May 30, 2012, Rockville, MD—At a rally today, well-known activists and leaders of prominent Montgomery County organizations demanded to save Nick’s Organic Farm and Brickyard Educational Farm, slated to be bulldozed and turned into parking lots and soccer fields. The 32-year old farm and new educational center are irreplaceable County assets that should not be destroyed, as currently planned by Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett and Montgomery Soccer Inc. (MSI), they said at the rally in the park across from the District Courthouse in Rockville.
“The County prides itself on being a supporter of agriculture, but when it comes to precious land like this, officials need to hold true to those values and support the farm,” said Caroline Taylor, director of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance. “With the United States losing over an acre of farmland every minute of every day, we are creating agricultural deserts. The potential loss of this rich farm, right here in Montgomery County, epitomizes this blindness, and belies our fundamental interdependence with the gift of fertile soil.”
Even Wendell Berry, world-renowned author and farmer, has gotten on board asking Montgomery County leaders to reconsider its decision, she noted. “The need for agricultural education in urban areas is great and urgent,” Berry wrote in a letter to the Montgomery County Board of Education in support of Nick’s Organic Farm, read aloud by Taylor. “Moreover, a twenty acre tract that has been farmed carefully for thirty-two years probably cannot be duplicated, and therefore should be preserved if at all possible,” Berry said.
Sophia Maravell, farmer at Brickyard Educational Farm—located on the controversial property, which is owned by the school board—wants to keep the land as a learning tool. “We want to use this special piece of land as a Montgomery County farm-to-school hub for local children to learn about sustainable food and farming,” said Maravell, daughter of Nick Maravell, who had been stewarding the land for the last three decades.
Also in attendance, MSI parent Dena Leibman said, “I'm an MSI soccer mom, whose kids have loved playing on MSI teams since kindergarten. Soccer is a huge part of our lives, and occupies my family's every weekend year round.” She continued, “But that doesn't mean I, or many of the MSI parents I talk with, feel that we should scrape away the rich, rare, organic soil, built up over 30 years on Nick's farm,” speaking against assertions made by MSI and the County that all MSI families want soccer fields at that site.
“Recently, MSI sent out an email to its massive, and powerful listserv of parents excitedly laying out its plans to build up to three new fields on a place called the Brickyard site, not specifically mentioning that those fields would be built on Nick's 32-year old organic farm, nor what that would mean for Nick's farming operation and our county's rich farming heritage. Parents were furious when they learned that they had unknowingly taken sides in a very heated and complex land-use issue without being given the full story,” concluded Leibman.
Dolores Milmoe, conservation associate with the Audubon Naturalist Society, added, “We hope that many Montgomery County schoolchildren will have the opportunity to visit Nick’s Organic Farm to learn about the important link between local farms and food for our tables. That opportunity will be lost, and valuable farmland will be forever destroyed, if soccer fields are constructed on the site.”
Nick Maravell closed out the rally saying, “We question the very legitimacy of the County’s lease. Until the legal issues are resolved, and in light of the overwhelming support we have received from residents across the County and nation, we will continue to farm and to advance the Brickyard Educational Farm. As long as we have active support, we see no reason to stop doing what we are doing.”
Other speakers included:
- Colman McCarthy, Former Washington Post Columnist, teacher at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
- Meredith Begin, Regional Organizer, Food & Water Watch
- Dea Keen, Farm Manager, Brickyard Educational Farm
- Michael Tabor, Community Activist and Farmer, Licking Bend Creek Farm
- Students from Montgomery County Public Schools
Save Nick’s Organic Farm (www.savenicksorganicfarm.org) is a non-profit organization founded by Marylanders aiming to save the organic farm that has been safeguarding the school land along Brickyard Road in Potomac for more than 30 years. Our vision for the farm is a down-County educational anchor, providing opportunities for school children and adults to learn about local and sustainable food and agriculture and the soil, water, environment that sustain us.
Brickyard Educational Farm (www.brickyardeducationalfarm.org) is a farm education program located on Nick’s Organic Farm that gives children the opportunity for a hands on approach to learning about local and sustainable food and farming, and the soil, water, environment and biodiversity that sustains us. In it’s first year, Brickyard Educational Farm has already served over 1,000 Montgomery County children, and hopes to serve thousands more in the years to come.
Nick’s Organic Farm LLC (www.nicksorganicfarm.com) has certified organic operations in Potomac and Buckeystown, MD, producing row crops, grass-based livestock, vegetables, seed, and animal feed. Farming organically since 1979, Nick Maravell, its owner, is nationally recognized and has been called on to testify at federal and state levels. He has been active in national and state development of organic legislation and standards, organic research priorities, and organic marketing issues. Late last year, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed Maravell to serve on the National Organic Standards Board, a panel of unpaid experts established by Congress to set organic industry policy.