This Utne Reader article describes what may be a subdivision trend–designing residential neighborhods integral to farms.
New developments in Chicago, Atlanta, and Colorado are moving beyond community gardens and contracting with farmers to run and manage the farm next door. And as the article points out, there is the potential for conflict, “pesticide drift,” etc.Â This is why we zoned in the first place, to separate percieved noxious uses, and even though these residents will be a self-selected group ready to get their hands dirty,Â fresh tomatos areÂ one thing,Â manure is quite another. When you look at the websites, there is a definite “people like us” vibe that makes you wonder if agriburbia is the green equivalent of a gated community.
But in Montgomery County, 1/3 of our land is reserved for agircultural uses and lots of people live out there. The question is are they there for the view or for the vegetables?
Bethesda Green sponsored a TEDx meet up this past Saturday on “Changing the Way We Eat,” and although the speakers were based in New York, the local viewers took time to introduce themselves and their efforts in local food and to discuss the potential for local food in Montgomery County.
So after Laurie David talked about the importance of family dinner and Carolyn Steele’s TED talk about How Food Shapes our Cities
we heard from Mike Kennedy, a board member of the innovative model Fox Haven Farm, from Kristina Bostick who works with Montgomery Countryside Alliance to make the County’s Agricultural Reserve into a food porducing resource, and Greg Glenn of Rocklands Farm, which is starting out with eggs, beef, and produce.
One of the most interesting speakers was Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group who showed some telling slides of who receives farm subsidies. You’d be amazed at how many of them are in Washington, D.C. and midtown Manhattan.
I wonder what farm subsidies support in Montgomery County and if I can eat it for dinner?
Do you know where your food comes from? Probably not from Montgomery County, even if you shop at one of the Countyâ€™s 14 farm markets, and even though nearly one third of the Countyâ€™s land is in the Agricultural Reserve.
At last nightâ€™s 3rd Rethink event, the panel of two longtime farmers, Wade Butler and Ben Allnut; the Countyâ€™s Agricultural Services Division Manager, Jeremy Criss; and community garden activist, Gordon Clark, discussed the difficulty of farming in Montgomery County.
Soil health is a challenge, but one that an experienced farmer will learn to deal with. More challenging are the regulations that require an expensive special exception for facilities that allow on-farm food processing. So, local meat and dairy are hard to get.
The cost of land is another challenge. Itâ€™s easier and more cost-effective to grow townhouses rather than food. And as nearly every County resident can tell you, the increasing deer population loves local food too.
There were also some challenging ideas addressed, including addressing farm needs in the current Zoning Rewrite, expanding community garden opportunities down-County, and reversing MCPSâ€™s decision to not allow gardens on school property.
Both Butler and Allnut talked about educating their customers about the seasonality of their produce, but we also need to educate ourselves about local farming. Why not take a drive (or a bike ride) out to the Agricultural Reserve this spring and see another side of Montgomery County.