Cyclists to take spin around Brandywine, Upper Marlboro farms -- Gazette.Net







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Riding a tractor may be the traditional way to travel around a farm, but this Saturday, Prince George’s County residents will hop on their bikes to tour agricultural establishments in Upper Marlboro and Brandywine.

The third annual Crop Hop, a cycling tour organized by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, features five farms with unique offerings, said Jennifer Carnahan, the head organizer of the event.

“It’s an experience that not every bike ride would give you and not driving around to farms would give you,” Carnahan said. “You get to experience farms in a completely different way and talk to farmers and people working on the farm.”

This is the first year the Crop Hop has taken place in Prince George’s County. Previous Crop Hops have been hosted by St. Mary’s and Charles counties, Carnahan said.

Crop Hop stops include Romano Winery & Vineyard in Brandywine; P.A. Bowen Farmstead in Brandywine, which features artisan cheeses; Bald Eagle Farm in Brandywine, which raises Black Angus cattle; fruit and vegetable producer SunSplash Farm in Upper Marlboro and Leighton Horse Farm in Upper Marlboro.

“I think it helps people get to know what’s out here and all the wonderful farms we have,” said Sally Fallon Morell, the owner of P.A. Bowen Farmstead.

Pete Charlerie, the owner of SunSplash Farm, said participants will get to learn about progressive agricultural techniques, such as plastic mulches, which cover soil beds with plastic to conserve water and protect crops from pests and weeds. He said the tour will help residents understand the origin of their food.

“A lot goes into this and we want them to see that,” Charlerie said.

This year’s Crop Hop will also commemorate the War of 1812 by starting and ending at Nottingham, a historic site in Upper Marlboro. Some farm stops will feature historic re-enactors. At Romano Winery and Vineyard, re-enactors will show participants how wine was produced in the 1800s, said co-owner Jo-Ann Romano.

“It also brings in a different group of people who were not necessarily aware we were open or there was a winery in Prince George’s County,” Romano said.

Participants can choose to bike one of four routes, which vary in length and number of farm stops. The Silo Century visits all five farms plus the Mount Calvert Historical and Archeological Park over 62 miles, while the Sprout Route skips the farms and heads straight to the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary.

“The roads are absolutely gorgeous with all the changing leaves,” Carnahan said. “They’re very rural routes so there’s not a lot of traffic happening.”

Jim Hudnall, a member of the Oxon Hill Bike and Trail Club, said cyclists from the club regularly travel past the farms, but haven’t had a chance to visit.

“This is an opportunity to stop at these farms and see what’s going on,” Hudnall said.

Carnahan said a portion of each registration fee, which ranges from $20 to $60 depending on the route, will benefit Farming for Hunger. The Charles County non-profit purchases fresh food for Southern Marylanders in need, including some in Prince George’s County.

“We are pleased to raise awareness in Prince George’s County this year because that’s an area we’re looking to expand in,” said Priscilla Wentworth, the food programs coordinator for SMADC.