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In the Community
|Celebrate and support the Ag Reserve at “Field and Fiddle” -- music, food and more. July 25, 6pm at Button Farm Living History Center, 16820 Black Rock Road, Germantown. More information and tickets here.
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Poolesville High School Student--Ron Domingo--Wins Sugarloaf
Citizens' Association's First Creative Essay Contest!
In an effort to get Poolesville High School (PHS) students--nestled in the midst of Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve--to reflect on the role of local agriculture and conservation efforts SCA launched a creative essay contest. We worked closely with PHS educators, Allison Wilder, Tiffany Ayers and Leigh Hegmann, to design the question, promote the contest, and build a panel of "citizen judges" located throughout the Ag Reserve. After reviewing the submissions, Ron Domingo's essay was selected. The judges were impressed with how well he captured the spirit of Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve with his own personal story. In our minds, he managed to lessen the distance between Poolesville, Maryland and Midsayap, Cotabato--no small feat! Ron will receive the prize money: $300.
We enjoyed reading all the entrants' creative essays and plan to turn it into an annual contest. Enjoy the below "summer read" by Ron Domingo!
Note: A special thanks to our panel of judges: Lee Langstaff, John Clayton, Peter Eeg, Anne Sturm, and Joyce Bailey. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Ellen Gordon and Steve Findlay. We worked as a team to take this idea to reality.
President, Sugarloaf Citizens Association
The Farm Life
by Ron Domingo
I grew up in Midsayap, Cotabato in the wonderful country of the Philippines. It is a small town, yet to be hit by the great force of commercialization and industrialization. The people of the town vary, some are squatters with no permanent home while others live extravagantly in fortified estates. Despite their differences, however, all these people share one thing in common: farming. In Midsayap, it is almost impossible to find a person who neither owns a farm nor has ever worked on one. Outside the central hub of the small city center lie hectares upon hectares of rice, corn, mango, coffee, coconut, banana, vegetables and root crops. As people come and go, and as generations pass through, their farms remain to this day.
My family moved to the United States when I was six years old. We moved to Germantown, Maryland - a drastic change from our life in the Philippines. As I grew accustomed to life in the suburbs and in the developments of cities, I began to forget about the integral practice of farming. It was not until I got accepted into the Global Program at Poolesville High School that I remembered the lifestyle in which I grew up in and realized just how important farming really is.
The first time my parents and I visited Poolesville, we were very confused. Coming from a very developed area of Montgomery County, we had no idea a school, let alone a magnet school, could be in the middle of nowhere. We had no knowledge of the Ag Reserve at that time and only saw the fields of crops and questioned if we had taken the wrong turn. After about a month of going to school in Poolesville, I finally learned what the open fields and rows of crops were all about. I then went to my parents and told them that Poolesville is in the Ag Reserve and how farmers own acres of land to which the only purpose is farming. My father's immediate reply was "Only acres? We had hectares of land in the Philippines!" I was surprised by his reaction. My father then noted that even in the Ag Reserve they are technologically miles ahead of the farming practices done in the Philippines. Up till that point I had almost forgotten about that aspect of our lives in the Philippines as I had gotten so used to life in the United States.
2015 Plant Swap Continues
Early in 2008, with winter settled on the landscape of the Ag Reserve, avid gardeners and SCA members Ellen Gordon and Bev Jernberg were pondering seed orders and chatting wistfully of spring. It was too early to garden, but it wasn’t too soon to dream about gardening. And thus was the idea for the SCA plant swap born. The Board enthusiastically supported the idea, and Linden Farm opened its gates for the first swap on Sat., May 10, 2008.
Local wisdom holds that this area has never seen a frost after Mother’s Day, so it’s safe to put warmth-loving plants like tomatoes in the ground that day--hence the choice of that Saturday in 2008. SCA didn’t know if anyone other than our volunteers would show, but lo and behold we had a hit. People even arrived early! And so it has been, right through our 7th annual swap this past May 9.
From experienced gardeners with plants to give away and sell, to newbies exploring what they can grow successfully in our area, an eager and genial crowd showed up again this year. As much social event as a source for plants--with homemade baked goods, vendors selling locally made-on-the-farm products, compost bins and Leafgro available--the plant swap successfully mixes community building, one-on-one learning, lots of gabbing and a touch of fundraising to help preserve the Ag Reserve. This year saw folks sharing shade garden plants, berries, hosta divisions, veggie plants, native saplings, iris corms and more.
Thanks again to all who came, and especially to the volunteers who came early to set up and stayed late to clean up. The tradition will continue in May 2016. Happy gardening this summer!
Sustained Momentum as SCA Enters 43rd Year
SCA's leadership at the March 14 annual meeting:
SCA’s 43rd annual meeting on March 14 was well attended and lively. Beth Daly, SCA’s president, opened the meeting with a celebration of accomplishments over the past year. Those include, most notably: fighting the Ten-Mile Creek development; testifying against the proposed gun range near Sugarloaf Mountain; legal actions against the proposed 118,000-square-foot Global Mission Church; and testimony before the County Council in favor of the successful initiative to replace the use of styrofoam containers in restaurants, grocery stores, and other food establishments in Montgomery County. (See below.)
from left to right, Dick Hill, Carrie Laurencot, Ellen Gordon,
Beth Daly (president), and William Price
SCA attorney Michelle Rosenfeld updated attendees on the Global Mission Church litigation, indicating that no immediate end to the legal fight was in sight.
State Senator Brian Feldman, who represents Montgomery County, keynoted the meeting. He gave an overview of environmental and other issues confronting the state in 2015. To applause from attendees, he said an Up-county bridge across the Potomac into or near the Ag Reserve was highly unlikely to be built in the foreseeable future. The Montgomery County Council is solidly (9-0) against the bridge. SCA opposes it, too.
Jim Brown, president of the SCA-affiliated Piedmont Environmental Education Foundation, announced the winners of financial grants for the year: Gaithersburg Elementary School ($1,000) for a construction of a vegetable garden for use by students, MCPS Outdoor Educational Center ($1,000) to assist in the additional environmental training of twenty-five teachers, Rocky Hill Elementary School ($708.00) for a garden project entitled “No Child Left Inside,” and three schools, Sligo Middle, Julian West Middle, and Earle B. Wood Middle Schools received $1,000 each for a project entitled “Trout in the Classroom.”
|Isaac Hill and his 6th grade teacher Alyna Raynovich representing the Earle Wood Middle School in Rockville, winners of a Piedmont Environment and Education Foundation grant.
Conversation about Impacts of
Zoning Code Re-Write in the Ag Reserve
A meeting on Montgomery County’s “Comprehensive Zoning Code Re-Write” on February 27th in Poolesville generated a robust discussion on opportunities for farmers, producers and landowners in the Ag Reserve. The Division Manager of the Montgomery County Agricultural Services Division, Jeremy Criss, briefed about 70 attendees and fielded questions. The code was adopted by the County Council a year ago and became effective on October 30th. You can find a link to the new code on our website at www.sugarloafcitizens.org under “Resources.”
Some farmers and landowners expressed an interest in being able to host more educational and entertainment events to help bring in revenue to sustain their farms and businesses. They were concerned that the new code would limit them to holding a maximum of 9 “ticketed” events per year. Discussion ensued about balancing the right of farmers and landowners--such as Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard on Comus Road and Rocklands Farm on Montevideo Road--to expand the number of events they hold without precipitating a situation in which roads in the Ag Reserve would be clogged with traffic on weekends and noise from the events--sometimes amplified live music--would upset nearby residents.
Montgomery Countryside Alliance sponsored the meeting and pledged to follow up on the questions raised. Sugarloaf hopes to be of help to all the stakeholders and residents in the Ag Reserve as we navigate the new zoning code and new emphasis on agricultural education and tourism. Please let us know what you think by emailing our President, Beth Daly, at email@example.com.