Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Annual Farm Tour reminds residents of county’s agricultural roots

Thirteen farms plan to be open this weekend

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This weekend’s 18th Annual Farm Tour and Harvest Sale is designed to remind visitors of the county’s agricultural roots.

The event features self-guided tours at 13 farms, most located in the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve, a 93,000-acre swath of land set aside by the county in 1981 in an effort to preserve the county’s agricultural history and economic base.

On the farm tour, visitors can get back to nature — whether picking fresh fruits, sampling produce, learning about farming and animal-breeding, sampling wines or ogling alpaca.

About 11,000 people visited the 14 farms on last year’s tour, said Jeremy Criss, agricultural services manager for the county’s Department of Economic Development.

Most host farms will be open, rain or shine, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov or call 301-590-2823.

Here’s a look at what’s going on this weekend:

*Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, a tour and county newcomer, opened in May 2006. The Dickerson vineyard at 18125 Comus Road will offer wine tasting.

*Laytonsville’s Blue Ribbon Alpaca Breeding Company, 4320 Damascus Road, a family-owned, family-operated farm breeding and raising alpaca since 1999, will have 35 alpacas, including a baby alpaca born July 18, on view.

‘‘Babies are always fun,” said farm co-owner Sue Cook, who sells yarn and products made from alpaca fiber.

*At Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, where marigolds are in bloom, visitors can pick flowers, as well as summer fruits and vegetables. Butler’s is located at 22222 Davis Mill Road.

*Peaches are aplenty at Silver Spring’s Heyser Farms, 14526 New Hampshire Ave. Roam orchards, inspect an antique farm equipment collection, or check out the farm’s fruits and vegetables.

*At Poolesville’s Homestead Farm, 15604 Sugarland Road, a family-owned, family-operated business since 1763, visitors can pick-their-own peaches, as well as flowers, tomatoes and blackberries. Bring the kids to the petting zoo.

*Dickerson’s Lewis Orchards, 18901 Peach Tree Road, has been family-owned and operated since 1888. Guests can pick fruits and vegetables. Fresh honey and jellies will be for sale.

*Like Butler’s Orchard, Phillips Farm, 13710 Schaeffer Road, Germantown, will offer free hayrides, as well as pony rides and a petting zoo. Vegetables, fruits and preserves will be for sale.

*At Rock Hill Orchard, 28600 Ridge Road, Mount Airy, dig for potatoes, ride antique tractors or watch a beekeeper in action. Or pick-your-own flowers, blackberries and green beans.

A few farms are only open Saturday.

*Camp Olympia, 5511 Muncaster Mill Road, Rockville, is a year-round horse center in the area for nearly 50 years. There will be horse riding and other sports demonstrations by staffers and campers every half-hour and pony rides – for $1 – all day.

*Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit refuge for abused and abandoned farm animals, located at 15200 Mount Nebo Road, Poolesville, hopes to raise money via hayrides, refreshments and a giant yard sale, and will offer tours of this 40-acre farm along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and Potomac River.

*‘‘Concerts in the Country” artisans have coordinated the ‘‘Art Farm” at Clarksburg’s Red Wiggler Community Farm, 23400 Ridge Road. There will be dance, storytelling, puppetry, nature and sculpture demonstrations.

*At Boyds’ Star Gazing Farm, an animal sanctuary at 16760 Whites Store Road, guests can learn how sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, cows and other animals live. Other activities planned include wool processing, spinning, knitting and weaving exhibits, face painting, storytelling and a scavenger hunt.

To Visit

Most farms will be open, rain or shine, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov⁄farmtouror call 301-590-2823.