Local Food in 2011: MCA’s role

Many metropolitan areas have found it difficult to keep up with the demand for local, seasonal food, a demand that is growing ever stronger as a result of recent lapses in food safety. Our region had the forsight to preserve land for the farming families that will feed our growing population. 2011 will see an increased focus on strengthening the community of local producers in the Reserve so that they can meet this growing demand.

We have the largest, most successful farmland protection effort in the country right here, 2011 will see a number of efforts to make use of the Ag Reserve to feed our region.  We will be partnering with Bethesda Green to facilitate more local food in area restaurants,  we will work to better connect area farmers to each other and land for lease through a series of forums hopefully leading to a new community website and we will be partnering with the County to plan the next steps for the Small Farm Incubator.

How can you help?  By telling us what you think!

1. Take our 6 question Survey about why you value the Ag Reserve.
2. Help us plan a new “Greenprint” for a vibrant Ag Reserve , we are planning the Greenprint Conference for Fall 2012, we need help deciding which topics are most important to cover. More info here.
3. Won’t you be our friend? Join us on facebook!

Important Court Victory

The case of Montgomery County v. Butler was decided in the County Court of Appeals last week. It is a case dealing with a special exception to run a landscape business on a very narrow lot close to  many other homes along Peach Tree road. After a number of appeals on both sides, ending with finding this landscape business to be incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood and therefore not receiving a special exception, the decision could be come a useful tool for those seeking to keep development appropriately scaled to the surrounding area.

The case begins:

“This case invites us to revisit our modern cases exploring the essence of “special exceptions” and their role in the regulatory scheme of zoning…”

In other words, Boards of Appeals must look at the particulars on the ground when granting special exceptions, each case needs to be taken into consideration on its own irrespective of the use being reasonable elsewhere. That is what makes these exceptions “special”, each situation is different.

You will find the full text of the decision here.

Help us plan a new “GreenPrint” for the Ag Reserve

Greenprint for the Future: What’s Next for Montgomery County’s Ag Reserve
Conference, 2012

If you could get all the stakeholders of the Ag Reserve in one room, what would you talk about? A few Ag Reserve leaders have gathered to plan just such a gathering, the Greenprint Conference, to be held in October 2012 to discuss keeping the Ag Reserve and surrounding area a vibrant source of  food, fiber, environmental quality and culture for future generations.

Preparations are progressing but we need your input, what speakers should we invite, what panels should be assembled, what tours should we arrange, how should we plan a reception to bring everyone together?

Please weigh in with an email to kristina@mocoalliance.org, or make it social by weighing in on our brand new facebook page! Will you be our friend?

Grower/Buyer Event: January 25, 2011

From Maryland’s Best.net:

“The Buyer-Grower Event is a trade show style meeting where Maryland growers and producers have the opportunity to display their products and buyers from chain stores, restaurants, and other venues have a chance to speak with them one-on-one.”

Ensuring a vibrant Ag reserve means getting rural products from our region to as many people as possible. An event like this that brings growers and distributors together is a great first step.

This years Event is on January 25, 2011 at the Elks Lodge in Annapolis. For all details and registration, see Maryland’s Best .

See the video below, taken at last year’s event. Note Whole Foods “Forager” Mark Smallwood’s market research: “When you ask customers to rate what is important to them: ‘local’, ‘conventional’, ‘organic’, they choose local every time. ”

Sounds of the Season…music in the key of preservation!

Historic St. Paul Church glowed brightly Sunday, December 12th as the guests were treated to an eclectic and flowing series of performances. Church trustee and historian, Gwen Reese, shared some history of the Church and the historic Sugarland Forest Community.  Then,  Dominique Agnew and Becky Ross of Violinsanity brought both classical pieces and traditional holiday favorites to life with exquisite original arrangements.  The crowd joined in song and called for more.  MCA Board member and AmKolel Sanctuary founder, Reb. David Shneyer answered with his fine acoustic set of folk and spiritual songs, punctuated with tales of environmental activism and trips to the hoosgow.  Wrapping up the evening, Bob Israel and his Total Eclipse band members, Chris Battistone and George  Hyde  offered up some soulful, smooth and festive jazz.  The horn solo of Silent Night was extraordinary.

Event goers called for a repeat in 2011…and so we shall.

What a way to celebrate the season and join together for preservation!  The evening’s proceeds will go to both MCA and St. Paul Community Church.

Violinsanity kicked things off with a carol sing-a-long

"Rockin" Rabbi David

Members of Total Eclipse, George Hyde, Bob Israel and Chris Battistone

George Hyde on Bass

Chris Battisone with a moving "silent night"

Upcoming Maryland Ag Events

The Maryland Department of Ag  has announced  the following upcoming events. You can sign up for the MDA’s informative newsletter here.

Upcoming Events

A Great Resource for Rural Issues

The Center for Rural Affairs has some fantastic articles on the issues facing Rural America and farmers.

For instance, some great articles on Rural Schools and resources for beginning farmers.

White’s Ferry, Scenic Reserve Transportation (Video)

The Ag Reserve’s White’s Ferry Road takes you from Maryland to Virginia, the only difference from other roads is the Potomac River runs in the middle of it. Whites Ferry is the very last cable ferry on the eastern seaboard and it makes for a serene trip to the Ag Reserve any time of year.

Tickets are $4 one way and $6 round trip for cars, cheaper for bikes.

The 24 hour hotline  has the most up to date info – 301- 349-5200

Click here for more info on the ferry.

See MD Farmland Loss and Sprawl Up Close with PlanMaryland

PlanMaryland is the name given to Governor O’Malley’s Statewide Comprehensive Plan for sustainable growth and development.

From their website:

Why do we need Plan Maryland?

Because sustainable quality of life in our communities and rural areas is at stake.

Because we are on track to lose approximately 560,00 acres to development by 2030

The 560,000 acres of projected growth is equal to an area the size of:

* 175 Antietam National Battlefields

* 40 Patapsco State Parks

* 14 Assateague Islands

* 112 Cunningham Falls State Parks

* 84 Patuxent River State Parks

* 144 Deep Creek Lakes

Or, roughly, the equivalent of the total land area of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties combined.

PlanMaryland is, ultimately, a plan for a more livable, greener, healthier and sustainable Maryland.

PlanMaryland has put together some sobering maps and charts showing present and future land uses. Click through those here. The Map below shows Land Use/Land Cover. You should be able to pick out the Ag Reserve as the green space perched on the cusp of newer development (since 1973).  The Outlines of the Reserve are distinguishable in most of the maps at the link above and it has a big role to play as our region grows; providing food to the masses, a green space for recreation and serving as the lungs of a more and more built up area.

Farm to School Funded by Congress!

The Child Nutrition ReAuthorization Act passed on December 2 with $40 million of funding intact for the USDA’s Farm to School Program as part of a $4.5 billion effort to raise nutritional standards in school food over the next 10 years and get school meals to more hungry children. Things looked bleak for this bill when House Republicans blocked the bill because of concerns over federal spending and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s misrepresentation of the bill as a “School Cookie Ban” that would ban school bake sales.

From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:

The Farm to School program, which was authorized in the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act but never funded, will offer competitive grants to schools or non-profit organizations to develop purchasing relationships with local farmers, plan seasonal menus, build school gardens, develop hands-on nutrition education, and provide solutions to infrastructure problems including storage, transportation, food preparation, and technical training.

Read more on this great news here.

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