Brickyard Farm: April 4 Meeting: update

Great turnout and much to report. For now Channel 4 new coverage here.

Public Meeting April 4- Please Attend!

Please plan on attending the public meeting to discuss installing soccer fields on the Brickyard School Site.

Be advised- this is not a “hearing” but a “meeting”, a proper public hearing has not been held nor been scheduled on the topic of the use of this public land (besides this one that assumes its use will be soccer fields).

The Brickyard Blog will be “live blogging” from this event and will post video the following day.

When:   Monday, April 4 at 7:30pm
Where: Potomac Elementary School, 10311 River Road, Potomac MD
Also: Please show your support for the Brickyard Farm and public process by wearing green.

Please visit the Brickyard Blog on for an update from Brickyard Farmer Nick Maravell, with video of Ike Leggett’s comments on this issue at the recent Kensington Public Meeting.

Please read on for prior posts on this topic….

Since the troubling BOE vote to remove Nick’s Organic Farm from 20 acres in Potomac in favor of Soccer Fields (full story below), concerned residents have been left with an uneasy feeling, the breach of trust between the County, its farmer tenant and the community at large has not been repaired.

What can you do? Letters to the Council, Executive and State Senators and Delegates are still needed, along with letters to the editor. A new blog is devoted to this effort and tracking this issue as it unfolds, Brickyard Blog Montgomery. Click for all the particulars about writing in.

Sample letter here.

Your action on this really does make a difference , thanks for all you do.

Read on for the full Brickyard Saga…

“Tradition has been broken”…

Chris Rossi, The Gazette

Organic Farmer Nick Maravell said as much in his testimony  at the BOE meeting on March 8. Both a 30 year tradition of organic farming in Potomac’s Brickyard community and the promise of public process that MoCo residents expect and demand from local government.

The 15 people allowed to speak for 2 minutes each at the hearing (who had only 24 hours notice about the hearing) eloquently described the community asset that Nick’s organic farm provides, an asset that would be permanently lost if the BOE voted that day to terminate Nick’s lease and instead lease the 20 acre parcel to the County to build soccer fields in partnership with private soccer organization MSI. Laytonsville Farmer Keith Olinger even pleaded that, should his lease end, Nick be allowed to take the soil he spent so many years enriching with him. Mr. Olinger buys seed from the Brickyard Rd. farm  and said that if the farm closes, the closest supplier of the seed he needs for his Organic operation is four hours away.  Myron Horst of Jehovah-Jireh farm wanted assurances that the Monsanto Corporation was not somehow funding this move, as they have pushed lots of other non-GMO farmers out of business both in the US and around the world. In her comments later, BOE member Laura Berthiaume commented that Monsanto’s actions in the world were troubling, having seen the film Food Inc.,  she said these accusations regarding Monsanto were “no joke.”

Other BOE comments after testimony showed the Board’s misunderstanding of their own department’s land leasing program. BOE Member Pat O’Niell insinuated that Mr. Maravell was getting “a terrific deal” with the school system by paying $1,300/month to lease the 20 acre parcel. This accusation is untrue: not only is this within the average going rate that large scale commodity producers pay to farm County land, the land is leased through a competitive bidding process in which for the past 30 years Mr. Maravell has been the highest bidder. The County is only planning to pay the BOE $200 more per month for the same property to make soccer fields.

Later in the day, the BOE took up discussion of the proposed lease to the County.

Having heard the testimony,the rest of the hearing was frankly disheartening. When it became clear that BOE member Ms. Berthiaume was not given the most recent draft of the lease the County had drawn up, BOE staff cautioned the Board that the lease agreement they were about to vote on was still evolving, that there was no finalized version yet. It also became clear that both the BOE and the County were passing off the responsibility of soliciting public input, meaning the only time for the  public to speak is after the deal with MSI is done and soccer fields are the only considered use for the land.

Amendments to the lease were proposed by Ms. O’ Neill, she wanted to execute the lease to the county but allow Nick’s Organic Farm to continue until January 1, 2012 (to be leased from the County and not the BOE).

A motion was then made to delay the a vote until the next BOE meeting on March 28. Ms. Berthiaume made the motion and Mr. Kauffman seconded and both spoke to the need for more information and more public input.  That motion failed by 5-2.
The vote was taken on Ms. O’Neill’s Amendment and it passed 5-2- the land will be leased to the County for soccer fields but Mr. Maravell gets to farm until January.

This decision has us still wondering what happened to the public process.

A few troubling things that have come out about this deal:

- In the development review process with the County, each soccer field must have 60 parking spaces to accommodate payers and fans. With 4 fields planned for this property, that is 240 parking spaces, but that is just cars parked at any one time. The number of cars moving up and down Brickyard road, (which used to be a designated Rustic Road, the road has not changed, the designation has) could be many times that number in tournament play.

-A letter from Executive Legget’s office in 2009 to then BOE President Brandman describes the current site of Nick’s Organic Farm as “Largely Vacant”.

-Board meeting minutes from and April 2009 MSI meeting show that MSI was working with the county even then to secure this spot for fields.

-A year ago, March 5, 2010, the topic of this sort of County lease of the Brickyard site for the purpose of soccer fields was discussed among county staff and officials. A Planner familiar with the area let the Executive’s Office know that the plan to terminate the lease of  the Organic Farm would be controversial and that the community should be involved as soon as possible. Community members did not hear about this plan until last week.

-Once the Public is allowed to weigh in, the only decisions that will still need to be made are on what lighting, paving and other features the soccer fields should have. There will be no place in the process for the public to say they want the acreage to remain in its current use as a farm.

-This plan may actually cost tax payers money. When the County sub leases the land to MSI who will hire contractors to build the fields, all improvements  to the property will be reimbursed to MSI by the County when the BOE needs the land back for school construction. There is no cap on how much MSI can spend to make reimbursable improvements. Currently Nick’s Organic Farm does not consume much in the way of public services, including ambulance, police, fire, not to mention the mowing, and even fertilizing needed to keep fields up to FIFA standards.

Now is a time for  getting the word out and considering next steps.  Stay Tuned.Coverage of this hearing in the Press:

Nick called the  Kojo Namdi show on March 9. Kojo’s guest Master Gardener Ed Bruske said “I don’t know why Montgomery County is so unfriendly to farming.” Click here (starts minute 50:15)

Patch Gazette Channel 9 Potomac Almanac Nick’s site

Previously Posted….

Longtime local resident and Organic Farmer  Nick Maravell has been cultivating non-gmo organic seeds on the same piece of County land in Potomac for 31 years. The County just gave him two weeks notice that his farm will become ball fields that the community does not want /need.

This leads us to ask….Where is the process?

Your letters and calls are needed by the close of business on Monday, March 7 to hold the County accountable to the public.

Click here for more info and contacts for those calls and letters.

Thanks for your swift action on this troubling turn of events.

We apologize for the quick turnaround time- we heard about this on Sunday morning- you can bet it ruined our pancakes.

With Appreciation,

Montgomery Countryside Alliance

MoCo Bag Bill – Passes with Floreen left holding the bag!

Update: (please forgive the headline…but honestly, just couldn’t resist) County Council passed the bag bill in an 8-1 vote.  The fee will be in place as of January 1, 2012.  See Patch coverage.

Previous posts:

Short on time?  Long a the desire to reduce plastic bags in our streams and along our countryside and parkland?  Click here for an easy on-line petition created by County Resident Anne Ambler!

Or, if is experiencing problems – they are under cyber attack from China (another story!) See here from our friends at Little Falls Watershed Alliance.

Update:  Click here for Gazette coverage of hearing.  Vast majority of speakers in favor of bill.

________________past posts

Bag Bill Hearing this Thursday, March 31, 7:30 pm, at the County Council office building in Rockville, 3rd floor.

Please help reduce the tons of plastic bags which foul our waterways

and natural areas.

Please sign up to testify or write an email in support of Montgomery’s bag fee bill.

To sign up, call: 240-777-7803

Or send an email to Council President Ervin and Council members:
Please see attached email from MoCo’s Dept. of Environment with informational links.

Montgomery County’s recently introduced bill on a carryout bag tax.:  The carryout bag tax Bill follows the Washington DC Bag Law model, and requires that all County retailers charge 5-cents for carryout bags given to consumers at checkout counters. Retailers includes all department stores, grocery chains, convenience stores, specialty retail and big box retailers.

Please consider joining the County Council Hearing scheduled for Thursday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m. At the hearing we would be grateful if you could speak for 2-3 minutes on why supporting the carryout bag tax would support the goal of reducing trash in our rivers, and help meet the County’s stormwater permit

The County Council Web site provides details on how to prepare for the County Council hearing. (Click on the link to visit their Web site)

As an alternative to oral testimony the Council also accepts written testimony, which becomes part of the public record.

Your support of such bills before County Council is invaluable, particularly as we are seeing momentum against the provisions of the Bill, including Web sites set up to lobby Council members against it.

Building Lot Termination(BLTs) Application Open

Not only a tasty sandwich- BLT stands for Building Lot Termination Easement.   The primary purpose of a BLT Easement is to preserve agricultural land by reducing the fragmentation of farmland resulting from residential development. A BLT Easement restricts residential, commercial, industrial and other non-agricultural uses. A key feature of the BLT Easement is an enhanced level of compensation to a landowner who can demonstrate that their land is capable of residential development and agrees, as part of the BLT Easement, to forego residential development and permanently retire an approved on-site waste disposal systems associated with the lot to be terminated under the easement.

Landowners can now apply for BLTs, read on for all the info from County Ag Services.

Building Lot Termination Program

Open Purchase Period
April 1, 2011 through May 31, 2011

The Department of Economic Development Agricultural Services Division announces the first open purchase period for the Building Lot Termination Program.  The open purchase period will begin on Friday April 1, 2011 and will close on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 5 pm.

Interested landowners may submit  applications for the BLT program beginning on April 1, 2011 (no applications accepted before this date).

Any application received after the close of business on the final day of the open purchase period can not be accepted.  Landowners who miss the open purchase period deadline, will be placed on waiting list for the next open purchase period.

Applications for the BLT program are available online by following the links at or you can call to request an application at 301-590-2810. DED will determine the completeness of applications received.  Any application that is not complete will be returned to the applicant.  The applicant must cure any defect in the application prior to the close of business on the final day of the open purchase period; otherwise the application will not be accepted.

Landowners submitting applications should make an appointment to discuss their applications.  They should be prepared by bringing certain documentation to discuss their property.   This includes but is not limited to:

(a.)     Surveys, maps or diagrams that help describe the proposed easement  property;
(b.)     Copies of County-Approved on-site waste disposal system site plan;
(c.)     Status of TDRs for proposed easement property;
(d.)     Copies of Deeds, Tax Bill or any other document describing the landowner’s legal association with the proposed easement property.

All applicants whose applications are determined to be complete will be placed on a completed application list.  At the conclusion of the open purchase period, DED will begin to analyze the proposed property to establish its numerical score for the purposes of ranking the property among all completed applications received during the open purchase period.

The total number of BLTs purchased by the County from the applications received during the open purchase period is a function of the amount of funds available.  The DED/APAB will then determine from the ranking, the order for offers that will be tendered during the purchase period.  It is possible that there will be more applications received then there is funding for the open purchased period.  Any application not funded during the open purchase period will be held by DED and will be eligible for consideration in subsequent open purchase periods.

For more information and to access the BLT application and other related documents, please visit

Spring’s First Crop: Greens are Back!

The trees are budding, the sun is out and the very first crops of spring are showing up on plates and in markets. All manner of greens abound, the first baby lettuces, kale, chard. All full of nutrients and very tasty.

Two stories on Greens caught out ears on NPR this morning…

First, DC chef Nora is cooking with greens, garlic and an unexpected dash of vermouth.

Next, a VA farmer has been growing greens in high tunnels all winter long.

Greens are just the first crop in a whole season of great local food. Opportunities abound to eat the best of the season at local restaurants.

Or.. support your local farmer directly with Community Sponsored Agriculture. Shares are going quick!

Tired of Stink Bugs? Rep Bartlett is too…

Congressman Bartlett will be hosting a Farm Town Hall on March 18th at St Mary’s College in Emmitsburg. The event includes a panel discussion on dealing with stink bugs. See the flyer here. (the title on the pdf is a bit garbled, not sure why.)

Got your own tips on how to deal with the little buggers? Do tell!

NY Times: Organic farming can feed the world

Food/Agriculture writer Mark Bittman takes on the age old question of whether organic/sustainable farming can in fact feed the world in a New York Times Online article.
Got thoughts on this to share? Visit our facebook page.

In Pursuit of Process…

Long time local resident and Organic Farmer  Nick Maravell has been cultivating non-gmo organic seeds on the same piece of land leased from the County in Potomac for 31 years. The County just gave him two weeks notice that his farm will become ball fields that the community does not want /need. The public was not consulted and only found out about this troubling development the same day that Mr. Maravell did, when it appeared on a County Board of Ed agenda. Recently we have learned that this plan has actually been in the works for a year and a half.

This leads us to ask….Where is the process?

The community can debate the best uses of County land, be it sustainable farming, recreation or another use, but it is critical to have the time and space for a fruitful public discussion, not be informed of decisions at the last minute or after the fact.

MCA will be taking this question to the BOE hearing on March 8. For more information on this issue and the hearing, click here. If you are attending the hearing, please wear green to support Mr. Maravell’s farm and proper democratic process.

MCA’s testimony for the hearing.

Our Board President (and Potomac resident) Diana Conway’s letter to the BOE.

We will let you know how the hearing goes. Stay Tuned….

Swap Know-How on the Producer’s Listserve

At the recent Producers Summit, farmers shared that they need better access to information of all sorts. Whether its finding the prefect cover crop, marketing to restaurants,  or what to do about stink bugs (any ideas? anybody?), some of the answers are closer than you think, maybe even right up the road.

To facitiate communication quickly, we are announcing the Producers Listserve,  an email listserve where producers can share know-how.

If you are interested, send an email with “Join Producers Listserve” in the subject line to:

Producer’s Summit: Many Opportunities for Partnership

More than 50 folks filled Linden Barn for MCA’s Producer Summit on February 25.  Attendees represented current and future farmers, those farming large acreage of commodity crops, small scale diversified vegetable and livestock farmers, dairy operators, Ag Service providers and others.

Caroline Taylor, Executive Director of MCA, started the meeting by sharing a sign she saw at local Savage Dairy to illustrate the tough work that goes into any farming operation:

Cheryl Kollin, Principal of Full Plate Ventures tag teamed with Kristina Bostick of MCA to present some local Ag Trends and new models for distribution. Full Presentation here (looking for more great Farm Stats? Click Here)

Will Morrow of Whitmore Farm in Emmitsburg shared his own farm’s challenges and succeses with different market outlets including restaurants, farmers markets and groceries.

Jeremy Criss of Montgomery County Ag Services gave a brief overview of what his office offers in support and provided copies of a helpful handout detailing agricultural land preservation programs in the County.

Woody Woodroof of Red Wiggler Community Farm outlined the similarities and many differences between the smaller scale vegetable and livestock producers and the larger scale commodity crop growers and identified many places that the two groups could work together to mutual benefit despite the differences in their farms.

One effort all attending seemed to support was MCA’s new Land Link Program, presented at the meeting by Farmer and Land Link Coordinator Shannon Varley. The Program would match new and expanding farmers with landowners willing to offer long term lease arrangements.

Other new opportunities for partnership that came out of the discussion portion of the program:

- Getting and keeping labor was a real concern. MCA will be working with the County’s Ag Services Division to start a Labor Link program, similar to the Land Link program, that matches farms with workers.

-Our Rustic Roads need to be passable for heavy farm equipment but a balance needs to be struck with maintaining important erosion reducing hedgerow habitat. MCA will be conducting a ride-along with the County’s Department of Transportation to assess trouble spots that are making it difficult to drive large equipment down the road.

- The meeting has inspired a number of new ideas for better linking farms to share resources.  Pat and Chris Holmgren of Seneca Creek Joinery will be working with MCA to set up a wood chip exchange between timber related companies and farmers that can use the chips for mulch, bedding  and other farm uses.

- There is still room for improvement in communication and information sharing between farmers, MCA is looking for input on how to best achieve these goals. An online platform is a possibility.

-Absent a formal incubator program that teaches new farmers the ropes, there has been some interest in starting a mentoring program that pairs established farmers with those that are just starting out.

-More than anything, the Producers Summit was a first step toward better communication. MCA board members and ag community leaders will be meeting with Ag Services to further discuss some of these ideas and work toward better supporting farms of all types.

One of the last comments of the summit perfectly summarized the work ahead: despite the differences in the needs of  commodity and table crop producers, protecting farmland in the county is a goal that all farmers share and there are many ways to partner in this effort.

Indeed the Producers Summit was only the first effort to better support farmers in Montgomery County and MCA looks forward to the work ahead.

Have an idea? Drop us a line at or visit us on facebook.

Coverage of the event from Patch

Pictures from the event:

Shannon Varley of Bella Terra Family Farm explains Land Link

Will Morrow of Whitmore Farm discusses product distribution

Folks stuck around long after the meeting to share ideas