By Beverly Firme, guest blogger

Montgomery County’s 2010 Farm Tour and Harvest Sale took place this past weekend.  Of the 14 participating farms,  I selected four to visit:  a rescue farm that cares for retired or neglected farm animals, a family farm, a Dairy Barn, and a living history center.  I had a great day and look forward to visiting these farms again – all have programs throughout the year!

I started out from my usual point on Saturday mornings – Suburban Traders in Kensington.  I’m hoping they’ll be on the Farm Tour next year and we can all visit the 3 acres they’ve just started farming in Olney.  Fortified with a farm breakfast Kensington-style – baby swiss, roasted onions, potatoes, eggs and spicy coppa on puff pastry and a cup of coffee, I headed out to pick up my friend Marggy – taking along a Hanger Steak, Blue Cheese and Arugula sandwich and a Nut Bar for later.  I figured I’d be working up an appetite despite the heat.

Rocky the holstein steer

Rocky the holstein steer munches hay at Star Gazing Farm.

Star Gazing Farm (Boyds, MD)
Our first stop was Star Gazing Farm, a farm animal sanctuary.  The friendly volunteer staff directed us into the farm and to the animals.  We visited with Louie, a Morgan horse and Graham, a Boer goat.  Pictures of the farm’s animals were posted by the staff on fences that included their ‘story’ – how they came to the farm and details about each animal.  For instance, Graham is apparently an escape artist.  The staff also directed us to Rocky and Bullwinkle, both Hostein steer.  Bullwinkle was nowhere in sight but Rocky kept one eye on Marggy and I as he ate some hay.

Star Gazing Farm is a non-profit organization supported by private donations, fundraising and services such as bunny sitting and shearing sheep, goats, alpaca and llamas for other farms.  Animals at the Farm range from chickens, ducks and bunnies to pigs, goats, the steer, a horse and a donkey.  The loyalty and enthusiasm of the volunteer staff is evident and for the Farm Tour many were on hand at information tables or near the animals, ready to answer questions and encourage visitors to pet the animals.  This is a don’t miss when they are open to the public.  You’ll enjoy your experience at Star Gazing Farm.

Lewis Orchards (Dickerson, MD)
We moved on to Lewis Orchards, which has been family owned and operated since 1888 and is open from mid-June through Thanksgiving.  This is a produce farm and the busy farm market is on a hill overlooking their fields – a perfect view and setting.   The farm market was filled with the bounty of summer – peaches, tomatoes, corn, string beans, onions, zucchini, eggplant, watermelon.  Refrigerator cases hold locally produced milk, cream, cheese and eggs.

The market – and the parking lot – was crowded.   We looked at the produce – fresh, inviting, and very colorful.  Marggy did some shopping, I grabbed a Birch Beer from the soda fridge and we got in line.   The staff kept the line moving quickly, and we were soon back in the car and on our way.  Lewis Orchards is a great destination and we will definitely return.  Apple picking in the fall!


King Barn Dairy MOOseum (Germantown, MD)

How can you pass up a MOOseum?  This was next on our list.  In the 1950s there were more than 300 dairy farms in Montgomery County; the MOOseum is a dairy heritage museum that preserves this heritage and offers the hands-on experience of milking faux cows.  Located in the South Germantown Recreational Park, the barn is up and ready for visitors!

We went inside the Dairy Barn to see all things cows and dairy.  Volunteers and supporters have put in 8 years of dedicated work and planning and it shows.   Photographs and memorabilia line the walls of the barn, and replicas of dairy cows stand in the stalls ready for milking.  On a hot day the Barn was cool(ish) and quiet.  You could imagine the life of a dairy farmer on such a day, the cows in their stalls, tails flicking, a ‘moo’ here and there.   Walking through the Barn, volunteers were eager to talk about the dairy heritage of the County and to encourage us to enjoy the barn and their exhibits.  With much more planned for the MOOseum, this is a great stop to keep an eye on.  A Grand Opening is planned for October 23, 2010!

Button Farm Barn

An old barn at the Button Farm

Button Farm Living History Center (Germantown, MD)
The Button Farm, located in Seneca Park and secured as a long-term lease by the Menare Foundation, is Maryland’s only living history center depicting 19th century slave plantation life. (Menare Foundation is a Bethesda Green Business Incubator company.) We drove in, parked, and walked to the Button Farm House (circa 1927) to sign in.  We were greeted by Anthony who encouraged us to visit their Museum Garden filled with peppers, leeks, peas, herbs and anything else a plantation might grow for their needs.  A Civil-War era Barn is on the property near the garden.  We walked around the garden, down to the Barn and into the 19th century.

Carolina Black Peanuts

A patch of Carolina black peanuts at the Button Farm

Walking on the farm we listened to the music of Anthony Hyatt, Fiddler.  Anthony played period tunes as a great backdrop to the quiet peace of this 60-acre farm.  Aquabarrel was also there with a display of rain barrels – reminding us that in the 19th century farmers made use of rain barrels for their water supply. (Aquabarrel is also a Bethesda Green Business Incubator company.)

The Button Farm holds many events during the year.  Anthony says one of their best is their Fall Festival held during the first weekend in November – with demonstrations, storytelling, tours – and a cider press!  Don’t miss this unique living history opportunity in Montgomery County.  You’ll enjoy it immensely.

All the heat and the trip to the MOOseum had us thinking of ice cream, so Marggy and I finished our trip with a stop at Sprinkles in Potomac.   Although we hope the weather’s cooler next year, we’re already looking forward to this Farm Tour in 2011.  It was a great day, we saw and learned a lot, really enjoyed the Tour and look forward to other events at these locations.

Star Gazing Farm, the MOOseum and Button Farm all accept donations and volunteers – and Lewis Orchards always welcomes customers!  Please consider visiting and supporting these Farms and the others on the Montgomery County Farm Tour.

(Photos by Beverly Firme)

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