Agriculture, touring the county's heritage
WHILE YOU’RE OUT // Dickey’s Barbecue Pit After a slow ride through the country, it’s time for some slow-smoked barbecue. Dickey’s features seasoned and slow-smoked meats in hickory wood burning pits. Homemade sides go well with pork ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket and more.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit 18066 Mateny Road, Germantown, MD 20874 240.801.4570
Exploring Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve sounds like a trip you might want to make in the cab of a John Deere instead of behind the wheel of a Prius. But when you discover the protected farmland amounts to 93,000 acres or about 145 square miles, you might be inclined to switch to an RV.
Whatever your mode of transportation, the driving tour of the Agricultural Reserve in the northwestern part of the county isn’t a daunting task thanks to Heritage Montgomery and its podcast tour of the best scenery and history in Montgomery County.
The Agricultural Reserve was established after county planners tracked a startling loss of farmland in the 1970s that averaged about 2,350 acres a year sold for development. The Montgomery County Council acted quickly and in 1980 voted to preserve 93,000 acres of farmland and rural space.
Thirty-five years later, the reserve has proved more than a way to control urban sprawl and protect the environment; it has essentially frozen the rural roads and rolling landscape as they looked in the early 20th century. You won’t find Model Ts navigating two-lane roads, but you will find a nice diversion to the white-knuckle sprint up and down I-270 before rush hour clogs one of the county’s main arteries.
The 51-mile tour through the county’s 540 farms and 350 horticultural enterprises (combined they employ 17,000 people and contribute $287 million to the local economy) begins in Germantown and the King Barn Dairy MOOseum. It is one of 17 points of interest and side trips on the tour, which takes about four hours of drive time.
The scenery starts quickly after Schaeffer Road and White Ground Road drop you off on an 11-mile stretch of Old Bucklodge Lane and the heart of the reserve. The historic farms and their barns, silos and out buildings in a rustic setting contradict the fact that MoCo’s 1.1 million residents are nearby.
As you turn left on Bucklodge Lane (Route 117), the postcard scenery continues as you work your way past the Joseph White House, built in 1820, and onto Darnestown Road (Route 28). Stop in for a fresh peach at the Lewis Orchard Farm that has been in operation since 1888, then drive two miles to the Monocacy Confederate Chapel and Cemetery, established in 1747 as an Anglican chapel.
Just on the other side of Dickerson, the 500-foot, seven-arched Monocacy Aqueduct is a beautiful, 180-year old testament to engineering. You may want to take extra time and tour the 85-acre Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard on Comus Road. As you sample the winery’s award-winning cabernets and merlots, the Beltway will seem like it’s 250 miles away instead of only 25.
As you drive by the Comus Inn, make a note to return when you can fully enjoy a fine dining experience. As you leave the outer most point of the reserve, your trip home takes you through Barnesville via Route 109 and its Civil War history. The town changed hands five times in a single day as Union and Confederate forces battled in September 1862. Neighboring Poolesville was also the site of Civil War battles as well as the John Poole House and General Store, built in 1793.
Heading out of town, there are choices to be made. A right turn is a short side trip to Whites Ferry and the Jubal Early, the small cable ferry that transports 24 cars at a time across the Potomac River to Virginia. (Check out the high-water mark on the building from the flooding caused by Hurricane Agnes in June of 1974.) Otherwise turn left and check out the Hearthside Antiques and Hearthside Home and Garden Center. From there, it’s a 10-mile ride back to I-270 and the hustle-bustle reality of Montgomery County.
Download the podcast or print a paper version of the Agricultural Reserve tour at www.heritagemontgomery.org.