On July 30th, Montgomery County Council members heard about the state of agriculture in the County.
Presentations from Ag Services Division, Park and Planning Staff, Ag Advisory Committee and MCA were heard by the PHED Committee comprised of Nancy Floreen (Chair), Marc Elrich and George Leventhal. Ag Reserve resident and attorney Jim Clifford also provided updated information on the Building Lot Termination (BLT) Program. Of note, is the growth of smaller family farms on 10-49 acres.
MCA’s comments presented by MCA Executive Director, Caroline Taylor, walked a line between Pollyanna and Chicken Little – noting the significant growth in consumer spending and desire for locally produced food, the creation of the Montgomery County Food Council* and the need to meet the challenges facing farmers, both existing and start up, and the rural communities within the County’s Ag Reserve. The suggestions included that the County Council:
- Identify funding sources for appropriate expansion of ag services that will spur growth in the industry.
- Request the establishment of a school board policy to protect the County’s rural schools. Clearly a strong ag sector can be grown only if the County’s rural communities have core services – including their few, but high performing schools. George Levanthal took issue with the request, indicating that the Council has no role in this dilemma. Ms. Taylor informed the group that is was indeed the MC School Board that directed stakeholders to have the Council make a formal request for a policy that will acknowledge the unique and important nature of the rural school cluster and provide for appropriate guidelines for the continued health of viability of its schools.
- Provide opportunity to lead by example, setting goals for purchase of locally (Reserve) produced food for County run institutions such as schools.
- Press the utilization of the Ag Reserve as a learning laboratory – in curriculum from k-12.
- Declare the important public policy that remains the center of the rationale and future of the Reserve: The preservation of agriculture.
- Help educate the County’s residents about the Reserve and the benefits of buying locally produced foods through partnering on a marketing program such as “Buy Fresh – Buy Local” and news via the individual Council members e-news.
*MCA is proud to be a founding creator of the MoCo Food Council- a diverse group of stakeholders that aims to grow a healthy, accessible food system in Montgomery County. Public input and participation with the Food Council are encouraged.
GMC has submitted a revised site plan. The overview of revisions is here, the full plan is coming soon- at the moment it is too large for our site (much like the building the plans describe). We have not had a chance to go though the many pages of plans yet to look at lingering septic and emergency access issues, but one thing is clear- GMC is still appears un-interested in scaling their plans back. The footprint of the building has been reduced but is still more than 118,000 square feet.
Out of curiosity, we looked into other buildings this size for comparison. Also 118,000 square feet:
-Rowan University’s new state of the art library in New Jersey, a school of 10,000 students.
-The Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center in Washington State- the facility recently played host to the America’s Got Talent auditions.
-The proposed new Super Walmart planned for Aspen Hill, Montgomery County, a project that will need a special exception because of its size. (your average Target store is 125,000 square feet.)
GMC has filed a new site plan. We understand that this issue will be addressed within ninety days. Sugarloaf Citizens’ Association and MCA will obtain the relavent documents/plans and make them available online.
Thanks again to the folks that have volunteered their time and expertise to work on this important issue. The goal continues to be to ensure that this project finds a location that is in proximity to transportation and served by public water and sewer. It is perplexing that the applicant has not acknowledged the extreme challenges to a project of this scale at a location with a multitude of challenges including septic, access, topography, master plans, etc.
Sugarloaf Mountain deserve protection. Let’s work together to ensure the beauty and productivity of Frederick and Montgomery’s shared countryside!
We understand that the Global Mission Church has been working on a new submission for their plan for a massive development (138,000 sq feet phase 1 building only) in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain. A new plan will trigger new public hearings in Frederick County. The details of the new application are not currently available. There is, however, no indication that the project will be scaled down. As to the the entrance in Montgomery County and through fragile Little Bennett Creek – nothing in a re-submission could alter the problems that portion of the project will create.
Stakeholders are mobilizing for this next round. Thanks to those who have volunteered their time and talents thus far on legal, planning and environmental issues relating to this ill-conceived project. We will send along action alerts as soon as we get a date for the hearing before the FC Planning Commission and as necessary for action on the Montgomery Side.
For background on this issue click here.
An article from the Washington Post profiles (currently free) software that helps small and mid scale farmers keep tabs on planting, harvesting and selling. It is called AgSquared.
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has recently updated their Maryland Food System map. The interactive map shows data about farms, food access and health in a readily accessible way. The map really shows the intersections of fresh food access and associated diseases (such as diabetes). The full state map grew out of an attempt to map Baltimore’s food deserts.
Some findings from the map are encouraging- our state had 128 farmers markets last year- up from only 65 in 2001. The map also shows the work we have yet to do in keeping farms viable and increasing the number of new farms on the ground.
More layers to the GIS map will be added soon- to see the map click here.
Bethesda Cares and Full Plate Ventures has just launched a new project called, Farm to Freezer. They seek volunteers throughout the summer and fall to prepare fresh, local food donated by Spiral Path Farm for the freezer. The food will be incorporated into meals throughout the year to feed the homeless and hungry in Bethesda Cares feeding program. All adults, teens 13-15 accompanied by an adult and older teens welcome. Service learning credit is available. On the first prep day, June 23rd seven volunteers prepared 60 lbs. of tomato sauce, 23 lbs. of snap peas, and 20 lbs. of diced zucchini for freezing. It was fun and rewarding! You can view photos here: www.facebook.com/fullplateventure.
To learn more, see how the process works, and to sign up via Meet-UP, please visit:
To volunteer, sign up on: Bethesda Cares MEET UP: http://www.meetup.com/Bethesda-Cares-Community-Outreach-Program-for-the-Homeless/
To read more about this program and who it benefits, and learn about four ways that you can help, visit: Farm to Freezer Blog website http://farmtofreezer.wordpress.com/
To see the events as they unfold: Follow us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Farm2Freezer
The next prep day will be on Saturday, July 7th from 1:30-6:30pm. They need 8 more volunteers. Check the schedule on the MeetUp website for other dates as well. Immediate upcoming dates are July 14th and 21st.
Please share this announcement with your networks.
July is ice cream month! In celebration, The Maryland Department of Agriculture decided to officially open Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail. It’s the first ice cream trail in the country to feature dairy farms that produce farm fresh ice cream and serve it directly to the consumer. Maryland has seven creameries in the state that do this, and if you visit all seven before September 7th, you could be named Maryland’s Best 2012 Ice Cream Trailblazer! Anyone interested in a being a Trailblazer can pick up a passport at any of the seven participating creameries – or download one online at: www.marylandsbest.net. The winner will receive a $50 gift card to their favorite creamery!
The Trail recognizes the importance of Maryland’s dairy farms and encourages the public to visit a farm, ask questions, and get to know what dairy farming is all about!
The New York Times had an interesting article this week about the changing economic atmosphere of local food. Give it a read before you head out to your local farmers’ market this week.