Ah, sweet summer days. Sun, swimming, tank tops, flip flops…it’s great, isn’t it? But as much as I love these lazy days at home with my babies, I’m also beginning to long for a change. Crisper weather, cozy sweaters, football games…and–I’ll admit it–school beginning.I love my kids more than life itself, but I think we’re all kind of getting a bit tired of each other! I’m longing for more structure, and so are they…and whether we like it or not, it’s coming…and soon!
When thinking about what local business we wanted to feature this month, Linds and I were looking for something with crossover appeal. A business that has a lot to offer in Summer, but does it up big for Falll. We immediately realized a local farm was the way to go, and I jumped on my go-to for ‘pick your own’ produce:Shaw’s Orchards.
While Shaw’s is technically 10 feet north of the Mason Dixon line, I’m claiming it as a Maryland landmark…because really, what’s a few feet?! Run by Glenn and Mary Sue Shaw, this family farm is steeped in history and has roots reaching back eight generations.
Though the family farmhouse has been standing since 1860 when the land was being farmed for cattle and grain, Shaw’s officially became an orchard in 1909. After planting his first trees – of the York Imperial variety, to be exact – Glenn’s grandfather, Russell Shaw, saw the potential for a commercial apple business. He began using the railroad that ran right by the farmhouse to ship the fruits of his labor – literally! – and Shaw’s empire began. (Interestingly, you can see some of the actual barrels used to ship the apples in the farm store today!). Russell’s son, Clay, took the reins when he returned from World War Two, and he expanded the business by planting Red Delicious and other more widely recognized apple varieties.
Clay turned the business over to his son Glenn, who had been in Arkansas earning his PhD in food science and horticulture. He returned to Maryland in 1972 with his bride Mary Sue, and they’ve been the power team behind Shaw’s ever since. I had the privilege of talking at length with Mary Sue when Lindsay and I visited with the kiddos, and I’m in awe of her commitment to the business and passion for her craft. And yes — growing produce really is a craft…one that I haven’t quite perfected. Just come look at my backyard garden.
Mary Sue describes the division of labor between she and Glenn as this: “He grows, I sell”. And sell she does! Shaw’s farm market is truly a culinary delight. From gorgeous peaches to ripe grapes to savory sauces and jarred jellies, the colors are bright and the odors are sweet. The decor harkens back to earlier times, and you can almost imagine Glenn’s ancestors cooking on the antique oven in the corner. Mary Sue’s over 20 employees are all friendly and efficient, and she takes great pride in hiring only the best. “Your business is only as good as your help,” Mary Sue believes…so obviously the help is fantastic!
I first found Shaw’s over two years ago when I was looking to take my girls blueberry picking, and we’ve been back every summer since. This year their season was quite long…it started back in June and we still had plenty of berries to choose from this week. If you haven’t yet taken your kids fruit picking, you must! It keeps them plenty busy, they can be as loud as they’d like, and there’s no need to bring snacks since they pretty much do a one to one ratio of saving and eating. In fact, I like to think of it as a boot camp of sorts. When they start to complain that they’re hot and tired, I remind them that there are plenty of kids who wake up at sunset and spend all day in the fields in the hot sun, picking berries until their hands are cramped without a television in sight…so is it really that bad that I won’t let them watch ‘Jessie’ on the Disney channel? (This is my version of the ‘I walked to school in two feet of snow, uphill” story. Yes, I know it’s a bit ridiculous, but… it works.)
See what I mean? Blueberry picking is exhausting!
Though blueberry picking season is now over, Shaw’s is gearing up for their famed apple and pumpkin picking. This is something you shouldn’t miss! Beginning on September 29th and lasting through October, you’ll get a ride out to the orchard on an antique tractor and can pick until your heart’s content, and then hop a hayride to the pumpkin patch to get a few of those as well. You can spend time stocking up on pantry items in the market, as well as stocking up on fresh veggies supplied by local farms. From Bel Air, it’s a beautiful drive and only takes about 25 minutes to get there. Mary Sue also leads field trips just about every day of the week in the Fall, and they are fantastic! She walks the kids through the whole apple process, from picking to wholesale, and they get to do some apple and pumpkin picking of their own. If your school is looking for somewhere to go, definitely check this out…my girls loved it!
While we all know the importance of buying local, it’s sometimes just so convenient to run to the grocery store instead of hitting up a farm market such as Shaw’s. But here’s some good news – those apples you see featured in the front of the produce department of Giant and Wegman’s…the ones that say locally grown? They’re from Shaw’s! So instead of buying the waxy, pesticide infested variety that’s been flown in from California, choose to buy local and know you are supporting a family business (and getting a much better product, too!). In fact, Mary Sue and her family will be at both the Abingdon and Hunt Valley Wegman’s locations a part of their ‘Meet the Grower’ series this Saturday from 11-4. Swing by and say hello!
To stay posted on the goings-on at Shaw’s, be sure to sign up for their Ripe Line email. It’s a great way to know what’s in season and to hear about all the specials they are offering!
Mary Sue has graciously offered one lucky reader a peck of peaches just for commenting below! (That’s about 16lbs…imagine the baking possibilities! And no–I had no idea what a ‘peck’ was until I asked.) Tell us what your favorite picking fruit is, and let us know that you’ve like Lindsay Parks Photography and Shaw’s on Facebook. Remember – you can comment separately on each for THREE chances to win! Good luck!