From Pastry to Plow

Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm in Poolesville, MD, is a four-acre farm that strives to be sustainable, colorful, and delicious.

And while we didn’t choose Chocolates and Tomatoes for a 2015 The FruitGuys Community Fund grant just because the farm happens to produce many of our favorite things—artisan chocolates, hops for beer, and, of course, fresh vegetables—it shows the diversity of crops and products that American farms produce, and the farmers behind them. Actually, like all of our Community Fund grant recipients, we chose Chocolates and Tomatoes because its project scored high on our matrix of sustainability objectives for 2015 and it fits our mission of supporting farmers who are catalysts for environmental and economic self-sufficiency, sustainability, and food access.

Operated by the farmer and chocolatier Mark Mills, the farm donated 40 percent of their 2014 harvest to area food banks, including Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg, MD. Their $4,925 grant will allow Chocolates and Tomatoes to plant two acres of permanent pollinator habitat, establish erosion-reducing terracing on a quarter-acre of ground with a steep grade, as well as construct a 20×48-foot high tunnel on the terraced area to further reduce water runoff. The high tunnel will be exclusively used to grow food for donation to Manna Food Center.

According to Mark, “Two of the fundamental purposes of Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm have always been to educate and to give back. The generous grant from The FruitGuys Community Fund has allowed us to advance those purposes much sooner than we thought possible. The opportunity to give young minds the chance to see farming as a living and the importance of being a steward of the land is invaluable to us. We firmly believe that for a farm to be successful in all aspects it must be part of a community. The grant has allowed us to expand that community several times over. We could not be more thankful and blessed.“

Pastry to Plow

Mark Mills wasn’t always a farmer. In 2013, he graduated from pastry school and worked as the pastry chef at Washington, D.C.’s Blue Duck Tavern. According to a July 2013 Washington Post article, Mills saw an opportunity in a unique program that aimed to match people who wanted to farm with unused farmland in Montgomery County, MD.

He’s been a farmer ever since. To follow the story of Chocolates and Tomatoes sustainability project, sign up for The FruitGuys Community Fund’s quarterly newsletter and hear how they’re doing. Grant recipients send regular updates on their projects as part of their grant requirement. Read a summary of the seven other amazing farm grant recipients and their projects.

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