It’s a distinctive sound — the creak, clatter, and rumble of a water-powered mill grinding grains into flour. The waterwheel tumbles, the wooden gears mesh, and golden cornmeal rains down a chute into a screened sieve.
Carroll County’s Union Mills first ground grain in 1797 and still stands symbolic of the region’s pastoral traditions.
“This is where the Industrial Revolution began, with the water-driven mills,” said Ivan Lufriu, a volunteer at the mill. “This was an active place, the center of local commerce” with a tannery, kiln, and eventually a food cannery. However, despite its proximity to Baltimore, Frederick, and Washington, D.C., Carroll County has definitely remained “country.”
For so many regional residents, Carroll County was the goal of Sunday drives “out to the country.” Carloads of city folks were drawn by Baugher’s Orchards Farm Market, Bullocks Restaurant, Hoffman’s Ice Cream and Deli, or any of two or three dozen other family-owned farm stands, roadside markets, and restaurants. Today, despite creeping urbanization, more than 1,100 Carroll County farms still encompass more than 140,000 acres.
Carroll County Grown, a component of the Carroll County Department of Economic Development, provides a “one-stop shop” for consumers, farmers, producers, and restaurateurs interested in buying locally grown goods. The program lists farmers markets and other participants and offers resources specific to each group of users. The county also has a winery trail with four vineyards.
There are seven farmers markets, numerous orchards and fresh produce stands, and even an emu farm. The Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster celebrates that agricultural heritage with period buildings, farmyard animals, vintage farm machinery, historic artisans, and a full calendar of special events, highlighted by the Maryland Wine Festival on Sept. 16 and 17 and the Fall Harvest Celebration on Oct. 14. The museum also offers regularly scheduled, themed, three-course Victorian teas.
Elsewhere in the county
To further whet most any appetite for history, the Antrim 1844 Country House Hotel, in Taneytown, offers lodging and dining in a lavish Antebellum setting.
The rooms in the beautifully restored mansion and several adjacent buildings are enhanced by afternoon tea, a morning wake-up tray with newspaper, and a full country-style served breakfast in the dining room.
Antrim’s Smokehouse Restaurant serves contemporary American cuisine, by reservation only, while the Pickwick Pub offers 60 single malt Scotches and the hotel’s wine cellar features more than 20,000 bottles representing more than 2,700 selections.
More than history draws visitors
Sykesville, on the county’s southern edge, calls itself “The Coolest Small Town in America,” and goes a long way toward justifying that claim. Two parks, a brace of historic buildings, and a Sunday farmers market add to the allure.
For foodies, Sykesville is home to the Market Tavern, a gourmet shop and neighborhood bar specializing in local beer, classic cocktails, regional culinary specialties, and European-style tapas. Weekend brunch in the Market Tavern often includes families with kids. Hungry visitors can also enjoy a full meal at Baldwin Station, a renovated railroad station with a sophisticated menu and “up close” views of passing freight trains.
At Carroll County’s western extremity, Mount Airy also offers small town charm and an easily walkable downtown. Combining Mount Airy and Sykesville can make for a full day of leisurely shopping, sightseeing, and quality dining.
After an exceptional brunch at the Market Tavern, a barbecue dinner at Mount Airy’s CarterQue BBQ & Grilling Co. can be a perfect counterpoint.
Given its agricultural traditions, small town ambiance, diversity of gastronomic opportunities, and contemporary attractions, Carroll County remains an ideal venue for a drive into the country or a getaway vacation.
2 cups Union Mills cornmeal
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons shortening
Pinch of salt
Scald the milk and stir in the cornmeal, molasses, shortening, and salt. Work it into a consistent, somewhat stiff dough, adding water as need-
Press dough into thin, flat cakes and bake or grill on both sides until browned.
For more information
Carroll County Tourism: carrollcountytourism.org
Carroll County Grown: carrollgrown.org