John and Mary Fendrick are the owners of Rock Hill Orchard. We both grew up as “city-folk”, John in Chevy Chase and Mary on Staten Island. As children, our parents grew vegetables, and Mary remembers pushing a wheelbarrow full of compost around on her first visit with John’s parents.
We initially focused our agricultural efforts on breeding good quality Guernsey cows at our original Germantown farm. Our two boys grew up showing these beautiful creatures at county, state, and, eventually, national dairy shows. As our herd increased in size and quality, we wanted to turn that beautiful golden Guernsey milk into delicious farmstead-made cheese, and possibly even ice cream. The question was where would we do this as our Germantown farm was too small to support our milk cows and house a milking parlor and creamery.
When, in 2010, we learned that Rock Hill Orchard was for sale for the first time in 40 years, we decided the time was right to make our next jump. We purchased this beautiful orchard knowing that it has enough acreage to intensively graze our herd of Guernseys, a viable orchard, a pick your own business and an on-farm market, all in a great location.
Mary has recently earned a cheesemaking certificate from the University of Vermont’s Institute of Artisinal Cheesemaking and also attended “Ice Cream College” at Penn State. In one day, the students tasted 42 varieties of vanilla ice cream (most with off flavors so the students could learn the difference between good and bad)! In 2012, we started building our dairy and creamery. We have been told that we have the first all new dairy in Montgomery County in sixty years and the first all pasture robotic milking dairy in North America.
Since buying the orchard, we have invested in planting thousands of new trees and berry bushes, as well as installing five high tunnels for season extension, additional buildings and new tractors. We have learned that growing fruits and vegetables on a large scale is a lot like growing vegetables in your back yard – only bigger and more of everything. We have also learned that organization is the key to success. Each winter, we plan out every task in the orchards and fields to the day so that we don’t miss anything. Of course, following the plan while dealing the nature’s challenges is another story! In 2013, we were honored to be featured on the Maryland Farm & Harvest program on Maryland Public Television.
We are proud to be active members of the Montgomery County farming community and strongly believe in giving back to our community. We feel enormous satisfaction in producing fruits, vegetables, and dairy products that people in the community want to buy. In addition, we enjoy and learn so much from meeting and talking with fellow growers, whether at grower meetings or at committee meetings. Here is a summary of some of our recent involvements: