GETTING THERE: Charlotte Hall, in the heart of Maryland's Amish community, is less than an hour's drive from the Capital Beltway. From downtown Washington, take Pennsylvania Avenue southeast to Branch Avenue (Route 5 south) and follow to Charlotte Hall. To find Amish farms that sell farm products and crafts, turn right onto six-mile-long Thompson's Corner Road (Route 236) and look for the handmade signs that often lead to adjoining, sometimes dirt, side roads. (Note: Amish farms do not have telephones.)
WHEN TO GO: Daylight hours any day except Sunday, when Amish businesses are closed.
WHAT TO BRING: To keep foods fresh (particularly poultry) on the drive home, it's wise to have a cooler or two in the trunk with plenty of ice packs.
WHERE TO SHOP : The North St. Mary's County Farmers Market (37600 New Market Turner Rd., Charlotte Hall, 301-475-4200, Ext. 1402) is open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A dozen Amish farm stands sell seasonal vegetables, fruits, baked goods and jams. Locust Grove Dry Goods (9830 N. Ryceville Rd., Mechanicsville) sells eggs, butter, cheese and jams, as well as the essentials for an Amish way of life, including poplin fabrics, kerosene lanterns and art supplies for making greeting cards. The Stoltzfus family (36723 Dixie Lyon Rd., Mechanicsville) sells cut flowers until the first frost.
INFORMATION : St. Mary's County Division of Tourism, 800-327-9023, http:/