GERMANTOWN, MD OCT 03: A field of sunflowers at Butler’s Orchard farm make for a serene backdrop as seen from the cab of a restored 1948 Chevy pick-up truck. The truck is sort of the mascot for the farm and visitors are welcome to take a photo with the truck and one can also choose a sunflower, cut it and take it home for a fee of 50 cents. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Beyond the tall buildings in some of Montgomery County’s busiest cities is a vast agricultural community that farmers call “up county.”
So to give visitors a look at what the “up county” farm experience is like, the county relaunched its Annual Farm Tour & Harvest Sale event. The self driving tour event will be held Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24 at various participating farms.
“What’s great about the tour is that it provides opportunities for the families to have an experience on the farm and be out meeting the farmer and understanding the importance of not only agriculture in the county but the agricultural reserve,” Jeremy Criss from the Montgomery County Office of Agriculture tells FOX 5.
The self-driving farm tour had to be put on hold for the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Now that the tour has resumed, Criss says visitors will have a chance to take part in activities like hay rides, pony rides, farm-animal petting and fresh from the field produce.
But besides all the fun, the weekend long event is also focusing on celebrating the diverse agricultural “up county” community.
“We are seeing more small scaled fruit and vegetable producers, a lot of women and people of color that are growing food, and it’s really contributing further to the camaraderie that we had in the ag community and continue to have with new folks,” said Criss.
Officials say the farm community contributes $282 million dollars to Montgomery County’s economy, and this event helps with that contribution.
“We are really proud that it’s become the biggest sales day of the year and that usually would not happen during the hottest times of the years,” explained Criss.
One of the 19 farms that’s participating during this weekend’s farm tour is Tyler Butler’s family farm and cidery in Germantown, Butler’s Orchard and Doc Waters Cidery.
Butler says during peak pandemic, farmers faced revenue challenges due to the lack of foot traffic, and those challenges partially continue presently thanks to the inflation.
“At Butler’s orchard we have traveling customers to the pick your own fields via tractor which is gasoline and diesel fuel so all of these costs from fuel to repairs to labor to having a crew pick things like that are definitely going up and we have tried our best not to pass that along to the customer,” said Butler. “There’s no better time than now, especially after the few years we’ve had and people really need to trust where their food is coming from and they really need to know that you are supporting the local economy.”
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The farm says it will be doing away with its admission fee during the tour.
You can learn more about the farm tours, including a full list of participating farms and their hours of operation, here.