MCA Presents at County Council “State of Agriculture” Briefing
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.