PLENTY SUMMER 2020 | Page 6

St. Paul Community Church can communities, once thriving community centers which often included a church, school, benefit hall, store and post office serving the surrounding homes. Many African American settlements were scattered throughout the county, usually located near mills, farms, or other sources of employment. This day we meet with a direct descendant of one of the founders of Sugarland, Gwen Reese, who shares what life was like for her ancestors after emancipation in the thriving and collaborative community. Her important research as part of the Sugarland Ethnohistory Project is ongoing and has helped paint a picture of community members who shared equally in tasks, including caring for their children and tending the land. The church stands as a testament to their deep faith and devotion today. Just down the road a piece, at the orchard, we’ve managed to snag the farm owner from his tractor. He tends nearly 8,000 fruit trees of many varieties. It’s been a ridiculously tough year already with damaging nights of frost and deep freeze. He’s lost his entire apple crop as well as a good number of plums, peaches and pears. And yet here he is—greeting us cheerfully and sharing with us his growing techniques and delighting us with the serendipity of how he developed his own cultivar of peach, aptly named Kingsbury’s Pride. You simply cannot meet a farmer that revels in his craft this way and leave unmoved. Traveling north through Comus, we are graced with the achingly beautiful view of Sugarloaf Mountain and pasture scattered with wooly sheep decked in coats… Before you ask, I offer that the flock wears these to keep their fleece clean, bolstering the price that can fetched at market for their wool. Natural fiber will be more sought after as we drift away from plastic fibers that foul our water. I can see from the eager expression on your face that you’d like to take a little side trip—the mountain beckons— and so we’re off past the Sugarloaf Vineyard (more purchases later!) and across the county line into Frederick for a loop up and around the mountain. We are thick in talk about how important it is to protect our working lands and natural resources regionally by advancing farmland and open space preservation across county lines with a goal to create large swaths of lands that will feed and restore our bustling region. The long views into the Reserve from the mountain tell the story of a place with purpose inspiring us to make sure it will endure. Caroline Taylor is executive director of Montgomery Countryside Alliance and lives with her family on beloved small acreage in the Agricultural Reserve. 6 plenty I Summer growing 2020