The Food Council Gets a Special Look at Four Farms in the Agricultural Reserve

  On May 9, the Montgomery County Office of Agriculture hosted a tour of four locations in the Agricultural Reserve for Food Council members, staff, and several of our partner organizations. We were also joined by representatives from Councilmember Leventhal and Councilwoman Floreen’s offices. The tour consisted of visits to Stoney Castle Farm, Poolesville Golf Course, Homestead Farms, and Wyndham Oaks Farm.

Each stop along the way specialized in a different area of agriculture, giving our group a spectacular insight into the variety within the Agricultural Reserve. Stoney Castle Farm specializes in wheat, corn, soybean, and hay production. These crops are sold to varying businesses in and outside of Maryland; notably, a significant percentage of the soybeans grown at Stoney Castle are sold to Perdue. Farmer Eric Spates shared the difficulties of being a farmer, as well as his perspective on the future of farms, stating that though the types of farms may change, the need for farms will always exist.

At the Poolesville Golf Course, we learned more about an exciting new project of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, which is in its early stages but plans to be in use by 2020. Approximately 20 acres at the site will be transformed into a vineyard, providing local distillers with a full production site in order to mitigate the costliness of this part of the wine production process, and to keep wine makers in the county. The project hopes to partner with UMD-Extension, Universities at  Shady Grove, and Montgomery College in order to provide a workforce development and educational component. Once the project is in full swing, the addition of an Event Center is projected to boost the local economy by offering regular wine tastings and hosting events.

Homestead Farms, a family-owned, family-friendly pick-your-own produce farm in Poolesville, offered a look at the produce almost ready to make its summer debut. The strawberry and blueberry crops are blossoming, and the farm plans to open to the public in late May or early June. We learned about the nearby beehive and the wild honeybees that populate the fields, and about the average lifespan of an apple tree.  Homestead is open through the fall, when they draw thousands of visitors daily for apple and pumpkin picking.

Our last stop of the day was Wyndham Oaks farm, a horse farm that is home to 67 horses and 80 acres. The property features three training arenas, a beautiful main barn with cathedral ceilings, and two additional barns. Equestrian farms such as Wyndham Oaks are second only to horticultural farms within Montgomery County, and we had the opportunity to tour the beautiful facilities that are less than 15 years old. The farm creates their own compost, and was the first horse farm in Montgomery to be certified by the Maryland Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program for exceptional care of their land.

We would like to thank the Office of Agriculture for coordinating this tour and to our partners who joined us, as well as Farmer Eric and the Stoney Castle Farm staff, the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, Poolesville Golf Course, Homestead Farms and the Allnutt family, and the Wyndham Oaks ownership and staff.