A sunflower field in McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area Credit: Photo by Renee Sklarew

The landscape magically transforms during the 45-minute drive from Bethesda to Poolesville. On either side of the country roads are farms, orchards and fields of grain—tiny Poolesville sits near Montgomery County’s northwestern border in the Ag Reserve, where zoning rules have been designed to protect farmland and agriculture, so the scenery remains preserved in time. Poolesville played a pivotal role in the Civil War, thanks to its strategic location by the Potomac River. During Reconstruction, emancipated African Americans purchased 200 acres of farmland to establish Sugarland, a freedman’s community nearby. 

Sprinkled among the farms today are stables where equestrians ride and hunt. Hikers and cyclists come for the easy access to the C&O Canal Towpath. Hordes of Instagrammers descend upon the sunflower fields at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area every July. This spring, Poolesville’s tradition of farming and local food expands with the opening of The Crossvines at 16601 West Willard Road. The new vineyard and event space will help supply Montgomery County wineries with grapes and educate students and local growers about the winemaking process. 

For a small town, Poolesville offers big fun.

Eat

Poolesville’s newest eatery is Locals Farm Market. Situated in a restored 1840s home, Locals is a bakery, coffee shop, market and cafe that serves exceptionally good food. Come for the all-day breakfast, veggie bowls or hearty sandwiches (we love the barbecue beef brisket sandwich and giant chocolate chip cookies). Locals hosts Friday night jam sessions and operates a gallery for DMV artists. 19929 Fisher Ave., Poolesville; localsfarmmarket.com

Learn

The Historic Medley District encompasses three buildings in Poolesville, most notably the John Poole House, built in 1793. The log structure was used as a trading post and began serving as Poolesville’s first U.S. Post Office in 1810. The Old Town Hall Bank Museum, another landmark, has exhibits portraying the town’s role in the Civil War. Drive down River Road to see Seneca Schoolhouse, which opened its doors in 1866. These buildings are open by appointment only. Check the website for special events. historicmedley.org

Sip

Perched on a hill and surrounded by apple trees is Landmade, a brewery that serves farm-to-table food in addition to its own craft beer and housemade cider. Families and groups (often with dogs) gather around firepits and communal tables. Look for fresh oysters in season and giant pretzels with beer cheese. 19130 Jerusalem Road, Poolesville; landmadebeer.com

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Taste

Cross the one-lane Montevideo Road bridge and remain on the gravel path to visit Rocklands Farm Winery. Two pretty red barns are surrounded by 34 acres of farmland. Reserve a table or firepit for your group, sip Anna’s Rosé and try one of the rotating food vendors. 14531 Montevideo Road, Poolesville; rocklandsfarmmd.com

Browse

While you can find plenty of farm tools, garden supplies and horse gear in Poolesville, the only boutique in town is The Sweet Lemon. We love the hyperlocal products, toys and holiday decor. The store has activities for families, too. 19710-C Fisher Ave., Poolesville; shopsweetlemongifts.com

Dine

 Locals have stopped in at Bassett’s Restaurant for steak, Maryland-style fried chicken and fancy cocktails since 1993. The new owner has added pizza, sandwiches, tacos and breakfast to the menu, which you can enjoy on the three-season patio. 19950 Fisher Ave., Poolesville; bassettsrestaurant.net

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Pick

If your mantra is “buy local,” then a trip to Homestead Farm is for you. In the summer, you can pick your own strawberries, blackberries and peaches. Kids love watching the frolicking baby goats. The daily farmers market features enticing pies and fresh local produce. 15604 Sugarland Road, Poolesville; homestead-farm.net

Admire

The annual July sunflower bloom at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area is an unforgettable scene to behold. Enthusiasts come to pose for photos and paint trompe l’oeil-style, tracking the flowers’ yellow faces as they turn to follow the sun. Enjoy their beauty, but please don’t trample them while you’re getting that perfect Instagram post. 18600 River Road, Poolesville; dnr.maryland.gov

Coming Up

SpringFest, Poolesville’s annual toast to barbecue, beer and blues music, is 2-7 p.m. May 6 at Whalen Commons. Tickets are $40 per person for unlimited pours from 17 breweries ($25 after 5 p.m.). Celebrate the whole darn town on Poolesville Day, Sept. 23 at Whalen Commons. The festival includes a 5K run/walk, live music, arts and crafts, classic cars, food vendors and fun stuff for kids. poolesvillemd.gov

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This story appears in the May/June issue of Bethesda Magazine.