BG_FCF_farmtour_logo.finalby Jennifer Roe

Learning more about our food system, you may ask, “How can I help?”  One way is to visit farms and connect with local farmers. You also may consider participating in a farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

A CSA is a food distribution system that connects community members directly with their local farmers through buying shares or regularly supplied produce boxes. This system benefits both the producers by increasing their customer base as well as consumers by having regular access to fresh, healthy food.  Here is a great resource that provides a list of CSA’s in Maryland that can be sorted by county to find the one closest to you.

In order for alternative systems such as local food stores to gain support, it is important to identify the benefits. Supporters believe local markets provide fresh, higher quality foods.  Processed foods that you find at supermarkets tend to be richer in saturated and trans-fatty acids, salt and sugars, which can lead to diet-related diseases.

By replacing some of these purchases with local, fresh produce, you can make a difference in your family’s health. Changing the food you purchase is the first step towards changing your consumption habits. By advocating for local food, supporters are promoting eating seasonal, unprocessed foods that benefit environmental and human health.

Local food systems also help small, local farms that compete with large, corporate agriculture. As a result, rural communities benefit as it builds more resilient rural economies. Additionally, small farmers are more likely to be diversified and less controlled by large institutions; therefore they have more room to adopt alternative, sustainable methods that are more beneficial to the environment.

You can see examples of this for yourself at the 3rd annual Bethesda Green Farm Tour.  Find out where your food comes from, how agricultural production impacts our environment and what you can do to help.

Reserve your spot on the Farm Tour here.

Jennifer Roe is a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she received her Master’s in Environment and Development.  She is passionate about building a just and sustainable food system where every individual has the opportunity to lead a successful, healthy life.

BG_FCF_farmtour_logo.finalby Jennifer Roe

Bethesda Green’s 3rd annual Farm Tour is almost here! This is a great opportunity to learn about the importance of connecting with local farms and building a local, healthy, sustainable food system in our region.

So, what is a food system? It is defined by all the steps necessary to produce and feed a population — from agricultural rearing, growing, and harvesting; to processing, packaging, transporting, distributing, marketing, preparing, consuming and disposing of food.

Over recent decades, food systems have become dominated by large corporations and monocropping. They have become increasingly resource intensive and global as food products travel further distances to meet consumer demand. As a result, the environment feels more pressure in terms of habitat loss/change, climate change, resource depletion, water pollution and toxic emissions.  Our current food production system is extremely inefficient, wasting a high percentage of natural resources and polluting our ecosystems.

According to a recent report authored by Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Dana Gunders, “Waste: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill,” food production from farm to table uses 10% of the total U.S. energy budget, 50% of our land, and 80% of the freshwater we consume.  From these statistics, it is clear that agricultural production has a huge impact on our planet.

So let’s learn about one part of our food system and understand why we need to preserve local farms that are implementing sustainable agricultural practices.  Reserve your spot here.  By the end of the day, we hope you will better understand our current food system and be inspire to support local, sustainable agriculture whenever possible.

Jennifer Roe is a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she received her Master’s in Environment and Development.  She is passionate about building a just and sustainable food system where every individual has the opportunity to lead a successful, healthy life.

Food Council logoby Jennifer Roe

Montgomery County is home to one of the nation’s most renowned agricultural reserves – 93,000 acres of land, making up nearly one-third of the county.  But is this local, regional, and national treasure being maximized to address the increasing demand for healthy, fresh, affordable local food, the potential for new, profitable farm enterprises, and more?  Is Montgomery County doing as much as it can to support the creation of new food enterprises, promote healthy eating, and end hunger in our community?

According to the Montgomery County Food Council, the answer is not yet.

These were just a few of the concerns 86 Maryland stakeholders had when they initially met in December 2010.  This group of community activists, county government officials, entrepreneurs, farmers, nonprofits, and more, resolved to set up a food council that would develop collaborative and interdisciplinary policy and programming solutions to identified problems.  Through the work of an interim Advisory Board, the Montgomery County Food Council officially launched in February 2012 with the primary mission to create a “robust, local, sustainable food system.”

The Food Council is a volunteer-based organization with one paid staff member, part-time Food Council Coordinator Lindsay Smith and several Working Groups that help to drive much of the Food Council’s work.  Active Working Groups include: Food Access, Healthy Eating, School & Youth Gardens, Value Chain Analysis and Land Use, Zoning & Planning.

The Working Groups generally meet every other month and report back at general council meetings that also meet alternating months.  Each group has its own set of goals and objectives.  For example, according to Lindsay, the School & Youth Gardens group is currently mapping the number and location of school, community gardens, and other farm-based educational opportunities to determine base-line conditions.  The long-term goal of this group, and its nonprofit and other partners, is to increase the number of school and youth gardens in the County.

Through meetings, participation in community events, and more, the Food Council is connecting local producers, consumers, educators, emergency food service providers, entrepreneurs, and more.  The Food Council is working to become the information hub on the County’s food system, studying and sharing information on existing conditions, monitoring changes, and serving as the forum for diverse players to identify new opportunities for services, social enterprises, and businesses that increase local production and consumption of healthy, fresh food.   At the same time, the Food Council has plans to launch some of its own programming to increase public awareness of the importance of building a healthy local food economy where it sees unique opportunities to do so.

A member of the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, the Montgomery County Food Council has big plans on the horizon as they work to build more partnerships and become the main hub for information on the county’s food system.  According to Lindsay, “We are excited that we will be bringing on some new members and leveraging their experience, as well as Bethesda Green’s, to make some decisions about how to grow the Food Council’s capacity to become the primary, independent resource for information on the food system for Montgomery County residents. Further development and evolution is imminent!”

“We are excited . . . to become the primary, independent resource on the food system for Montgomery County residents.”

The Montgomery County Food Council is one of the first in Maryland and will continue to collaborate with partners in the County and across the region to achieve its mission. All community members are invited to get involved in the work of the Montgomery County Food Council. To learn more, visit their website,  sign up for their bimonthly newsletter by emailing info@mocofoodcouncil.org, or connect with them via social media — Twitter: @mocofoodcouncil; facebook.com/mocofoodcouncil.

Jennifer Roe is a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she received her Master’s in Environment and Development.  She is passionate about building a just and sustainable food system where every individual has the opportunity to lead a successful, healthy life.

dress it up dressing

Red Wine Vinaigrette is one of four varieties offered by Dress It Up Dressing

by Susanna Parker

Sophia Maroon has known for years that her mother’s salad dressing recipes were something special. A hit with everyone who tried them, her brother even said they were good enough to sell. Sophia laughed it off as a joke, but the idea stuck with her. After all, so many commercial dressings were bland, replacing quality olive oil with cheap substitutes, and full of unpronounceable ingredients.

Sophia wanted a healthy dressing with familiar ingredients, produced simply, locally, and in a sustainable manner. She wanted her salad dressing to be as healthy as the veggies it adorns. Sophia realized that her mother’s dressing was the solution to all these problems, and decided to test out her brother’s theory.

With advice from friends and family (plus a good helping of serendipity) Sophia got Dress It Up Dressing up and running. In its ninth month, Sophia’s mission is simple — to make a product she’s proud of, and to ensure that every salad is dressed to perfection.

A recent addition to the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, Sophia and Dress It Up Dressing are committed to sustainability. Dress It Up Dressing is inextricably tied to the environment and to the farmers that grow the produce the dressing tops, so there is a concern for the environment in every decision made. The olive oil that makes up the primary ingredient is sourced from Mediterranean farmers — though it travels farther, its environmental impact is actually less than that of olive oil produced in California.

To reduce Dress It Up’s travel footprint in other areas, the production facility is within 150 miles of the initial market areas of Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City. And though Sophia, like any small business owner, is concerned about the efficiency of the production process, she is “more motivated by the green line than the bottom line.”

Sophia is looking forward to making Dress It Up Dressing even more sustainable. The first goal is to transition the dressing to a fully organic product. The next step will be finding a green manufacturing facility, one that is LEED certified and powered by renewable energy. The final goal requires the cooperation of the local food industry — Sophia wants Dress It Up Dressing to be part of a local food hub, an organization that connects farmers with local and regional markets, helping the community to buy local and increase its sustainability. Maryland does not yet have a food hub, but Sophia looks to GrowFood Carolina for inspiration and motivation.

Dress It Up Dressing is available in four vinaigrettes; Apple Cider, Chocolate, Champagne, and Red Wine. If you’re debating which one to try first, keep in mind Sophia’s advice: “There are only four varieties, who says it has to be a choice?” Dress It Up Dressing is available at Whole Foods, MOMs Organic Market, Roots, Stachowski’s Deli, Bethesda Co-Op, The Organic Butcher in McLean, the Central Farm Markets, and online at www.dressitupdressing.com. When asked what has been her biggest accomplishment to date, Sophia says “Honestly, every day I get to work on this project feels like a success.”

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Susanna Parker

Lester Brown and the Crisis of Peak Food 

Peak oil is a term we’re all familiar with, but it is looking as though the most worrying shortage of the 21st century will not be petroleum, but food. Lester Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute and the Earth Policy Institute, goes into detail in his new book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity. Anca Novacovici of The Huffington Post discussed these potential shortages with Brown, who argued that we’re going from an era of food surplus to food scarcity. Some of the causes include ethanol production competing for a share of the world grain output, aquifers being depleted faster than they can replenish themselves, rice and wheat yields plateauing, and the continuing erosion of topsoil. Brown states that, to combat this scarcity, nations must work on increasing water productivity, improving access to family planning, increasing energy efficiency, and investing in renewable energy. To learn more about food scarcity, visit the The Huffington Post for the full article.

Bethesda’s Navy Exchange Is LEED Gold Certified, and Looks Out For Electric Cars

The Navy Exchange’s new store in Bethesda will serve military families all over the Metro area, has achieved LEED Gold Certification, and will provide four ChargePoint electric vehicle charging stations, the first at a Navy Exchange facility. Located in the two-level parking garage adjacent to the Navy Exchange, these spots are specifically reserved for eco-friendly, low emissions vehicles. Sold and installed by Green Power Technology, these ChargePoint stations are a crucial part of the Navy Exchange’s efforts to be more efficient and environmentally friendly. Pat Romano, President and CEO of ChargePoint, praises the Navy Exchange for this decision, stating that “Offering EV charging services… is an important endorsement for the future of electric vehicles.” For more information about the ChargePoint, Green Power Technology, and the Navy Exchange, please visit Herald Online.

Upcoming Green Events

If Black Friday got you down, and the prospect of visiting the mall in December leaves you cold, check out the 14th Annual Takoma Park Alternative Gift Fair. This yearly fair features 14-18 charities striving to make our world a better place, highlighting their work and providing the community easy opportunities for charitable donations. Last year the fair raised over $25,000 for local, national, and international charities! This year the fair will also feature live music, raffles, kids activities, a bake sale, and refreshments. Come by, get in the holiday spirit, and help your community!

Come join us next Wednesday as a panel of Montgomery County and metro area leaders discuss emergency preparedness in the DC area. Learn what items your family should have stocked in case of a weather or human-caused disaster, the role of local, state, and federal governments during an emergency, what plans the County has in place for situations like Hurricane Sandy or derecho storms, and much more.

Please RSVP to Sharon D’Emidio at sharon@bethesdagreen.org if you plan to attend this important and informative event.

Kick off the holiday season with our monthly networking happy hour! This month, we are excited to host this event along with Interfaith Power and Light, whose associated congregations will share their efforts to save energy and go green. Enjoy complimentary appetizers in the restaurant’s beautiful second floor lounge; donation requested at the door.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

They Came Hungry for Change and Left Inspired

By Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

Before settling into a full day of TEDxManhattan presentations, our local viewing party began with a different kind of meet and greet activity—human mapping. Participants moved around Bethesda Green’s spacious lobby in different spatial configurations as if it were a Google Map in response to: Where do you live within the DC metro area; who do you represent along the food value chain; and what one food-related issue do you want to voice your passion about?

More than 70 people attended the second annual local viewing party co-hosted by Bethesda Green, Full Plate Ventures, and SlowFood DC. As the only TEDxManhattan viewing location in the Metro DC region, we had a very diverse group of participants that provided a rich mix of locales, interests, ages, and community sectors. Throughout the day people mixed and mingled, grouped in two different viewing rooms, and feasted on delicious and homemade fare — responding to our local, seasonal potluck challenge.

Seasonal Local Potluck Challenge

People shared some new terms and concepts they learned throughout the day, including: Food labeling transparency, green carts (in the Bronx), aquaponics vs. aquaculture, good food = good health, food traceability,  neurogastronomy, and Land Link. The inspiring TEDxManhattan presentations, sponsored by the Glynwood Institute will be posted online soon. Our local program featured several new initiatives and entrepreneurial businesses bubbling up in Montgomery County.

Land and Labor Link

The national demand for local food has exploded and continues to grow, yet in our region the supply can’t keep up with demand. The problem stems from a lack of affordable, accessible land in which to grow food locally along with a lack of training for a new generation of farmers without family farm ties and available labor to farm. Kristina Bostick, senior conservation specialist with Montgomery Countryside Alliance described Land Link and Labor Link, two new programs launched this year to facilitate linking farmers with farmland and labor. “We are proud to announce the first match between land owner and farmer this year!” Kristina reported.

This farmer and land link will expand our supply of locally-grown table crops in years to come without the volatility of short-term leases.

Montgomery County Food Council

The new Montgomery County Food Council launches this month with a diverse group of stakeholders whose mission is to foster a robust, local, and sustainable food system in Montgomery County. This independently organized diverse group of stakeholders is charged with improving the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of our local food system. “The public is welcome to join the broad-reaching Council network by attending monthly meetings, joining a Council working group, or joining as a capacity partner organization,” explained Council Coordinator Claire Cummings on ways the public can get involved.

On-line Food Marketplaces

In the last few years, a plethora of on-line market places have sprung up on the web to help people find local sources of sustainably-grown food. Among the many direct farm to consumer sites include: Local Harvest, which shows you where to find farmer’s markets;  Real Time Farms, a crowd-source online, nationwide food guide that gives you local farmer’s market and eatery locations; and Arganica, a food-buying club that delivers in the DC Metro Region.

Foodem.com is a new on-line food marketplace that matches wholesale food sellers and buyers. “I saw the need  to make wholesale food distribution more efficient and competitively-priced as an alternative to the largest national distributors like US Foods and Sysco,” explained Kash Rehman, CEO and founder of Foodem, who launched in 2010. “I’m very excited to connect local farms with local restaurants and food institutions as a way to grow the sustainable food movement.”

Tracing our Food to its Source

As food contamination outbreaks continue to make headlines, there’s a growing need to know exactly where our food comes from.  Also, small farmers don’t have the budgets to effectively market their products. Dick Stoner, of Locale Chesapeake, shared his exciting entrepreneurial labeling venture. “Locale Chesapeake uses  new affordable technology—such as bar codes, QR codes read with smart phones, and radio frequency ID tags to provide both traceability and better marketing so that farmers can share their story about their growing practices and unique products,” said Stoner.

It Takes a Community to Feed the Homeless

Today, one in six Americans is food insecure, meaning that individuals are not getting adequate nutrition for themselves and their families. Even in affluent Bethesda, the non-profit Bethesda Cares serves 20,000 meals to the homeless every year. Executive Director Sue Kirk outlined the grim reality of their clients—the long-term homeless population that are the hard to reach.

Yet, food—especially a hot meal is a great way to connect, to engage, and offer additional social services and medical resources needed to break  long-term homelessness.

“We are so fortunate to have a vast network of government, business, community groups, houses of worship, and volunteers who partner with Bethesda Cares,” explained Kirk.

Viewing TEDx

At the end of the day, participants offered their reflections. “This was an immensely invigorating and inspiring event,” shared Ashley Shaloo. Others pledged new habits they plan to adopt, including to deepen their commitment to buy local, compost more aggressively, join a CSA, garden more at home.

Next up: A new six-week discussion circle will begin in March using the Northwest Earth Institute’s curriculum, Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability, led by Marney Bruce, Simplicity Matters. Contact Marney marneyb@earthlink.net for more information.

We gratefully acknowledge our sponsors for this event: South Mountain Creamery, Honest Tea, and Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company.

TEDxManhattan’s “Changing the Way We Eat” is a one-day event in New York City that was simulcast at viewing parties all over the world.

Bethesda Green brings business, government and community together to promote a healthy economy and sustainable living practices in order to reduce our collective impact on the environment.

Cheryl Kollin of Full Plate Ventures, LLC is passionate about building sustainable, regional food systems. She provides business consulting and educational programming to social enterprises to enhance their profitability while serving their social mission.

SlowFood DC is a community that promotes and celebrates local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources; works to preserve the culinary traditions of the region’s ethnically and culturally diverse populations; and supports the right of all people to enjoy good, clean, fair food.

View Globally, Act Locally

By Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

Why spend your Saturday at Bethesda Green staring at a webcast all day?  “I have a fascination with learning about sustainable food production, healthy living, and nutritious and traditional cooking methods,” offered one registrant who signed up for Changing the Way We Eat 2012, a viewing party January 21 at Bethesda Green. When the topic is the state of our food system and progress toward sustainability, people with various interests come to take a seat at the table. Last year’s event drew 46,000 viewing streams from 11 countries including the 40 attendees at Bethesda Green’s viewing party.

TEDxManhattan 2012, the independently organized TED talk, hosted by the Glynwood Institute has a full lineup of speakers engaged in various aspects of our sustainable food system, including public health officials, community organizers, public policy advocates, farmers, restaurateurs, business entrepreneurs, and writers.

Speakers include: representatives from Johns Hopkins’ Public Health, The Humane Society, The James Beard Foundation, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, and Food & Water Watch.

Bethesda Green, Full Plate Ventures, and Slow Food DC are co-hosting the second annual viewing party. During the national breaks, local speakers will share their knowledge of our burgeoning sustainable food movement and what’s emerging in Montgomery County. “This is a great way to learn about what’s happening right here in our community,” said Beverly Firme, who writes the Green Around Town column for Bethesda Patch, the community’s hyper-local online newspaper. “It’s also a great way to connect with others.”

“I’m a public policy graduate student interested in food issues; I’m hoping to learn more about organizations and projects and to network.”

We’ve built in morning activities to get to know who’s in the room. Once again we offer our Seasonal Local Pot-Luck Lunch Challenge—the challenge of course is to demonstrate that we can eat locally—even in January.

Seasonal Local Pot-Luck Lunch Challenge, 2011 viewing party

There are many community-based initiatives and entrepreneurial businesses popping up this year that I’m excited to share with attendees at our lunch-time panel:

Growing Legacy On Metro’s Edge — watch a film teaser from this documentary-in -progress about our local food system and the Montgomery Country Agricultural Reserve. Produced by Mark Leisher Productions and Montgomery Countryside Alliance.

Introducing the new Montgomery Food Council — a group of diverse stakeholders, launching in February, will examine how well the local food system is serving its community, then find solutions to take action toward improving it.

Connecting producers with buyers — check out some of the on-line and social media resources to help find and connect local food producers with buyers, both retail and wholesale.

Know your food from farm to fork — How do you know where your local food actually comes from and if it is produced sustainably? Learn about seal of approval programs and how new apps bring the farm to you.

Hunger in Bethesda? Bethesda Cares and partner congregations feed the homeless every day in our affluent community. Learn from those making a difference.

“I work for the Center for Food Safety. I am also very concerned personally about these issues.”

No need to stay for the whole day–drop in as your schedule allows.

Changing the Way We Eat 2012
TEDxManhattan Viewing Party
Saturday, January 21, 2012 9am-5:30pm

Bethesda Green
4825 Cordell Avenue, Suite 200
Bethesda, MD 20814

Viewing Party Schedule and Pot-Luck Lunch Challenge Details

Register to attend — FREE event

TEDxManhattan’s “Changing the Way We Eat” is a one-day event in New York City that will be simulcast at viewing parties all over the world. Visit Invited Speakers to see the TEDx speakers. The full list and schedule will be published closer to the event.

Bethesda Green brings business, government and community together to promote a healthy economy and sustainable living practices in order to reduce our collective impact on the environment.

Cheryl Kollin of Full Plate Ventures, LLC is passionate about building sustainable, regional food systems. She provides business consulting and educational programming to social enterprises to enhance their profitability while serving their social mission.

SlowFood DC is a community that promotes and celebrates local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources; works to preserve the culinary traditions of the region’s ethnically and culturally diverse populations; and supports the right of all people to enjoy good, clean, fair food.