April 30, 2018
Tucked away into the gently rolling hills of southern Maryland sits Robin Hill Vineyard and Farm. As I pulled into the drive on a crisp but sunny spring morning, I was met by the sounds of sheep and goats and the friendly face of FarmHers Shelby Watson-Hampton and Susan Watson White. The two women, niece and aunt respectively, are behind the farm’s newest venture, a vineyard and winery.
We start out the morning with what Susan describes as her favorite part, feeding the livestock. Just a few goats and sheep and an odd but friendly Canadian goose who has decided this is his home too and won’t leave, run out to meet Susan as she enters the gate. With everyone there fed, we head up to the ducks and chickens. Though I’m generally not a fan of birds, Susan’s ducks were super cute…almost (but not quite) cute enough to hold.
From there we headed down to the wedding barn. The women explained to me that a few years back they decided to repurpose an old barn that had been used to store machinery into a wedding venue. The farm has been in their family for three generations now and the land surrounding the home place is filled with the homes of many family members. Susan’s mother and father purchased the farm back in the 50’s and through the years operated it as an agritourism destination and greenhouse operation. They raised their children on the farm and those children raised their children there, creating a sense of family around the farm that is truly unique.
In 2005 when Susan’s father passed away unexpectedly, Susan stepped in, running the greenhouse operations. In the years that followed the transition started to become a wedding venue and open the farm back up to the public. Then when Susan’s niece, Shelby, voiced her desire to continue to be a part of the farm, the women put their heads together and started the newest venture with the wedding barn and vineyard. Along with their husbands, they planted vines and invested in additions to the older buildings to create a winery on site as well. In October of 2017, they opened the tasting room and were off and running.
From the wedding barn, the women headed out to the vineyard to prune the vines with their husbands. There I learned the intricacies of pruning the delicate vines, preparing them to bear the best and most fruit possible.
Shelby’s grandma still lives in the homeplace and is clearly the heart of the farm. She prepared us a delicious lunch before we headed back across the farm for a tour of the winery, run by Susan’s husband, Bob. They built the winery in an old existing tobacco barn, modernizing the building to be outfitted to make the delicious wines. From there, we ended the day in the tasting room, trying out (and loving) the fruits of their labor.
Robin Hill Vineyard and Farm is a true labor of love for Shelby and Susan and their entire family. Throughout the day both women spoke with love about their family, and the importance of the farm in keeping that family together. Bound by those ties, they are setting their own new path to not only keep the farm going, but making it thrive. Together they bring a zest for life, a love of family and a lot of southern Maryland charm to everyone they touch with their delicious wines. Shelby and Susan are FarmHers at heart.
Thank you to the Watson's for allowing FarmHer to visit. Episodes will air Friday and Sunday at 9:30 pm ET on RFD-TV. Watch more video clips on YouTube here.
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