricultural Reserve in the UpCounty area, Montgomery County’s farmers are preparing for the annual Farm Tour and Harvest Sale, which will be held this weekend July 23 and 24, rain or shine. This year’s event is slated to be one of the biggest, and most diverse, in the tour’s 27-year history, according to organizers.
While many farm tour participants have been in business for multiple generations, (such as Lewis Orchards, founded in 1888), this year’s Farm Tour and Harvest Sale will also feature some newer farms, like Soleado, the only lavender farm in the County, and Madison Fields, a 400-plus acre enterprise that uses equine therapy and farming to help children and adults with autism and other special needs.
“We have 21 farms participating this year, which represents the highest level of participation since 1990,” said Jeremy Criss, the Director of the Office of Agriculture. “This is a reflection of the strong state of the County’s agriculture community. People in our region are very curious about working farms, and they ask great questions. Some of these farms are normally closed to the public, but our farmers like to open up each July for the tour as it allows them to build a direct connection with their customers.”
As always, this year’s farm tour will feature tractor rides, pony rides, pick-your-own produce, music, picnic areas and food booths. A special promotion this year involves each participating farmer being featured on Farm Tour Trading Card that children can collect from the farmers and enter a contest where the top five prizes range from $15 to $100 depending on the number of cards collected. The complete rules can other details of the contest can be found at the Farm Tour website.
As to be expected many of the farms on this year’s tour are right here in the UpCounty area including Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, Hilton’s Farm & Garden in Clarksburg, Star Gazing Farm in Boyds, East Rivendell Farm in Damascus, the Red Wiggler Community Farm in Germantown, and Waters Orchard in Germantown, as well as the Rocklands Farm and Winery in Poolesville. For a complete list of participating farms and events check out the Farm Tour website.
Montgomery County started the Farm Tour & Harvest Sale to help consumers get to know their farmers. The event coincides with the state’s annual “Buy Local Challenge,” which takes place the last full week of July. The Buy Local Challenge was conceived and launched in 2007 by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission to highlight the economic and environmental benefits of eating locally grown food.
The Agricultural Reserve was created in 1980 and encompasses more than one-third of the County or 93,000 acres ensuring that agriculture and farming remains part of the history and heritage of the County and creating a resource for future food and fiber production.
Photos Courtesy Montgomery County - PHOTO CREDITS Chris Zawitoski