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Fall a terrific time to get out and explore Washington County

October 08, 2004|by Tom Riford

While Washington County makes a perfect fall weekend getaway for folks from Baltimore or D.C., autumn is truly beloved by locals who know about the great things we have here.

Among the many attractions of our county, one of the most appealing is driving the back roads and taking in the splendid scenic views. At every crest of every hill, a new vista spreads before you - each lovelier than the one before.

Because much of Washington County retains its rural charm, nowhere will one find a prettier display of old-fashioned family farms, still going about their business of providing sustenance for our tables. Maryland farmers take pride in their homesteads - and it shows.

According to the Maryland Farm Bureau, Washington County is ranked ninth in size among the 23 counties, with 293,223 acres in land area, and is the heart of Maryland's fruit industry. Apple and peach growers harvest more than 190,000 trees annually.

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Of course, dairying is the principle livestock enterprise, with milk cows numbering approximately 16,000, which ranks our county second in the state.

There are more than 4,400 horses in Washington County (in thinking of our famous wagon train, this may explain why Maryland's only part of the National Pike Festival is here). There are about 700 farms with an average size of 164 acres, and more than 40 nurseries in the county. The total estimated number of farmland in Washington County is 126,292 acres.

Whether it's fishing, orchards, beekeeping, dairying, or horses, Washington County is rich in agricultural and natural character. A "Barn Spotting Tour" can take you through some fascinating country and provide fun for the whole family. There are many handsome barns easily spotted from the roads that wander through our farmland. Look for the differences.

The Washington County Rural Heritage Museum has a relevant exhibit - on display until the last weekend in October - "Why Do Barns Have Cupolas?" Make a stop at the museum to find the answer to that question. See a historic cupola up close and personal. You may be surprised at how big they can be. Learn about the leading manufacturer of cupolas in the nation, and it's still in business in Hagerstown.

Washington County has a number of Century Farms - farms that have been worked and lived on by the same family for at least a 100 years. Travelers have a great time looking for them. There are others that may have changed hands but have been worked continuously for a century.

During 2005, the Rural Heritage Museum will feature "The Century Farms" of the county. Any helpful information, anecdotes, newspaper or magazine articles, documents, or pictures would be appreciated. If you have any such that you might be willing to share, please call the museum at 240-313-2839. All such material will (with permission) be copied and returned.

Cap your October farmland tour with a visit to the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum, 7313 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro - the Ag Center on Sharpsburg Pike (Md. 65) two miles north of Antietam Battlefield.

Celebrate fall with the tastes and d├ęcor of the season. Please be sure to visit Hagerstown City Farmers Market at 25 W. Church St. The market has been operating for more than 200 years, offering the best locally raised produce and meat in addition to homemade foods, goodies and crafts. It is open from 5 a.m. to noon every Saturday. On Saturday, Oct. 9, the market will celebrate Pumpkin Days. The first 100 children from 9 to 11 a.m. will get free pumpkins and there will be special activities and goodies for all. On Saturday, Oct. 23, the market is having a Treasure Hunt Day. Hunt for ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night, and win prizes.

Hagerstown's Market in the Square celebrates the season with fresh produce, foods and crafts. Stop by the square in Hagerstown on Thursdays. from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Thursday, Oct. 27, Market in the Square has a special Harvestmart Day. This marks the last outdoor market for the season and has everything you need to create a festive fall display. Pumpkins, corn shocks, fall mums and fresh produce will be available. It's practically a one-stop-shopping experience guaranteed to fill you up and decorate your home with the rich colors of fall.

Harvest Hoedown at Hagerstown's Fairgrounds Park has become a popular event for everyone. It's a fun day, and includes scarecrow making. This year's Hoedown will be Saturday, Oct. 9, from 1-4 p.m. It's an event guaranteed to create enthusiasm for fall and the upcoming Halloween holiday. For more information, call 301-739-8577, ext. 183.

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