Agricultural Reserve Tour 2019

The 500+ farms located throughout Montgomery County offer a diverse array of crops, animals, and plants: everything from corn, to horses, to garlic, and even turf can be found within the 93,000 acres of the Agricultural Reserve. We had the opportunity to tour the Agricultural Reserve with the Office of Agriculture, and partners from MCEDC, Manna Food Center, Marbidco, Central Farm Markets, Dawson’s Market, the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-Op, the Montgomery County League of Woman Voters, and other County-based supporters, in May to learn more about the wide variety of products grown and produced right here in MoCo.

Our day began at One Acre Farm in Dickerson, a diversified vegetable farm growing on approximately 30 acres of land. Farmer Michael Protas began farming on one acre of land more than 10 years ago, hence the name “One Acre”, before moving to a larger plot about two years ago. He grows a varied selection of vegetables and sells them to CSA members and, for the first time this summer, farmers market-goers at the new Adventist Farmers Market. One Acre Farm is “Certified Naturally Grown” and uses non-toxic growing and maintenance practices. A small coop of 74 free-range chickens also produce a few dozen eggs per day. Farmer Mike is hoping for a dryer season this summer, and looks forward to building a new customer base at the farmers market.

Our next stop was at the Brookeville Beer Farm in Brookeville. This brewery has a small farming space onsite to grow hops that are added during the brewing process. This is what the Beer Farm calls the “hop-yard,” while berry patches and mushrooms grow in a separate area. There is a large compost pile in the back of the “hop-yard,” and the Beer Farm is certified as a Maryland Compost Facility. The spent grains from the brewing process are either added to the compost pile or delivered to a nearby sheep farm. The brewers are committed to sourcing their hops and other inputs for their beers almost exclusively from the hop-yard or other local farm partners. The Beer Farm opened its doors in 2014, and continues to host hundreds of guests on a weekly basis for good drinks and food, including coal-fired pizzas made right behind the bar.

Following our delicious lunch break at the Beer Farm, we traveled just a few miles down the road to Sunny Ridge Farm in Laytonsville. This commodity crop farm grows wheat, corn, and soybeans, and also has a cattle operation. We learned about the precision agriculture techniques that the farm has implemented to make their operation more efficient and sustainable. The father-son farm team shared that growing on such a large scale of roughly 1,000 acres requires much different technology than small scale vegetable farming, and explained that the farm uses minimal chemicals and has implemented GMO soybean and corn crops to increase productivity and maintain economic viability.

The Food Council is grateful to the Office of Agriculture, One Acre Farm, Brookeville Beer Farm, and Sunny Ridge Farm for being our hosts for the day, and teaching us so much about all that our Agricultural Reserve has to offer. We are hopeful that all County residents will support these local farmers, and protect the land that is their livelihood.