Local, organic, and sustainable are all key words for our health and the health of our planet, as well as our local economies. Researchers now estimate that poor food and nutrition are responsible for more than half of all health problems today. After decades of research, science is finally recognizing that a balanced diet of whole, natural foods is crucial, and that artificial, highly processed, (packaged) foods are the problem with diet today. It’s so bad, in fact, that a recent study concluded that poor diet and health has become a “national security” concern.
We need nutritious, natural, whole foods that are safe from artificial added ingredients. The biannual USDA national farm study found that older mid-size family farms (hundreds or thousands of acres) continue to be bought up and added to large, industrial scale agriculture, relying on artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and artificial GMO foods.
But the good news is that small farms (40 acres or less) continued to grow from 4% to 10% of agricultural lands during the recent decade. These kinds of holdings represent the local, organic farmers and producers, who are also younger. The Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve has long been an example and a haven to include this kind of clean, sustainable farming for the future.
In 1980, Montgomery County made one of the most significant land-use decisions in county history by creating the Agricultural Reserve. Heralded as one of the best examples of land conservation policies in the country, the Agricultural Reserve encompasses 93,000 acres – almost a third of the county’s land resources – along the county’s northern, western, and eastern borders. The Agricultural Reserve and its accompanying planning and zoning elements were designed to protect local farmland and agriculture. This foresightedness stands in stark contrast to what can be observed directly across the Potomac River, in our neighboring state, at almost all points along the boundaries of the Preserve.
When Cozzi Family Farm went into business, we started with organic, cage-free eggs, laid by healthy hens. Our poultry are fed an organic, GMO-free, corn and soy free diet, along with whatever deliciousness they find while free ranging and foraging on clean land. In terms of sustainability and food security, eggs are nature’s perfect food. Outdated concerns about the effects of eggs for health are finally being replaced by nutritional science. Eggs are high in essential fatty acids (like the omega-3s we always hear about), vitamins, and protein.
Research shows eggs from chickens that are pasture-raised rather than confined to cages, have twice as much vitamin E, nearly twice as much vitamin A, and contain a whopping 2.5 times more omega-3s.
Another study found that free-range chickens produce eggs with three to four times more vitamin D compared to eggs from caged counterparts. Then there is the question of ethics and treatment of animals.
Including eggs in your balanced diet is a perfect way to boost your immune system, brain function, energy and muscle mass. Scientific studies show that the essential nutrients in eggs help protect you from diabetes, heart disease, macular degeneration (of the eyes), obesity and osteoporosis.
The goals initially were tick maintenance and fresh eggs. The farm continued to grow, and eventually life would bring this young couple back to Maryland.
Moving an entire farm, which, at this point included chickens, ducks, other types of fowl, and two adopted goats would be no easy feat. Cozzi Family Farm was able to find temporary housing for some of the animals, and had no idea where to turn to establish a more permanent placement.
Cozzi Family Farm turned to the Facebook farming and beekeeping pages. Joe Long kindly responded and recommended we contact Caroline Taylor of Montgomery County Alliance.
Through the Montgomery Countryside Alliance Land Link program, we were able to connect with multiple lovely farms, and properties with amazing landowners. Through this, we connected with two of our now vendors! Joe Long and his partners in all things honey, beeswax and bee education, and Jared of Wildflower Farm.
Our farm settled on land closer to town, and have enjoyed our space and the kindness of the land owner for many months now.
Last winter, when our own egg production could no longer keep pace, and the pandemic hit hard, we began making organic, homemade soaps. It is just as important for us to use organic, clean, toxicity free body products, and soaps on the outside of our bodies, as it is for us to eat clean foods. Sanitation and personal hygiene are key, especially during the pandemic. That being said, repeated sanitizing and washing with products containing artificial ingredients and dangerous and toxic chemicals (as found in typical commercial products) are bad for your skin, eyes and your natural microbiome (the healthy probiotics on your skin and elsewhere).
Cozzi Family Farm created a number of custom-blend soap fragrances from organic plant essential oils, including special scents for the holidays. We are mixing elements of aromatherapy together with the organic, cleansing nature of soap, which can benefit relaxation, stress reduction, well being, and restful sleep. Many customers also use the soaps outside the bath in place of commercial air fresheners or costly potpourri (which may also contain harmful, toxic chemicals and artificial ingredients).
With 20 years of prior experience in healthy and natural diet and nutrition, we had a lot of delicious, organic, gluten-free recipes up our sleeves. I desperately wanted to create a healthy gluten free option for our customers. Our gluten free options include but are not limited to keto-friendly savory stuffed scones--- where we can use our limited, available egg supply in the scones. There are a variety of savory flavors, including Maryland “Old Bay” spice with ham and cheeses; caramelized onion with gruyere, Caprese (basil, tomato, and mozzarella), sautéed butternut squash, ratatouille, and others. Our ingredients either come from our own farm, other local farms, or we source them from small family farms we work with.
The pandemic really exposed a desperate need for two things: Firstly—local, easily accessible healthy food, in an outdoor capacity, where people feel safe shopping, and secondly—many of us were suffering from income loss. The wheels were really turning in my brain, as my egg-production was dropping, and the pandemic was exploding. I had no idea how to do this, or where to start.
I was alone in this, initially, and the first step I took was to reach out to our own Eric Rose, of Bassett’s Restaurant. Without him, this market never would have existed. I had exhausted every option I could think of, to find an area where we could set up. Eric kindly, and graciously offered us his space, part of his parking lot, and his support.
After establishing a location, I reached out to some fantastic local vendors, starting with Sarah Shipe, of Pastries by Sarah. The entire goal of Cozzi Family Farm is to bring together as many artisans, crafters, bakers, and people who make wonderful handmade items, as possible. We want to showcase amazing (often hidden) talent. We want to help people have nearby access to shopping, and support our local economy. There are benefits in multiple directions, from encouraging local residents to visit the agricultural reserve, to openly supporting and recommending local businesses, to encouraging visitors from out of town, as well as supporting local business people.
In sum, the unplanned reduction of egg production, and the pain of the pandemic, culminated in an opportunity for Cozzi Family Farm to start a traditional Farmers Market. The Farmers Market gave us the ability to work, bond and grow with other small-scale producers and vendors. Our market showcases a variety of local, talented individuals. We are able to offer delicious organic produce, hand-made face masks, many types of artwork, delicious baked goods, and beautiful flower arrangements, among many other local products. Local artisans include Sarah Trevisan, who makes custom pepper mills (fresh ground pepper is one of the healthiest spices to add to any dish--- We add it to our scones!)
Thanks to Ms. Kerri Cooke and the Town of Poolesville, we have been able to hold the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays on Whalen Commons, on Fisher Ave, downtown Poolesville. Our favorite restaurant, Bassett’s, offers outdoor space for the market on Sundays.
We look forward to seeing you there, or visit our website and Facebook page