“Our farm is like going to your grandfather’s farm,” says owner, John Fendrick. He and his wife Mary opened Rock Hill Orchard in 2010. While some crops were already on the land, the couple were passionate about milking and making cheese locally. They sell almost everything they grow.
On the first Saturday of every month, you can meet John and Mary for a walking narrated tour of the dairy. Every weekend at 4 p.m. you can bottle feed the calves. While we didn’t get our time correct, my daughter and I petted a few babies in their pens. Currently 80 Guernsey cows rotate between 32 fields daily. Water is available at every field so they only leave the area for milking. It’s quite interesting to watch the cows line up when it’s milking time. The cows are allowed to roam the field and get milked from a robotic machine any time they feel like it. While the grazing process isn’t the fastest, it is the most efficient for cows turning grass into milk. You may see a few Jersey and Shorthorn cows in the mix. Their milk is solely used to feed the calves.
We started at the top of the hill with our tour before making our way to the cherry trees. Right now, Rock Hill offers pick-your-own tart cherries, cut your own herbs; think cilantro, oregano and sage and flowers such as lavender, snapdragon and zinnias. We came for the cherries and the trees were dotted in bright red deliciousness. We were given a bucket with a bag inside to assist in the picking process. Ladders are situated throughout the small area, which proved useful for my daughter. You can pick as much as you want at $2.79/lb. I was hesitant to pick tart cherries because I prefer sweet, but these cherries were mild in tartness and have the makings for a good pie. Picking hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
I was pleased that the farm market offers local sweet cherries so I got my fix of both tart and sweet! They also carry other local veggies, but if you prefer, Rock Hill identifies their own produce like kale, carrots and eggplant, along with wildflower honey from their own hives and farm made pies. If you can’t make it to see the cows, you can watch an informative video in the market. Hearing about the Guernsey cows, you may want to pick up their grass-fed golden hued Creamline milk and chocolate milk or ice cream. Woodbourne Creamery at Rock Hill Orchard is Montgomery County’s only ice cream that is produced on the farm. I was daring and tried the Peppercorn ice cream, which was actually quite mild. They also had Pumpkin, Ginger, Vanilla, Dark Chocolate and Strawberry when we visited. A scoop of ice cream in a cup or cone is wallet friendly at $2.50.
The cherry season is short, so if you miss out, Rock Hill Orchard also offers PYO vegetables, blackberries and peaches in July. In September and October they are busy with apples and pumpkins and fall fun activities including a corn maze, pumpkin cannon and hayride.
While the Fendricks are regulars at the Bethesda Farmers Market, they want to remain local and true to their life’s work…having people visit the property. John said, “We want people to experience the whole farm” and we did just that!
Photos courtesy of Kathleen Molloy.