The Reserve: Critical Habitat to Many Animals!

Did you know…

The Reserve is home to many animal species, including:

Wild Turkey

Black Bear




Bald Eagle

Red Fox

Grey Fox

River Otter


Snapping and Box Turtles

Deer (of course)


Several large cat species have also been spotted, including:

Mountain Lion

Eastern Lynx or Bobcat
Let us know of any cool sightings!

MCA Testifies at the BOE, Time for a Rural Schools Policy

With the Recommendation that Monocacy Elementary School in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain stay open, MCPS Superintended Weast gave us a reason to celebrate but more still has to be done.

Monocacy was slated for closure because it had fewer students than non-Reserve schools. This policy ignores the fact that the rural area feeding the school has limited development and population by design. There is no way for these rural cluster schools to keep up with enrollment standards that govern the rest of the County. More than a resource for students and parents, in the County’s rural areas schools are often the only public meeting areas, hosting meetings, events and generally serving as a community center. Having these buildings serve double-duty this way saves the County money.

MCA joined with our partner the Audubon Naturalist Society to push for a rural school policy that would protect these lower enrollment schools from closure resulting non-applicable standards for enrollment at the most recent BOE meeting.  All testimony, a letter from Dr. Royce Hanson (Former Planning Board Chair and Architect of the Reserve) and MCA’s position paper on Rural Schools are below.

We are currently working with County Council members, including newly elected Reserve District 2 member, Craig Rice and staff to move forward with establishment of a policy that will better manage the County’s rural schools.  The Towns of Barnesville and Poolesville are joining the quest.  Please support our efforts by writing in.

MCA BOE Testimony November 11, 2010

Audubon BOE Testimony November 11, 2010

Ag Reserve Schools Position Paper

Dr. Royce Hanson’s Letter to BOE on Rural Schools

Town of Barnesville BOE Testimony

Town of Poolesville BOE Testimony

Letter to the BOE from a Poolesville Parent

Gazette Story on Mobile Slaughter, Rocklands Farm

A great story about Mobile Slaughter moving ahead in Montgomery, Frederick and Washington Counties with a focus on the Reserve’s Own Rocklands Farm.

“Yikes! Of All the Things to Put in Chicken Feed, Arsenic?!”

photo by Dieter Haeussler of Arsenic Free Chickens at Rocklands Farm

The above quote is from MCA’s Executive Director Caroline Taylor at the Food and Water Watch press conference this past week on banning arsenic in chicken feed .Read MCA’s press conference statement here.

Perhaps, like Caroline you were also surprised to learn this, but over the last 60 years arsenic has become a routine part of a chicken’s diet. Originally it was used to treat intestinal disease in broiler chickens, but now it is added to feed to promote growth and improve meat pigmentation.

Arsenic is a serious toxin. Elevated levels of exposure can lead to a number of different kinds of cancers and also neurological effects. The posion does not just stay in the chicken’s body however, it ends up in chicken waste and subsequently in groundwater and eventually in the Chesapeake Bay.

According to Scripps news service, the EPA has baned arsenic in pesticides and wood perservatives and drastically reduced the “safe” levels of arsenic in drinking water to protect human health.  Despite this, a bill in the Maryland Legislature that would ban arsenic in livestock feed has been tabled until next session. Poultry producers continue to say that the arsenic compound in feed is safe. However, the independent Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has found that detectable arsenic levels exist not only in all fast food chicken samples tested, but many supermarket samples as well, even organic chicken, even in higher end health food grocery stores. Two children in Utah that eat a lot of eggs from their backyard chickens were sickened with high arsenic levels.

Yikes is right.

Click Here to Sign the Food and Water Watch Petition.

This petition will be delivered to Maryland lawmakers in an effort to move this common sense ban along.

Until arsenic is banned in livestock feed, local eaters do have other options. There are farmers in our area who are committed to feeding their animals a poison free diet. We contacted Shannon Varley of Bella Terra Family Farm on Old Hundred Road in the Ag Reserve to see what her chickens were eating:

“We used to feed our chickens conventional feed but we have moved over to a diet with a base of soaked organic

Shannon, Maeve and Luke at Bella Terra Family Farm

wheat and corn (soaking makes it easier to absorb the nutrients from the grain), then we add in pulverized oyster shells, kelp meal and fish meal. We want to make sure good food is going into our chickens so they make the best eggs possible for the people who consume them.”

Want eggs or meat from chickens with a diet full of things you can pronounce? Check out our local food page or visit

For More information, see the Food and Water Watch Report.

Royce Hanson Award and Fall Fundraiser, A Big Success, Thank You!

It was a chilly but fun day on Button Farm on Sunday. All those gathered to Celebrate Tony Cohen and the Ag Reserve stayed warm with acoustic sets from Dale and Eleanor Kotler and Emma’s Revolution and food from Whole Foods Market and Common Market.

Most of all, we got a chance to celebrate Tony Cohen of Button Farm, pictured (right) here receiving the 2010 Royce Hanson Award with (from left) Caroline Taylor, Executive Director of MCA, Diana Conway, MCA President, Dr. Peter Eeg, MCA Board Member, and Dr. Royce Hanson,Architect of the Reserve and namesake of the Award.

MCA would like to thank everyone who came out and made this day a success, including all our artisans and others who donated to the silent auction, Dale and Eleanor Kotler for their music, Concerts in the Country who provided Emma’s Revolution, the Spirit Bottle Workshop and an Historical Reenactor, our board members and other event volunteers, the food sponsors: Whole Foods Market, Common Market, MOM’s Organic Market, Kingsbury Orchard, Comus Market, Lewis Orchard, and Rock Hill Orchard. Also thanks to Jessica Weiss of GrowingSOUL for helping make our event waste free, with Jessica’s help we are composting all waste from the event!

Check out the Patch article on the event. See the slideshow below for some pictures from the day…