September 2011


by Dan Rudt                                                                                                              

It’s Pick Your Own Apples Time

Local apples were plentiful at the farmer’s markets the last couple of weekends. That should be the case for at least a couple more to come. If you love apples and like to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, some orchards in Montgomery County welcome you to pick your own. The wet weather has closed some of the fields to visitors on some days, so be sure to call ahead. You can also find out what varieties are available on any given day. Pick-your-own orchards include Homestead Farm in Poolesville, Lewis Orchards in Dickerson, Rock Hill Orchard in Mt. Airy, and Butler’s Orchard in Germantown. If you know of others, feel free to leave a comment at the end of this news and events post.

University of Maryland “WaterShed” Home on Display at Solar Decathlon

The 2011 Solar Decathlon kicked off this weekend near the Roosevelt Memorial, at the National Mall. Once again, as in 2002, 2005 and 2007, UMCP was one of 20 universities whose students competed successfully for the right to build and display their solar home design on the mall. Their entry, called WaterShed, is a solar powered home that also conserves, filters and reuses water.

If you plan to visit the free exhibits, workshops and events, you can preview WaterShed and read about the students and mentors who made it happen at the UMCP solar team’s Website. For information about all the solar homes and daily workshops, visit the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Website. The event runs through Sunday, October  2nd.

Image: Leah Davies

University of Maryland Opens New Energy Research Center

The University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) that opened Monday, September 26 in College Park will be focused on alternative energy generation and storage. The center’s mission will be to develop energy efficient and environmentally sustainable technologies and practices and also educate the public about energy issues. The mission also includes improving the nation’s energy security by developing local and sustainable energy resources and policies that have a positive environmental impact. The center is part of the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering and includes faculty from the engineering school and other colleges.

Leggett and Supporters of Nick’s Farm Disagree

Katie Griffith wrote in the Potomac Patch on 9/22 that, “A battalion of community members decked out in green showed up at Wednesday night’s [9/21] town hall meeting with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) to support Nick’s Organic Farm at the Brickyard Road site.” The article says the farm issue took center stage for at least 20 minutes of the one-hour meeting. Nick’s supporters apparently were unsuccessful in swaying Leggett, who maintained his support for the deal made between Montgomery County Public Schools and the county government to turn the farm into soccer fields.

Upcoming Green Events

U.S. Dep’t. of Energy Solar Decathlon,  Friday, September 23 – Sunday, October 2, West Potomac Park, National Mall, Washington, D.C.  Competing collegiate teams (including University of Maryland) exhibit cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses designed, built and operated by the students.  This free event includes tours of the solar homes, consumer workshops and award ceremonies for the winning teams.

BG101, Thursday, September 29, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Taste of Bethesda, Saturday, October 1, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, at Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle. More than 55 restaurants and four stages of entertainment and a kid’s corner for face painting and arts & crafts. Information here.

Tour of Solar Homes, Saturday and Sunday, October 1 – 2, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.  The 21st annual tour includes more than 50 homes in the greater DC area and highlights a variety of design, technology and sustainable living concepts. Tour Guides are available for $5 at My Organic Market (Mom’s) or online.

2011 Bethesda Green Gala, Wednesday, October 5, 6:00 – 10:00 pm, Round House Theatre. Come meet local folks from the businesses, non-profits, community organizations and individuals whose innovations, practices and lifestyles promote environmental sustainability — winners and runner-ups of the 2011 Bethesda Magazine Green Awards, who will be announced and recognized for their inspiring work in the environmental community. This promises to be an evening of sharing and connecting as a community where we celebrate our greener future. More information.

Montgomery County Community Service Week, October 16 – 22. The Montgomery County Volunteer Center invites you and your group to participate. More information.

Green Home Expo, Saturday October 22, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm at Bethesda Green. Learn easy ways to green your home and save money.  Presentations will cover conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.  In addition to industry vendors, meet representatives from nonprofits and Montgomery County government. More information coming soon.

Community Forklift Fundraising Extravaganza, Saturday, October 22, 7:00 – 10:30 pm, 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD. Entertainment by the DC Lady Arm Wrestlers, Silent auction, Wonky Dog food truck, DJ One HeART Muszik, and adult beverages! Must be 21 or over. Community Forklift is a low-cost building materials warehouse open to the general public and a project of Sustainable Community Initiatives, a 501c3 nonprofit. More information on tickets, sponsorships, or to donate a silent auction item.

Food Day, Monday, October 24, 2011, 7:00 pm, at the Church in Bethesda, 5033 Wilson Lane, Bethesda.  You are invited to a local screening of the documentary film “Ingredients” co-sponsored by Church in Bethesda, Bethesda Presbyterian and Graceful Growing Together. The evening will also include short presentations by community members about healthy food, sustainable farms and related topics. Please RSVP if you plan on attending!

By Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

“We will seat everyone at one long table and serve dinner family style—just like Thanksgiving,” envisioned Chef Tony Marciante as we discussed final preparations for dinner. And what a festive event it was, as 28 guests dined together at Chef Tony’s Restaurant on Monday, September 19 in downtown Bethesda.

Savor Local Flavor dinner was the finale of our three series event, On the Farm, Around the Table: connecting food, farmers, and community in three meals, hosted by Bethesda Green and Full Plate Ventures.

Even though I was a wreck waiting to write the program until Tony finalized his purchase of seasonal and local ingredients and created the menu just hours before serving, it was well worth the wait. He created a fabulous four-course meal. “My approach to cooking is to choose the freshest ingredients that dictate the evening’s menu,” Chef Tony shared with guests as he introduced the evening’s dinner. “Then I prepare each dish simply—so that the flavor of the food speaks for itself.”

The early autumn menu started with two appetizers–Cherry Glenn Goat Cheese variety served with fresh figs and a Balsamic vinegar reduction and an array of Carolina Gold and Red tomatoes with basil. Huge platters of pan-seared Virginia rockfish and chicken scaloppini followed with more platters of couscous ringed with tiny cubes of roasted beets, baked spaghetti squash, and a medley of tomatoes and zucchini. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, Tony served a warm Honey-crisp apple and peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

“Did you feel the magic happen from eating together around this huge table, sharing platters of delicious, fresh, locally-grown food?” asked Caroline Taylor, Executive Director of The Montgomery Countryside Alliance. “We have much to be grateful for tonight.”

Indeed, I felt the magic of the evening as I did at each event in the series, reflecting on our shared learning. Bethesda Green and Full Plate Ventures’ intent in creating this educational series was three fold.  First we wanted to increase public awareness of what a local, sustainable and healthy food system looks like, starting with the land where our food is grown. Caroline taught us about today’s challenges she faces in advocating for Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve. She and our other presenters throughout the series discussed these challenges including:

  1. Access to affordable farmland in our region
  2. Financial and technical support for new farmers
  3. Aggregation of small farmer’s products, retaining their story and brand and efficient distribution systems to bring food to market, especially to small businesses like Chef Tony’s Restaurant and Yamas Mediterranean Grill
  4. Food access for all—changing federal and local food and farm policies
  5. Learning where and how to shop seasonally; the lost art of cooking, and making healthy food choices

    Cheryl Kollin and Chef Tony

Second, because our local food system is still nascent and has many gaps, we wanted to begin to connect stakeholders with one another. We introduced buyers to producers in the series— by visiting the Bethesda Central Farm Market, touring of Rocklands Farm, and introducing chefs to farmers. The series also connected businesses with one another—farmer Shannon Varley found new sources of animal feed, growingSOUL’s Jessica Weiss found a lead on land for her food composting operation, and a photographer scouted out her next subject—a farm in the Agricultural Reserve.

Third, even though there are many challenges ahead in creating a sustainable, healthy, and local food system, we showcased our speakers, sponsors and contributing partners who are already active in this effort. And we see many entrepreneurial businesses, partnerships, and initiatives emerging to piece together this puzzle, including:

  1. The On the Farm, Around the Table Series has been filmed as part of Growing Legacy on Metro’s Edge, a new documentary film by Mark Leisher
  2. Montgomery Countryside Alliance’s Land Link, connecting farmers with affordable available land.
  3. An increasing number of producers who are farming more sustainably—raising pastured poultry, grass-fed meat, building soil, and protecting our waterways and our health.
  4. Emerging National and local models of aggregation and distribution systems called—food hubs or value chains, such as The Food Hub in Charlottesville.
  5. New technology tools for small business such as coordinated production among many small farmers; online ordering for individuals, restaurants, and institutions; and digitally tracing where your food comes from—learning about the farmers’ and their story
  6. Newly created Montgomery County Food Council

As we end this series, here are some ways to stay connected to the issues and learn more:

  1. Join non-profits to keep abreast of local food issues and opportunities: Bethesda Green, Montgomery Countryside Alliance, growingSOUL, and SlowFood DC.
  2. Learn more with others through Simplicity Matters Discussion circles: The Northwest Earth Institute’s newest six-session discussion course, entitled Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability, will be available soon. Visit the Simplicity Matters website to join a Discussion Circle
  3. Participate in Food Day-Oct. 24, spearheaded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest with local activities throughout the U.S.
  4. Support businesses that walk the talk.

Bethesda Green and Full Plate Ventures gratefully acknowledge our supporters, including MOM’s Organic Market, Chef Tony’s Restaurant, Norman’s Farm Market, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future; and all of our contributing partners.

by Dan Rudt                                                                                                                      

Redskins 22 – Arizona 21. Solar Power Wins the Day!

If you parked your car in the Platinum A1 parking lot at FedEx Field on Sunday (9/18), it would have been one of 850 vehicles parked in the shade. That shade was provided by 8,000 new solar panels built over the lot by NRG Energy, Inc. The largest solar power installation in the DC metropolitan area will provide 20% of the stadium’s electricity needs on game days and 100% on non-game days. Sunday’s game was dubbed “The Solar Bowl.” Go Redskins!

UMES Enters the Renewable Energy Business

University of Maryland Eastern Shore announced on September 13 the formation of a renewable energy development company, Eastern Shore Energy, LLC. The new company will create renewable energy projects at multiple sites on the lower Eastern Shore. The company’s goal is to develop systems capable of generating 100 to 150 megawatts from wind, solar and biomass projects. The regional initiative is the result of a partnership between the Maryland Hawk Corporation, (a non-profit affiliate of the university) and National Renewable Solutions, LLC of Minneapolis, MN, an affiliate of National Wind, LLC. More information here.

DC Wants Ideas about Improving Sustainability

Mayor Vincent Gray has launched a new Website called “Sustainable DC: Start in September”, and asks residents to, “Help make the District the greenest, healthiest, most livable city in the country.” The Website includes a discussion guide and invites users to share their feedback. It also includes a calendar of related discussions and events hosted by groups throughout the city.

Bethesda Central Farm Market Ranked Among Best in U.S.

Congratulations to the Bethesda Central Farm Market. In the “America’s Favorite Farmers Markets” contest, the local farm market was ranked 2nd best in the state of Maryland among markets of all sizes and 10th in the nation among medium sized farmers markets. The contest was put on by America’s Farmland Trust. Voting was online and open to all.

Upcoming Green Events

Savor Local Flavor: Four Course Dinner and Discussion with Chef Tony, Monday, September 19, 7:00 – 10:00 pm. Chef Tony’s, 4926 St. Elmo Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814. This is the third in the series On the Farm; Around the Table, connecting farmers, food and community in three meals. Chef Tony specializes in seafood and plans his menu based on what’s at its peak of ripeness that very day. During a fabulous four-course dinner, Chef Tony will talk about sourcing and cooking with seasonal and local ingredients. More information here.

Sustainable Office Seminar, Tuesday, September 20, 8:00-11:00 am, at Bethesda Green. Five sustainable office specialists offer concepts and practical tips to help people thrive in your office and make your company a “Best Place to Work.” Register here. For more information contact: sustainable.office.alliance@gmail.com.

Community Service Week Info Session, Thursday, September 22, 12:00 – 1:00 pm, at Bethesda Green. Learn more about Community Service Week and how your group can get involved as well as tips on planning a project. For more information about Community Service Week, visit www.montgomeryserves.org.

U.S. Dep’t. of Energy Solar Decathlon,  Friday, September 23 – Sunday, October 2, West Potomac Park, National Mall, Washington, D.C.  Competing collegiate teams (including University of Maryland) exhibit cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses designed, built and operated by the students.  This free event includes tours of the solar homes, consumer workshops and award ceremonies for the winning teams.

Forest Glen Park Stroll, Saturday September 24, 2:00 – 4:00. A Conservation Montgomery event. Forest Glen Park in Silver Spring is surrounded by Rock Creek Park. The walk includes the grounds of historic National Park Seminary. More information.

BG101, Thursday, September 29, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Taste of Bethesda, Saturday, October 1, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, at Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle. More than 55 restaurants and four stages of entertainment and a kid’s corner for face painting and arts & crafts. Information here.

Tour of Solar Homes, Saturday and Sunday, October 1 – 2, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.  The 21st annual tour includes more than 50 homes in the greater DC area and highlights a variety of design, technology and sustainable living concepts. Tour Guides are available for $5 at My Organic Market (Mom’s) or online.

2011 Bethesda Green Gala, Wednesday, October 5, 6:00 – 10:00 pm, Round House Theatre. Come meet local folks from the businesses, non-profits, community organizations and individuals whose innovations, practices and lifestyles promote environmental sustainability — winners and runner-ups of the 2011 Bethesda Magazine Green Awards, who will be announced and recognized for their inspiring work in the environmental community. This promises to be an evening of sharing and connecting as a community where we celebrate our greener future. More information.

Montgomery County Community Service Week, October 16 – 22.  The Montgomery County Volunteer Center invites you and your group to participate. More information.

Green Home Expo, Saturday October 22, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm at Bethesda Green. Learn easy ways to green your home and save money.  Presentations will cover conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.  In addition to industry vendors, meet representatives from nonprofits and Montgomery County government. More information coming soon.

Community Forklift Fundraising Extravaganza, Saturday, October 22, 7:00 – 10:30 pm, 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD. Entertainment by the DC Lady Arm Wrestlers, Silent auction, Wonky Dog food truck, DJ One HeART Muszik, and adult beverages! Must be 21 or over. Community Forklift is a low-cost building materials warehouse open to the general public and a project of Sustainable Community Initiatives, a 501c3 nonprofit. More information on tickets, sponsorships, or to donate a silent auction item.

By Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

Neither Hurricane Irene and power outages, nor torrential rains, flooding and bridge destruction could cancel Fertile Ground — the second in our educational and delicious series, On the Farm, Around the Table: connecting food, farmers, and community in three meals. The rain stopped, the flooding subsided, and the sun shone brightly as 50 people gathered at Rocklands Farm in Poolesville on Saturday, September 10 to enjoy our local farm tour and lunch.

Picking berries at Homestead Farm.

The day started with a homemade lunch featuring Rocklands’ own grilled hamburgers, made from their grass-fed beef and artesian half-smoke sausages donated by MeatCrafters. Three side dishes celebrated summer’s bounty. Rocklands’ green salad accompanied homegrown and prepared pesto pasta with roasted red peppers, fruited grain salad with the season’s first Honeycrisp apples, and an adieu to summer with a peach and blackberry crisp for dessert. The blackberries were handpicked at their peak ripeness in July at Homestead Farm and frozen along with August’s basil and garlic harvest made into pesto. Both were in jeopardy of spoiling when Hurricane Irene knocked out power for several days and we scrambled to find a working freezer. Bethesda Green’s extra freezer saved the day.

As we finished our cobbler, Caroline Taylor, Executive Director of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance (MCA) reminded us that Rocklands Farm is located within the County’s treasure, the 93,000 acre agricultural reserve that MCA works hard to protect. “In the midst of global environmental degradation, and our current economic woes close to home, we have reason to be hopeful as we support a new generation of farmers who are practicing sustainable agriculture. Today we celebrate our local farmers.”

Only in their second year of farming at Rocklands, owners Greg Glen and Shawn Eubank not only grow food close to home — Rocklands is only 35 minute drive from Bethesda — their wholistic farm practices actually improve the soil while raising their animals humanely. Greg talked about how important soil fertility and grass management is to the success of raising grass fed beef and pastured poultry. He works with the animals’ natural behavior and precise timing of rotational grazing to manage their production.

Starting the tour of Rocklands Farm.

Rocklands’ beef cattle graze on pasture within moveable fencing until they eat the grass only to the point of recovery. The cattle are moved on to the next patch of pasture while Greg brings in chickens several days later to do what chickens do best, scratch and search for grubs and insects. In doing so, they spread cow manure and feast on the fly larvae that hatch from the cow pies. The soil is fertilized, the grass recovers and it is ready to begin the cycle again. Meanwhile their flock of 150 the chickens lay eggs — about four per week per hen during light seasons of the year. Their coup is actually on wheels — this chicken mobile is moved in rotation behind the cows.

One attendee asked Greg if Rocklands was an organic farm. “Well we’ve had a lot of discussion about that,” Greg says with a sigh. “The paperwork is so daunting that we haven’t wanted to go through the process yet. We believe that when people can see the farm, talk with the farmer, and understand how food is produced, it isn’t so important to have a certification.”

Shawn leads us to Rocklands three acres of vegetable production. He shows the group how they simply maintain soil

Event organizers Cheryl Kollin, Bill Franz, Shawn Eubank, and Greg Glen.

fertility with compost — they are still perfecting on-site production, and by planting cover crops like nitrogen-fixing legumes and buckwheat, that return nutrients to the soil for the next crop cycle. They plant a large variety of vegetables, some so unusual that their customers don’t know what to do with them. “It’s a matter of introducing a new food to our customers. Once they taste something, we don’t need to do a hard sell,” explains Shawn. Rocklands has a new cold frame, called a hoop house that extends the growing season so that they can start their seeds in February.

After the tour, attendees were delighted to buy Rocklands eggs and meat as a delicious souvenir of their afternoon on the farm.

Don’t miss dinner! The On the Farm, Around the Table series concludes with Savor Local Flavor — Dinner with Chef Tony on Monday, September 19, at 7 pm. Tony will feature a menu around seafood, artisan cheeses, local wine and whatever is fresh from the farm that day. For details and registration visit, On the Farm, Around the Table.

Bethesda Green and Full Plate Ventures gratefully acknowledge our supporters, including MOM’s Organic Market, Chef Tony’s Restaurant, Norman’s Farm Market, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future; and all of our contributing partners.

by Dan Rudt

MoCo Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program Accepting Applications

Interested in upgrading your home to improve comfort, reduce energy costs and even boost long-term home value? Montgomery County, using a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, is offering a one-time program to help you pay for the costs of these improvements. The Montgomery County Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program offers incentives to homeowners for energy efficiency improvements such as insulation, heating and cooling systems, and appliances. Owners of single family properties and condominiums can apply for up to $3,000 of funding per applicant. The minimum rebate size is $500 (typically a $2,000 to $3,000 project). In order to be eligible, each applicant must have an energy audit from an auditor participating in the Maryland Home Performance with ENERGY STAR or a utility (e.g., Pepco, BG&E, Potomac Edison) audit program. Homeowners are encouraged to use these funds in concert with other incentives available from utilities, the Maryland Energy Administration and others. Detailed information on the program, audit requirements, application, as well as links to other sources of funding is located on the website www.mcenergyfunding.com.

U.S. Homes Using Less Power

The Associated Press reported on September 7 that American households are consuming energy at a slower rate now than in the recent past, and the rate is expected to continue falling. The AP attributes the slowdown in consumption to several factors. Among them is the widespread use of energy efficient light bulbs, government programs (e.g., the Montgomery County energy efficiency rebate program in the article directly above), energy efficient new homes and energy conservation brought on by the poor economy. Energy experts, according to the AP article, expect household energy use to continue falling for years to come.

State Board of Education to Hear Appeals to Save Nick’s Organic Farm

The Maryland Board of Education decided on August 30 that 32 Potomac residents who filed complaints against the Montgomery County Board of Education have a right to be heard. The local board, which owns the land that Nick Maravell has farmed organically since 1980, agreed earlier this year to lease the Brickyard Road property to the County, which said it will work with a private recreation provider to turn the organic farm into soccer fields. The state board may take up the matter at their next meeting on October 25.

Maryland Clean Energy Summit Moves to Baltimore

Sorry about that, Bethesda. The 2011 Summit, originally scheduled for the Marriott North Bethesda Conference Center in late August, has been moved to the Hilton Inner Harbor in Baltimore. The new dates are Thursday, October 27 through Saturday, October 29. The program includes a free consumer trade show on Saturday 8/29 from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm. The Summit was postponed and moved because the Bethesda North Conference Center sustained damage caused by the August 23 earthquake.

Upcoming Green Events

Sustainability: Definitions and Implementation, Montgomery County Civic Federation meeting, Monday, September 12, 7:45 pm. County Council Building – 1st Floor Auditorium, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville. Speakers: Jennifer Bitting, Environmental Engineer, Dept. of Homeland Security; Doug Weisburger, Sustainability Programs, Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection, Eric Coffman, Senior Energy Planner, Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection, Councilmember Roger Berliner, Chair, County Council Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment. More information.

Trans-Atlantic Symposium on Cleantech Innovation and Federal Contracting, Thursday, September 15, 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. Johns Hopkins U., Montgomery County Campus. Networking and information event for renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation firms in the U.S. and Switzerland. The day includes a live video conference with PlanetSolar, the world’s largest boat powered exclusively by high-efficiency solar cells, which is on its first round-the-world voyage.

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group MeetingNewcomers Welcome! Thursday, September 15, 4:00 – 5:30 pm. This team of volunteers meets once every month to discuss Bethesda Green’s marketing and communications needs.

Savor Local Flavor: Four Course Dinner and Discussion with Chef Tony, Monday, September 19, 7:00 – 10:00 pm. Chef Tony’s, 4926 St. Elmo Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814.  This is the third in the series On the Farm; Around the Table, connecting farmers, food and community in three meals. More information here.

Sustainable Office Seminar, Tuesday, September 20, 8:00-11:00 am, at Bethesda Green. Five sustainable office specialists offer concepts and practical tips to help people thrive in their office and make their company a “Best Place to Work.” Register here. For more information contact: sustainable.office.alliance@gmail.com.

U.S. Dep’t. of Energy Solar Decathlon,  Friday, September 23 – Sunday, October 2, West Potomac Park, National Mall, Washington, D.C.  Competing collegiate teams (including University of Maryland) exhibit cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses designed, built and operated by the students.  This free event includes tours of the solar homes, consumer workshops and award ceremonies for the winning teams.

2011 Bethesda Green Gala, Wednesday, October 5, 6:00 – 10:00 pm, Round House Theatre. The gala recognizes Bethesda Magazine’s Green Award winners for their inspiring work in the environmental community. This promises to be an evening of sharing and connecting as a community where we celebrate our greener future. More information.