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As spring comes back to warm our hearts- farmers are busy to fill our bellies. There are still a few CSAs with spots open. (Community Supported Agriculture- where you sign on for a season of weekly pickups of seasonal produce from a farm). If you have yet to find your farmer, read on. Still wondering if a CSA is for you? It probably is, but we help you carefully consider that question here. Read on to find your farmer!
Breaking: A massive WSSC sewer line pipe has ruptured, sending 3 million gallons (so far) of sewage into the Potomac at Piscataway Creek near Accokeek, MD.
This spill is big and has not been contained as yet. Each time something like this happens to the water supply it puts a finer point on the fact that the DC area's 50 year water plan has expired. With the drastic impact of climate change on the water supply, now seems like a good time to make a plan for the future of our water supply.
Here is a round up of press on the spil:
Our talented board and advisory committee never ceases to amaze...
*Mark Mills and Land Link producer Tanya Spandlha talk farming on Maryland Public Television:
*Gwen Reese and Sugarland Community featured in the new African American Museum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg42ThWgkr0
*Cheers to the Potomac Hunt - a preservation award:
Just released from Royce Hanson... Suburb
Our friends at Maryland Environmental Trust report that Governor Hogan's budget will fully fund the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, Rural Open Space and Program Open Space. Full funding of these program allows the creation of conservation easements that protect farmland and open space in perpetuity- the most powerful tool for land preservation.
The budget also includes funding to help communities adapt to the real and imminent effects of climate change - particularly sea level rise.
February 2017 Update:
Loudon County has project listed as a legislative priority.
MCA has partners across the river who will fight the project.
We are working to establish strong political and preservation protection against this boondoogle.
What is it that is said… oh yes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” And so it is with the boosters that ascribe global relief from traffic woes to the construction of a Potomac bridge and highway through Montgomery‘s Ag Reserve. More pavement, sprawled from population centers is truly geared to open corridors of farmland and open space to development. Studies have concluded, time and again, that this proposed boondoggle does nothing to relieve metropolitan Washington gridlock and yet its boosters continue to trumpet it as a priority.
Take note: MCA and partners will hold fast the line against this boondoogle. And our reasons are sound and compelling.
Maryland loses an average of 20,000 acres of farmland annually... 20,000 acres! In Montgomery County, planners and representatives saw this disaster coming and did something proactively in 1980 with the establishment of the Functional Master Plan for the Preservation of Agriculture and Open Space - downzoning and protecting roughly a third of the County, roughly 100,000 acres.
Why? It's really quite simple:
Managed growth vs conventional development (sprawl) = Savings in cost in both human and natural resources.
Taxes and other revenues from residential development do not cover all the public services residents demand. The county needs a balance of land uses, including farms and open space, to reduce overall infrastructure costs and provide sufficient revenue to pay for these services. Otherwise, as more residential development occurs in existing subdivisions, services will be stretched thinner or cut—or property taxes will have to be raised. Put simply, agricultural land and open space pay more in local tax revenues than they receive back in services.
The Reserve provides for local food and fiber production, employing over 10,000 residents, contributing over 300 million dollars to the local economy.
Protected open space and well-managed farms provide for clean air shed and high quality water resources.
No shortage of past updates on this issue Click here to read through those.
Tanya Spanhla approached MCA back in 2014 to find land through our Land Link Program to grow some of the crops from Zimbabwe, her homeland. The following year she enrolled in the county's New Farmer Program - run by Montgomery County in partnership with MCA and the County's Ag Extension office. She started Passion to Seed farm on leased land in Germantown and aquired the expertise of the community through MCA's producers listserve when geese were ravaging her produce. She grows items that fellow immigrants have had trouble finding here (see her harvesting pumpkin leaves in this clip from MPTs Farm and Harvest show).
For those who have never run across it - the most factinating of her crops is the Kiwano- or horned melon. Looking like a heavily defended cucumber with deep emerald coloring and dull spikes, Kiwano has excelent health benefits and a fresh, cucmber-like taste. If you'd like to try it now's your chance, MCA has connected Tanya with Rockville's Dawson's Market and they now stock it. Eat it raw out of the spiky rind or wow friends and family this holiday with the fancy cocktails below.
Tanya's story is a perfect example of how we at MCA build support around a farm to help it not just survive, but thrive. Connecting farmers with farm land is the beginning - followed by fostering strong community and connection with fellow producers and consumers that help the farmer set down roots and prosper.
It takes a lot for a farmer to grow a farm (I mean, geese? Who saw that coming?) but you have to grow farmers first- and have farmland available.
Across Maryland, we lose an average of 20,000 acres of farmland per year. We will continue to build the resources that farmers need to thrive but we count on your suport to make it happen. Please make MCA part of of your end-of-year giving plan with your tax eductible donation.
Horned Melon Champage Cocktail served IN the prickly melon (perfect for New Years Eve)
Cheers From Your Friends at MCA!
A great piece on New Farm Program graduates Mark Mills of Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm and Tanya Spandhla of Passion to Seed Farm (starting at the 11 minute mark). Unmentioned in this piece is that both farmers (along with 400 acres of other farm buisnesses) were connected with their leased land through our Land Link program.
The Reserve and rural MoCo provide habitat for many creatures. This time of year, it is our fine feathered friends that draw the devoted humans out of bed on cold mornings with binoculars. Each year, birders take part in the international Christmas Bird Count (CBC ) sponsored by Audubon. Each CBC is conducted in a count circle, 15 miles in diameter on a single day between December 14 and January 4. On the day of each count, teams of volunteers go out in the count circle and count all the birds they can find, and the results are compiled by Audubon in a public database. This year’s CBC will be the 117th year!
There are two CBC count circles that overlap Montgomery's upcounty. The Seneca CBC will be held Sunday, December 18. The Seneca CBC count circle is centered on Violette’s Lock on the C&O Canal and covers a good portion Montgomery County closer to the Potomac.
The Sugarloaf Mountain CBC will be held on Monday, January 2. The Sugarloaf Mountain CBC count circle is centered on Sugarloaf Mountain and covers a good portion of Montgomery County bordering Frederick County. For a view of the two count circles See the map here. (when you go to the website type in “Montgomery County, MD” in the search box and it will zoom in to let you see the two count circles).
Both CBCs need additional folks, regardless of your birding skill level, to help count birds in the field. There is also an important role for folks who can’t get out in the field the day of the count but who live inside the count circle and like to watch birds in their yards and at their bird feeders. You can contribute very useful information to the CBC too. Doing a CBC can be a lot of fun. Both CBCs welcome newer birders to join their counts, and they will make sure you are teamed with a more experienced person for the count.
To get involved in either CBC, please contact the count compilers: Jim Nelson for the Seneca CBC at email@example.com andJanet Millenson for the Sugarloaf Mountain CBC at firstname.lastname@example.org They are happy to answer any questions you may have.
This year, Pantone - world wide authority on colors - has chosen a color meant to rejuvinate the masses. It is called Greenery.
They explain the choice this way:
"Greenery is nature’s neutral. The more submerged people are in modern life, the greater their innate craving to immerse themselves in the physical beauty and inherent unity of the natural world. This shift is reflected by the proliferation of all things expressive of Greenery in daily lives through urban planning, architecture, lifestyle and design choices globally. Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfiying our growing desire to rejuvinate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose."
We could not agree more. People, particularly those in a busy metro area, need connection with greenery in its many forms: outdoor recreation, healthy local food and just a place to unplug. MCA is the tireless, award winning nonprofit on the front lines of keeping the greenery of local farms and open space thriving on metro's edge. We value your tax deductible end of year gift.
The Earth is what we all have in common ~ Wendell Berry
As the year draws to a close Montgomery Countryside Alliance gives heartfelt thanks to our members and supporters. No question- we could not do it without you. 2016 has been a year of both challenge and success.
Your gift works all year to protect farms, water and open space right here in Montgomery County.
In Maryland alone an average of 20,000 acres of farmland is lost each year - and lost forever. Help keep farms growing on Metro’s edge.
For many, finding the perfect tree is an exciting part of the holiday. This year, consider making a outing of it and visiting Montgomery County's tree farms. We have some great family-owned options farms to choose from.
Find all the info here: Maryland Christmas Tree Association
An add on excursion- you can time your tree expidition to visit the Countryside Artisan's Open Studio Tour weekends.
Lets face it, the holidays come with a lot of stress. You start with the best of intentions- your heart swells with the first light display or card from a friend- but somewhere in there, you've just had too much pie, or paid too much for expedited shipping, you've just lost that peace on earth, goodwill toward all part.
Fear Not! Over the past few years 3 new days on the calendar have emerged as a counterweight to the frantic shopping and schlepping that the holidays can become.
Opt Outside is a campaign by outdoor retailer REI to urge families to spend their holiday time outside instead of at the mall on Black Friday. As they did for the first time in 2015, their website will go dark, their fulfillment center will go silent as their employees spend the day outside. Visit Montgomery County's amazing parks this weekend.
Small Business Saturday is November 25 this year- skip the mall and enjoy your local retailers that keep your money close to home and enrich your community. Farmers are the oldest small business there is. You might want to check out a year round farm and artisan market. Or visit an on-farm brewery or winery. Also the following Orchards will be open for late season apples, honey and other goods:
Butler's (some Christmas trees available - call first)
Kingsbury's (final weekend)
Homestead (some trees available, call first)
Wishing you a meaningful holiday- whatever that means to you- your friends at MCA
Fall is a time of harvest, but also to prepare the den for hibernation and a slower pace. Here are local spots to catch the last of the leaves color over a pint or glass and bring some home for those longer winter evenings to come.
Rocklands Farm and Vineyard
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard
Brookeville Beer Farm
Local food is not just tomatoes in the peak of summer. There are lots of ways to eat local even in the dead of winter.
Montgomery County is home to a few great year round markets. Or if you are living farther afield check out Local Harvest
There are also some great resturaunts and retail outlets that sell local produce and products.
And don't forget to drink local as well- rural Montgomery County is home to some great breweries and wineries.
A great read on the topic of eating local all year is Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life. The website also features some great late winter recipies.
Amanda Cather - farmer at Plow and Stars Farm shared this family recipe for Ernie Woodall's Stuffed Ham. Amanda says this was her first introduction to kale and that Ernie always said that when you were mixing the stuffing and stuffing the ham, your hands should burn. Apparently he liked it spicy! We've transcribed it below from the lovingly stained recipe card Amanda provided.
1 12-14lb Corned Ham
2 large heads of cabbage
1 bunch celery
1 box of mustard seed (2 3/8 oz)
1 box celery seed (13/4oz)
7 rounded tablespoon red pepper
10 rounded tablespoon salt
3 rounded teaspoon crushed red pepper
Chop all greens then add seasonings. Mix well. Put into old pillowcase and pre-cook for 20 minutes. Drain and let cool.Bone ham, cut off shank. Cut holes into ham 2 inches long, as many as possible top and bottom. Stuff with dressings. Place leftover dressings on top of ham and cover all with heavy duty foil. Place in pan put in oven. Bake at 350 for 4.5 hours. Let cool put in refrigerator overnight before slicing.
Poplar Hill Road, one of 98 Rustic Roads in the County (Map it here) will be paved tomorrow morning.
Thanks to the many timely emails (also Marc Elrich, Dale Tibbitts, Roger Berliner) a stop work order was issued while this is properly sorted out.
However, DOT continues to assert that this paving is a must for safety. We trust that minds can be opened to a better- effective, ecological and economical solution - as proposed by Rustic Roads Advisory Committee.
Now a new request- please write to County Exec Leggett to use Poplar Hill Road as a model of gravel road maintenance techniques per the recommendation in the letter from RRAC. Tell Ike Leggett- Rustic Roads Matter!
Read on for the original post...
Some great correspondence went to County Executive Leggett's office to express concerns about the paving of rustic Poplar Hill Rd in Darnestown. Leggett put in the asked for stop-work order and now we have the opportunity to push for this historic road to be the test case for gravel road best management practices at the Rustic Roads Advisory Committee has asked for.
And with good reason- keeping gravel roads unpaved will keep less runoff from sensitive streams, keep roads workable for recreation of bikes, horses, hikers and cars at the same time, keep speed low on twisty roads with low visibility and keep maintenance costs lower.
Here are some choice excerpts from emails to the County Exec on Rustic Roads:
It may be useful to remember why the concept of rustic roads was introduced before altering the Poplar Hill Road, one of the 98 Rustic Roads in the County. The concerns raised by RRAC point to a serious breech of the forward-looking promise of the County Council to safeguard the gravel roads as a continuing legacy of the agricultural reserve. A stop work order for work on Poplar Hill Road is urgent until the RRAC concerns have been addressed.
I must say that I am appalled that the County with your apparent blessing now intends to pave over Poplar Hill Road, in direct contradiction to the advice and recommendation of the Montgomery County Rustic Roads Advisory Committee.
The 1.1-million-acre Chesapeake Bay watershed, one of the most diverse and delicate ecosystems in the world, is now being impacted by the 400,000 acres of impervious surfaces in Maryland.
With one week to go in a very contentious election season, it can seem like we are divided on everything, there is no common ground. In this time of great division, we think we've found something folks can come together on - cute farm animals. Please enjoy and remember to vote.
No matter the outcomes on Tuesday, we at MCA will still be protecting farms on metro's edge and safeguarding the region's water supply. Please consider becoming a new member or renewing with your gift today.
Local Food Connection
Community Supported Agriculture
Restaurants & Retail
Artists of the Reserve
Montogmery Countryside Alliance
P.O Box 24, Poolesville, MD 20837
301-461-9831 • email@example.com
MCA is proud to announce that we have been once again recognized as one of the best small charities in the D.C. region by Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington. A panel of 110 expert reviewers from area foundations, corporate giving programs, and peer non-profit organizations evaluated 270 applications.
MCA is known as an effective and innovative non-profit whose efforts to preserve and promote Montgomery County’s nationally recognized 93,000 acre Ag Reserve have brought increased public and governmental support of local food production and farmland and open space preservation. Most importantly, MCA’s efforts are putting more farmers on the ground and keeping them there.