Do you know where your food comes from? Probably not from Montgomery County, even if you shop at one of the County’s 14 farm markets, and even though nearly one third of the County’s land is in the Agricultural Reserve.
At last night’s 3rd Rethink event, the panel of two longtime farmers, Wade Butler and Ben Allnut; the County’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. It’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 MCPS’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.