Meet the farmers coming to the new River Hill market

For Howard Magazine
The River Hill Farmers' Market kicks off May 14. These are some of the growers you'll meet there.

There’s something about tomatoes picked right from the vine, corn and kale harvested that morning, and omelets and crepes cooked while you wait.

It’s a Saturday morning at a farmers’ market. And for the first time, Clarksville will have its own.

The market, which kicks off May 14 at River Hill Garden Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., will include nine farms and more than a dozen food vendors, from cupcakes to Vietnamese cuisine.

“There’s so much to love at a farmers’ market,” says Madgie McGaughan, co-owner of M&M Plants in rural Montgomery County, who plans to sell at the new market. “Everyone wants to be there. It’s not a chore. People are happy when the peaches are in season, or when the Dahlias show up.”

Nicole Klein, manager of River Hill Garden Center, had long gazed at the parking lot wishing a farmers’ market would set up there. So, when a farmer who sells at the Olney Farmers’ Market proposed creating one on-site, Klein says she was thrilled.

“It’s a perfect fit, in terms of what we’re trying to do,” Klein says. “I think people in general are getting more health-conscious. They want to know where their food is coming from. And we want to support local farmers.”

Here are a few you’ll find this season at the new market:

Hensing’s Hilltop Acres
704-293-4126
hensingfarm.com

Before she and her husband moved to their farm in Dayton and bought a dairy cow, Kelly Hensing had never farmed — she didn’t even grow up near one.

Now, the Hensing family is one of the newest vendors on the farmers’ market scene. At the River Hill market, the Hensings will sell pastured eggs; 100 percent grass-fed beef; pastured, non-GMO pork and lamb; and pastured, non-GMO and soy-free chicken. They’ll also sell a line of pet products, including raw, unpasteurized milk and dehydrated pork liver treats. (The pet line will be sold at markets in Maple Lawn and at the Miller Library, too.)

“We thought it was unique. It’s not something I’ve seen at farmers’ markets,” says Kelly Hensing, who runs the farm with her husband, Rob. “We’re hoping it’s well-received.”

The family moved from South Carolina to Maryland in 2010. In addition to their 3.5-acre farm, they also lease 60 acres in Fulton, where they pasture beef steers and pigs, and more than 20 acres in Woodbine, where they grow hay.

“I was concerned about where our food was coming from, so I started doing this,” she says. “And we’ve been all the healthier ever since.”

Earth First Farm
earthfirstfarm.com

Jared Guilliford could be the future of Howard County farming.

At 25, he’s in the first year of farming a 3-acre plot in Highland. Using animals, organic matter and compost, he is preparing the soil with ambitious plans of growing salad mixes, vegetables and herbs. Already, he has built a greenhouse to produce microgreens and shoots for sale at the farmers’ market.

“I enjoy nurturing plants,” says Guilliford, who also works at a medicinal herb garden in Fulton. “I like being outside.”

But as a 2008 River Hill High School graduate, he’s especially looking forward to being a part of the new market.

“It’s really about the connections,” he says. “You spend so much time by yourself in the field, you can lose sight of why you’re working so hard. … Talking with customers about the carrots you sold them last week — it’s things like that keep you going.”

M&M Plants
301-938-0384
mandmplants.com

A former elementary school teacher turned master gardener, Madgie McGaughan brings bunches of color to the market.

One week, she might sell limelight hydrangea, or black-eyed Susans. The next, she might have gerbera daisies.

“The list is long,” says McGaughan, whose 5-acre farm is in rural Montgomery County.

Early in the season, the plants and flowers come from her greenhouse. But later, she’ll be harvesting from her sunflower fields and beds of zinnias.

She and her husband, Mark, who is a consultant in the construction business, starting growing in 2008. They sell at four other markets in Montgomery County.

McGaughan says she’s looking forward to getting to know the Clarksville customers.

“The market really is a community. I know that sounds corny,” she says. “But over the years, you really get to know each other.”

Chocolates and Tomatoes
571-271-2686
chocolatesandtomatoes.com

Talk about a combination — Mark Mills’ passion for heirloom tomatoes and chocolate makes for an interesting market stop.

But it turns out chocolate-dipped tomatoes aren’t so great.

“It’s awful,” says Mills. “It’s like ketchup with chocolate.”

Instead, he fills some chocolates with a yellow tomato jam, a combination he says are delicious. His signature, though, are raspberry chocolates, a customer favorite.

At his 5-acre leased farm in Poolesville, Mills also grows 130 varieties of organic vegetables, including carrots, beets, arugula, herbs, radishes, turnips, peas and, of course, heirloom tomatoes.

“Growing up in North Carolina, there was always a roadside stand with tomatoes. … They’re just not the same in the store,” says Mills. “It was rite of summer to eat tomato and bacon sandwiches on the way to the beach. It’s a seasonal memory that we’re trying to recapture.”

Trained as chef, Mills worked in the restaurant business for more than two decades. But he always enjoyed gardening and grew tomatoes and other produce for his recipes. So in 2013, as part of a Montgomery County pilot program, he tried his hand as a farmer.

In addition to River Hill, Mills sells at Dawson’s Market in Rockville and at the Olney Farmers’ Market. “I love the interaction with customers on a one-on-one basis,” he says.

MacBride and Gill Falcon Ridge Farm
301-854-6806
facebook.com/falconridgefruit

This family-based orchard in Westminster sells staples like apples and grapes. But they also offer varieties you won’t find under most canopies — or in many stores for that matter. Think kiwis and persimmons; white, red and black currants; and Saskatoon berries (which resemble blueberries).

“If it’s new, we’re growing it,” says Stanton Gill, who works as

an extension specialist with the University of Maryland, specializing in integrated pest management in addition to farming.

Gill’s wife, Nancy MacBride, bakes pies and cakes and makes jams and jellies and fruit-infused vinegar.

“She makes some wonderful and unusual combinations,” says Gill, who also sells produce to restaurants and schools. (Some of Gill’s fruits also end up in Mills’ chocolates.)

A fixture at markets in Montgomery County, Falcon Ridge was part of the market at Howard County General Hospital for the past several years but can’t return this season because of a scheduling conflict.

So Howard County residents looking for their fix of paw paws will be glad to know they can still find them at River Hill. 

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