POOLESVILLE – Driving up to what seemed to be a scene in a film set in the 1800s, one can see the signs in front of Rocklands Farm pointing either way with the words “Artisan Tour” on them. According to farm manager Greg Glenn, the farm was only one stop in a tour that spanned most of the countryside in Poolesville.
The closest stop to Rocklands Farm was up the road toward Beallsville, where artists like David Therriault welcomed tourists into their studios to see works such as stone sculptures.
The Artisan Tour consisted of 15 stops spread out between Poolesville and Glenwood. Each stop was at the home and studio of the artists displaying and selling their work. Their mediums ranged from stone sculptures to hand-blown glass.
According to painter Susan Pearcy, the tour was originally a farm tour for farmers to display and sell their crops and livestock and has been around for more than 25 years.
Pearcy, who has participated in the tour for 19 years, said displaying her work in the tour is much more comfortable than displaying her work in a museum exhibition.
“It’s wonderful to have people come to you because you can show such a variety of work. You never know what people want to see. If people come to you and are used to all your work and they’re interested in a specific style or medium you can pull stuff out,” Pearcy said.
Jewelry and fiber artist Dalis Davidson said there is a “jury process” in deciding what artists get to display their work. She said there are certain requirements that artists need to fulfill before their studios become part of the tour.
“People apply, and one of our rules is that you have to have a separate studio or a separate entrance. It can be attached to your house, but we don’t want people that are just hobbyists who say, ‘Oh, this was something that I want to do on a fun weekend’; we want people who are really doing this for a living,” Davidson said.
Some artists, however, share their spaces and display pieces with other artists, such as Therriault, who has been participating in the tour for 15 years and shares displays pieces with a fellow painter James Erickson.
“I think we work well together, so I like to invite him over to put his work up because you can see even the colors of his portraits and then that (sculpture), the colors play off of each other really nicely,” Therriault said regarding how his pieces and Erickson’s works complement one another.
Felt artist Bev Thoms also shares her space and displays and sells the works of several artists.
“I have decided I do not want to do production work. It’s one of the reasons why I bring in work from other artists here. And I don’t want to do shows. So this (the tour) allows me to sell my work right here and also takes the pressure off me,” Thoms said.
Though the theme of the tour has changed from farming to art, artists still use the setting of the countryside to draw their audience away from the city to their studios.
Some of the artists said they also use the countryside as a source of inspiration for some of their works. Thoms said she uses the sources on her farm for her work, making an old horse stable into a dye kitchen and her display area and taking wool from her four sheep for her fabric pieces.
“Our customers, a lot of them come from the urban areas, and it allows them to learn that there are farms and farms are producing food and fiber,” Thoms said.
Back at Rocklands Farm, the business also took advantage of the countryside. Glenn said the setting has drawn people to the winery. The Bethesda native called the setting of the countryside “peaceful” and has served as a connection to nature.
Much like the Artisan Tour, the Rocklands Farm has integrated several types of edible crafts, such as coffee beans grown by a friend on a Colombian farm, apple sauce from its partner in Pennsylvania and pizza from Michael Carignan, owner of the rising business called Pizza Brama. Several of these items were on display for sale.
Along with promoting products from other locals, Glenn said part of the business includes helping others make use of old and abandoned farms and houses for business.
“A lot of these farms in the area – they’re just kind of abandoned. The farms don’t have enough economic capacity. So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to create a business that we can create enough money (from) to fix them, keep them going and repair the roof, repair the foundation, because these things are over 100 years old, and they’re going to be gone in 20 years if we can’t fix them,” Glenn said.
Glenn said the farm, which was built in the 1870s, also serves as a testament to the architecture from back then. Neither the house nor the barn had been reconstructed; Glenn’s family simply reserved the house and the farm and repurposed them for the winery.
“It’s all this old timber. It’s a testament to the craftsmanship from 100 years ago. Over 100 years ago these people were so good at what they did. It’s a testament to the skill. So we don’t’ want to change this because (if) you go to a lot of wineries it’s like drywall, it looks like a hotel lobby, you could be anywhere,” Glenn said.
With the Artisan Tour going on down the road, Glenn said the winery was a resting spot for people to come and relax, taste some wine, have some lunch and then go back on the tour.
“It’s an oasis. People are just living life, and they stop in and refresh (and) renourish,” Glenn said.
Resident Christie Lyons and her mother-in-law, Debbie Lyons, both agreed the scenery made the trip ideal for a small getaway and a “girl’s treat.” This was Christie’s second time to the farm, and she enjoys the delicious pairing at the wine tasting.
“I think it fits in with the wine of this region; it kind of tastes similar to what I’ve had at other wine tastings in Virginia and Maryland, but it’s fresh and light. And I love that they pair it with chocolate,” Lyons said.
“I love it,” said Debbie Lyons. “I love the farmhouse and the barn and (how) they’re getting ready for a wedding. It’s beautiful.”
Sonika Chilukuri said she heard of the farm through an event at the YMCA about a year and a half ago. She said though she is not a “wine person” she enjoyed the wine as well as good conversation with the staff.
“I really like the wine tasting and chatting with the guy who works there; he was really great,” Chilukuri added.
D.C. emergency medical technician Joseph Stromberg said it was nice to really get out of the city ambiance.
“It was a drive, but it wasn’t crazy. I feel like this is the closest you can drive and really be out of the city, like escape the suburbs completely,” Stromberg said.