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.

by Susanna Parker

While coffee may not seem like the typical way to green your daily life, there are several easily available options. Is the coffee organic, is it bird-friendly, rainforest friendly, fairly traded, or water processed? The variety of terms can be overwhelming, but there are a few easy ways to find an environmentally friendly coffee that’s right for you.

So do a little research, grab your reusable mug and fill it with an environmentally friendly coffee.

One common label to find on environmentally friendly coffees is the Fair Trade Certified Mark. This label signifies that the coffee was purchased from growers who have met the social, environmental, and economic standards set by the Fair Trade Certification. Fair Trade USA describes four main standards for farm workers:

  • Economic Development — predetermined community development premiums are placed on every sale, and that money goes to the community to aid its economic development;
  • Empowerment — workers are trained in areas such as health and freedom from discrimination, they are empowered to determine how community development premiums will be used in their community, and they are able to effectively represent themselves and negotiate for better conditions;
  • Social Responsibility — International Labor Conventions are obeyed, child labor is prohibited, and health and safety measures are established to reduce workplace injuries;
  • Environmental Stewardship — farms operate using best practices for sustainability, including practices to reduce soil erosion, proper waste management including limiting waste generated, eliminating the use of highly toxic chemicals, efficient usage of water resources, and the maintenance of buffer zones for protected areas.

USDA Certified Organic is another common label. This signifies that the growers have followed strict regulations set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including eliminating the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides; crop rotation; soil fertility management; and watershed protection.

Another criteria to consider when buying coffee is bird friendliness. Created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Bird-Friendly (Shade Grown) coffee comes from plants cultivated amongst and beneath trees and other plant species, rather than on ground cleared specifically for the crop. Created to protect the habitats of migratory birds, the regulations are strict, but benefit the farmer as well as the birds; polyculture (or having more than one species in the same growing area) helps to prevent pests and enrich the soil.

There are a lot of options for environmentally friendly coffee beans, and none are inherently superior to the others. Choose your beans based on what matters to you; just make sure to check for the proper labels!

For more information, visit:

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.

Feature on Gator Ron’s Zesty Sauces & Mixes, a Bethesda Green Business Incubator company

Several years ago, if you had told friends and neighbors Connie Griffith and Debbie Kaufmann that they would be manufacturing and selling barbeque sauces, they would have looked at you and laughed.  Back in 2006, Connie was an established administrator in the medical field, and sat on numerous boards, planning fundraising events and participating in board activities.  Debbie was directing corporate communications for Japanese company Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, Ltd.’s three U.S. pharmaceutical subsidiaries, happily ensconced in her busy corporate existence.  Both were also busy with their daily social agendas and traveling for both work and pleasure – who would even think about making sauces?

The one person who did think about making sauces – all the time – was Connie’s husband, Ron.  A professional salesman in telecommunications, in his spare time Ron loved to cook and was a fabulous grill master who created and perfected numerous sauces and mixes for meats, poultry, seafood, and other foods, along with recipes for healthy preparation for all of his sauces and mixes.  Ron was a colleague of and close friends with Debbie’s husband, Steve, and the two spoiled Connie and Debbie with delicious dinners as they arrived home from work – grilled wings, barbequed chicken, ribs, shrimp scampi, crab cakes and other favorites.  And the Bloody Mary’s were always a hit – all of Ron’s creations were requested by family and friends alike for parties, tailgating (tailgatoring, as Connie and Debbie now call it), easy, healthy dinners at home, and of course, grilling and barbeques.

After years of receiving these requests, Ron recognized the interest and desire of so many people for his zesty sauces and mixes, and began to research manufacturing and selling them to food lovers everywhere.  This came to a screeching halt when, in September of 2007, Ron was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His number one priority became dealing with the care and treatment that he would require.  Connie immediately resigned her position on boards to spend every possible moment with her husband.  Two years after his diagnosis, Connie left her position in the medical field to become his full time caregiver.  Debbie’s position with Otsuka was relocated to New Jersey in 2009, and choosing not to move, she started a small communications consulting firm, which ultimately led to her working full time for one of her clients.

During the two years that Connie cared for Ron, he subtly encouraged her to take on his mission.  Knowing that Connie was not a cook, he would sit in his wheelchair in their kitchen and teach her exactly how to prepare each of his secret sauces and mixes.  He used the excuse that he wanted some of his creations for dinner; otherwise, he knew, without his request she would have ordered take out or delivery!  He told his mother he was sorry he’d been unable to start the company so that Connie would have something to fall back on.  He continually encouraged Connie to find something to do when he was gone that she would love and that would make her happy.  And shortly before his death, when Connie was making holiday gifts of Ron’s famous wing sauce and told him she was going to give their friends and relatives the recipes so she wouldn’t have to fulfill all of their requests, he whispered in her ear – barely able to speak at this point – and made her promise she would NEVER give out his recipes!

When Ron passed away in November 2011, Connie went away to reflect on her life and decide what her next step would be.  In the back of her head she heard Ron telling her to do something she loved, and what would be more appropriate – or make her happier – than to follow his dream.  She returned home at holiday time, gave their friends and family their gifts of sauce, which everyone received with joy because it came not just from Connie, but from Ron’s creation as well, and in January, she contacted Debbie and Steve to ask if they would help launch Gator Ron’s Zesty Sauces & Mixes.

The rest, as they say, is history-in-the-making!  Connie and Debbie are going to production July 11-13, and will take delivery of 9,000 bottles of Gator Ron’s Zesty Sauces & Mixes – Gator Ron’s Heavenly Barbeque Sauces (Original and Chipotle), Gator Ron’s Angel Wing Sauce (Original and Spicy), and Gator Ron’s Divine Bloody Mary Mix (Original and Chesapeake).   All products are made with all natural ingredients and free of gluten, and are accompanied by healthy recipes for preparation.  Future sauces will include Shrimp Scampi, Teriyaki, and Crab Cake mix and other favorites.  And a major goal is to manufacture through a dedicated gluten-free facility, using all organic ingredients in the near future.  Steve, a professional sales manager in telecommunications, will be directly involved with sales of Gator Ron’s Zesty Sauces & Mixes.

Connie and Debbie (now, the Sauce Ladies) will be selling the sauces via their website (www.gatorrons.com), at farmers markets, charity fundraising events, and in stores and local markets as they establish relationships with these retailers.

Ron’s father also died of ALS at the age of 59, and Steve’s father and aunt (Debbie’s father-in-law and aunt-in-law) were also victims of this terrible disease.  The three partners have a strong passion to see research for ALS progress to a point where treatments may be identified.  As such, a percentage of proceeds from all sales of Gator Ron’s products will be donated to ALS research to help find a treatment, and ultimately a cure, for ALS.

by Dan Rudt

Chesapeake Bay Trust Spring Education Mini Grants Available

The Chesapeake Bay Trust Environmental Education Mini Grant Program awards up to $5,000 to support activities at schools that help promote awareness of and participation in the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers and streams. Grants may be requested for relevant field trips, schoolyard habitat projects, watershed outdoor education, professional development workshops for teachers, or education materials, curriculum, and equipment that promote field-based Bay education. Spring projects should start no earlier than March 13, 2012. The deadline to apply is January 13, 2012. The Mini Grant Program is supported by a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Bay Watershed Education and Training Program. For more information, click here for a Word document from the Chesapeake Bay Trust Website.

MD Greenhouse Gas Act Gets Good Grades

Maryland’s 2009 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA) was designed to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. One provision of the Act called for independent studies to ensure that it improves reliability of electric service for consumers and industry, does not cause loss of jobs or significant increase in costs in the manufacturing sector, and will result in new, green jobs in the state.

The University of Maryland Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER) announced on November 2 that it has completed a pair of studies and concluded that the 2009 GGRA will not cause problems for manufacturing. In addition, researchers expect it will lead to improved reliability of electric service, as well as new jobs. The Maryland Department of the Environment, charged with submitting a tentative Climate Action Plan (CAP) to Gov. O’Malley by the end of 2011, commissioned the studies. Read more about CIER’s findings here.

Vehicle Cost Calculator

So you just paid a million-seven for your 16 cylinder Bugatti Veyron and you’re wondering how much you should budget for your morning commute? Rest assured, the U.S. Department of Energy has the answer. DOE just added a handy Vehicle Cost Calculator to their Website. The tool allows you to make side-by-side comparisons of emissions and lifetime operating costs of thousands of conventional, hybrid, electric, and alternative fuel vehicles from model year 1996 and newer. The calculator was developed by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The Bugatti, by the way, will run you about fifty-cents per mile for gas, and add 27,700 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere. Have fun with the calculator here.

Free Compost Bins

A November 2nd tweet led to this message on the Audubon Society Website: “Our Chevy  Chase location usually has free compost bins for Montgomery Co. residents. Give us a quick call before you come over to pick them up. 301-652-3606. We also have books and free info on composting.” Can’t beat that!  By the way, the same bins — used to compost grass, leaves and yard debris — are also available from Bethesda Green.

And Before You Compost…

It’s getting cold outside; soup weather is here. Consider, before you throw your vegetable scraps in the bin, turning them into home made broth and sauces. “Charis,” writing on the Mom’s Organic Market blog, suggests freezing your veggie scraps, bones, and apple cores, until you have enough of them to fill a soup pot, then boil them up for broth. You can read her suggestions here. And congratulations to Mom’s, who just opened a new market in Herndon.

Upcoming Green Events

EV Learning Luncheon for Real Estate Professionals!, Thursday, November 10, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, One Bethesda Center, 4800 Hampden Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda (at the Bethesda Metro Station). Presented by SemaConnect, the leader in EV charging stations and software in the Mid-Atlantic. Join others for an hour long educational session on the importance of EV charging stations in office, multi-family & retail commercial real estate. Registration and lunch are FREE. RSVP: naly.yang@semaconnect.com, 410-384-4223.

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group Meeting – Newcomers Welcome! Thursday, November 10, 4:00 – 5:30 pm., 4825 Cordell Ave., corner of Woodmont Ave., Suite 200, above the Chevy Chase Bank, Bethesda. A team of volunteers, EOM supports all of Bethesda Green’s communication efforts. From recycling to energy efficiency, sustainability to green building/design, EOM expresses the organization’s various areas of expertise in a clear and concise manner via various media.  New members are welcome to join. More information here, or contact Bethesda Green Communications Director Dave Heffernan, dvheffernan@bethesdagreen.org.

“Save Our Streams” workshop, Saturday, November 12, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Izaak Walton League National Conservation Center, 707 Conservation Lane off Muddy Branch Road in Gaithersburg. Participants will learn to collect underwater insects and crustaceans – indicators of water quality – with minimal environmental impact. Participants will also learn to test for basic chemical properties, such as the amount of dissolved oxygen available for fish, and how to share results through the Izaak Walton League’s user-friendly website. At the end of the training, participants will learn about sites that need monitoring on Muddy Branch. Extra training will be available for those who want to engage children in learning about stream ecology with fun and simple hands-on activities. A registration fee of $30 includes lunch, snacks and all books and workshop materials. To register, visit http://sosworkshopmd.eventbrite.com. For more information on the workshop contact Leah Miller, Izaak Walton League Clean Water Program Director, at 301-548-0150 x219 or leah@iwla.org.

Montgomery County’s first “Know Your Farmer,” Call-In Webinar, Wednesday, November 16, 8:00 pm. Montgomery Victory Gardens hosts “Challenges and Opportunities Facing Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century,” a discussion with Montgomery County farmers Nick and Sophia Maravell.  Nick is the operator of Nick’s Organic Farm in Potomac and one of only four farmers sitting on the prestigious National Organic Standards Board, while his daughter Sophia, who has studied organic agriculture throughout the world, is one of our nation’s new generation of aspiring farmers. Register here.

Montgomery County Green Business Crash Course Webinar, November 17, 8:00 – 11:00 am. Offered in partnership by Montgomery College and Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. The course instructor will guide you through the application process to accelerate your certification. More info and registration.

by Dan Rudt                                                                                                                               

EPA Recognizes Maryland’s Panera Bakery-Cafes
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on October 25 that Panera Bread’s 35 Maryland locations are on EPA’s list of top green power purchasers among retailers. Panera Bread of Maryland purchases 100 percent of its electricity through wind power renewable electricity certificates (RECs). The company’s purchase of more than 11 million kilowatt hours is equivalent to avoiding the yearly carbon dioxide emissions of 1,350 passenger vehicles. “Supporting clean power makes good business sense and is good for the communities we serve,” said Brian J. Lemek, owner of Lemek, LLC, franchisee for Panera Bread bakery-cafes in the state of Maryland.

The EPA Green Power Partnership works with more than 1,300 partner organizations that are voluntarily purchasing green power to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional electricity use. Purchases of green power also help accelerate the development of new renewable energy capacity nationwide and produce no net increase to greenhouse gas emissions.

Leggett Seeks Applicants for Ag Advisory Committee

County Executive Isiah Leggett is seeking applicants to fill seven vacancies on the Agricultural Advisory Committee. Four positions are for farmers selected to represent the farm community, and three positions are for non-farmers. The 15-member committee advises the County Executive and County Council on all matters affecting agriculture in the County. Farmer representatives serve three-year terms and non-farmer members serve one-year terms. Members serve without compensation, but are eligible for reimbursement for travel and dependent care for meetings attended. Meetings are held on the third Tuesday evening of each month in Germantown. The deadline for application is November 12, 2010.

County Rebates Still Available for Homeowners

Eric Coffman of the County’s Department of Environmental Protection this week gave Bethesda Green an update on the Montgomery County Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program. As of Tuesday, October 25, more than 250 residents are participating in the program, reserving a total of $310,000 for a variety of energy efficiency projects. The roughly 75 jobs completed to date have created (in combination with the state Home Performance and Utility Programs) more than 2,000 hours of work for local energy efficiency professionals. The County still has almost $800,000 of funding available for Montgomery  County residents to help improve the efficiency of their homes.

Coffman suggests applicants ask for electronic copies of audits, proposals and invoices from service providers to make the application process easier. He says the vast majority of projects have been approved within 48 business hours of receiving the application. A few notices to proceed have gotten caught in spam filters, so if an applicant doesn’t hear from them in a week, he suggests they log into their account online. If they still have not received approval, he asks that applicants contact help@mcenergyfunding.com. One last tip for applicants: Make sure to check the “other sources of funding” link on www.mcenergyfunding.com for information about state, federal, and utility company incentives.

Bethesda Central Farm Market to Stay Open Year-round

The Bethesda Patch reports, in an October 26 article by Anna Isaacs, that the Bethesda Central Farm Market will remain open on Sundays throughout the winter at its location on Elm Street between Woodmont and Wisconsin avenues. According to the article, market co-founder Mitch Berliner expects at least 20 vendors to offer a variety of products this winter. Read the Patch article here.

Pepco Pledge to Save Campaign

Pepco is conducting a multi-pronged Pledge to Save Campaign in support of the state of Maryland EmPOWER initiative, which seeks to reduce energy consumption 15 percent by 2015. Pepco Maryland customers can make a “Pledge to Save,” signaling their commitment to reduce electricity use and entering them for a chance to win a $250 Lowe’s Home Improvement gift card. The deadline to submit a pledge is December 1, 2011.

Another feature of the campaign is a children’s art contest. Kids ages 5-10 (grades K-5) are invited to draw a picture illustrating what they are doing to save energy at home, at school or at play. The contest deadline is November 15, 2011. Six winners will be chosen and each will receive a $100 gift card. Pepco has started posting entries on the campaign’s Facebook page. Also for kids, the Energy Detective Activity Book teaches what electricity is, why it is important to conserve it, and what we can do to use less of it.

Upcoming Green Events

Open House about the proposed Purple Line Project, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm, National 4-H Youth Conference Center, 7100 Connecticut Ave., Chevy Chase. Hosted by the Maryland Transit Administration  (MTA). The Purple Line is a proposed 16-mile light rail line from Bethesda to New Carrollton. Help design a project that best serves the community. Learn about the  benefits and status of the Purple Line Project, light rail systems and stations, and what’s next.

Learn How to Protect the Seneca Creek Watershed, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 6:30 pm8:30 pm, Izaak Walton League of America – Rockville Chapter, 18301 Waring Station Road in Germantown. Great Seneca Creek is the largest watershed located entirely within Montgomery County and is a source of drinking water for much of the area. Meet local watershed partners and discuss ways to work together to improve local water quality. Sponsored by the City of Gaithersburg, Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, and Seneca Creek Watershed Partners.  For more information please contact Audra Lew at 301-274-8110 or e-mail alew@icprb.org.

Bethesda Green Happy Hour, Thursday, Nov. 3, 5 pm – 8 pm, The Parva Restaurant and Lounge, 7904 Woodmont Avenue. You are invited for casual conversation and networking. Meet the Bethesda Green Incubator Companies and learn more about the Incubator. Enjoy complimentary appetizers in Parva’s beautiful second floor lounge. Donation requested at the door. RSVP at the Bethesda Green Meetup page.

Thursday, Nov. 3, “Wind Jobs Potential for Montgomery County” expo, featuring local businesses that would create offshore wind energy jobs, 6 pm – 7 pm. Followed by a Town Hall Forum: Maryland Offshore Wind Power for Montgomery County, 7 pm, Featuring: State Delegate Ben Kramer and State Senator Manno, along with health, economic, environmental experts, and local businesses. Mid County Community Center, 2004 Queensguard Rd., Silver Spring. Hosted by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development. Register at CCAN Website. Background information here.

E-cycling day @ Whitman High School, Sunday, Nov. 6, noon – 4 p.m., Walt Whitman High School parking lot, 7100 Whittier Boulevard, Bethesda. Bring your old TVs, computers, small appliances, etc. Help spread the work and share this flyer with others.

Local Food Goes Digital, Monday, Nov. 7, 6 pm – 8:30 pm, Chef Tony’s Restaurant, 4926 St. Elmo Avenue, Bethesda. Support the Montgomery Countryside Alliance. Join us for cocktails and appetizers at Chef Tony’s Restaurant, specializing in seasonal, fresh and locally-grown cuisine. Learn how Foodem.com, a web-based marketplace, is connecting local farmers, food distributors and specialty food manufacturers with restaurants, schools, hotels and grocers. By doing so, Foodem.com does its part for the sustainable food movement by satisfying the growing consumer and business demand for more local, sustainably-produced, and healthier food choices. Cocktails and appetizers will be available at a discounted price. Part of the sales will be given to Montgomery Countryside Alliance, preserving and enhancing Montgomery  County’s Agricultural Reserve. Please RSVP by November 5.

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group Meeting – Newcomers Welcome! Thursday, Nov. 10, 4 pm – 5:30 pm., 4825 Cordell Ave., corner of Woodmont Ave., Suite 200, above the Capital One Bank, Bethesda. A team of volunteers, EOM supports all of Bethesda Green’s communication efforts. From recycling to energy efficiency, sustainability to green building/design, EOM expresses the organization’s various areas of expertise in a clear and concise manner via various media.  New members are welcome to join. More information here, or contact Bethesda Green Communications Director Dave Heffernan, dvheffernan@bethesdagreen.org.

Montgomery County’s first “Know Your Farmer,” Call-In Webinar, Wednesday, November 16, 8 pm. Montgomery Victory Gardens hosts “Challenges and Opportunities Facing Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century,” a discussion with Montgomery  County farmers Nick and Sophia Maravell.  Nick is the operator of Nick’s Organic Farm in Potomac and one of only four farmers sitting on the prestigious National Organic Standards Board, while his daughter Sophia, who has studied organic agriculture throughout the world, is one of our nation’s new generation of aspiring farmers. Register here.

Montgomery County Green Business Crash Course Webinar, November 17, 8:00 – 11:00 am. Offered in partnership by Montgomery College and Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. The course instructor will guide you through the application process to accelerate your certification. More info and registration.

By Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

Caroline Taylor started the discussion off declaring, “I just want to say that I feel humbled joining the panelists gathered here today to talk about our local, sustainable food system.” The Executive Director of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance was indeed in good company joined by activists, farmers, chefs, nutritionists and food lovers.

Cheryl Kollin (Full Plate Ventures), Bill Franz, and Glenda Grogan serving quiche.

Forty people gathered around the table at Bethesda Green on the morning of Sunday, August 21, to enjoy a locally sourced, homemade breakfast.

The discussion, Closing the Loop in our Food System, introduced various perspectives of our local food system. Today’s gathering was the first of three educational and delicious food events in the series, On the Farm; Around the Table – Connecting farmers, food, and community in three meals.

The series, hosted by Bethesda Green and Full Plate Ventures explores the complex issues around building our local, sustainable food system and introduces attendees to those who are the passionate architects of this newly emerging system.

Caroline encouraged the audience to let our County Council know how you feel about protecting Montgomery County’s 93,000 acre Agricultural Reserve and to encourage the Council to approve policies that protect and expand local farming.

Caroline was joined on the panel by Shannon Varley, a farmer and owner of Bella Terra Family Farm, who shared the challenges of converting conventional land into organic farming. “My husband and I are painstakingly reclaiming a few acres at a time and have 10 acres in cultivation in which we raise high-quality, grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, vegetables, flowers and herbs.”  She’s fortunate to have secured a long-term lease to farm on. She and Montgomery Countryside Alliance created Land-link, a program to match new farmers with available, affordable land.

Many local farmers sell their wares directly through local farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Diane Welland, a registered dietitian and author on the panel discussed how buyers have to shop differently when eating seasonally. “Instead of planning your menu and shopping the aisles of the grocery, you need to see what’s ripe that week at the farmer’s market and then plan your meals,” explained Diane.

Restaurant owners face challenges of finding local sources of food for their menus. Tony Alexis, owner of Yamas Mediterranean Grill, offers a moderately priced menu that includes organic ingredients. “I believe that the sustainable food movement starts with land stewardship, healthy eating choices, and even how my employees are fairly treated,” he shared with the audience. He’d like to source locally, but hasn’t yet found a steady supply—one of the challenges the series highlights and collaborators hope to address, recognizing the need to build an aggregation and distribution system for local foods beyond farmers markets and CSAs.

This series begins to informally build relationships between producers and buyers. “I made some great connections this morning and hopefully will be working as a volunteer one day at Bella Terra Farm,” offered attendee Misha Clive of the Green Business Network. Today’s gathering also proved successful in connecting businesses to one another. “It was a wonderful day to connect,” exclaimed panelist Jessica Weiss, Executive Director of growingSOUL. “It is quite possible that Shannon Varley found a way to feed her animals inexpensively and rejuvenate her soil, while I found a new home to begin municipal composting. It was a very powerful gathering and I look forward to continuing to connect the dots with all of you,” she shared with me after the event.

Jessica calls herself a nutrient aggregator, which as she explained to the audience, “growingSOUL’s mission is to create a holistic zero-waste food system. We collect and compost food waste from restaurants and institutions to return nutrients back to the soil instead of wasting it in landfills.”

Attendees’ interests in this discussion ranged from personally wanting to eat a healthier, locally sourced diet, to professionally engaging in local policy issues around land use and available farm land in Montgomery County. The audience included writers, film makers, and educators all interested in promoting better eating through the growing and production of sustainable foods. The morning was capped off with a tour of the Bethesda Central Farm Market, introduced by founder Mitch Berliner who described the vibrant mix of producers, artisans and musicians he assembles weekly.

Greg Glen from Rocklands Farm.

The series continues Saturday, September 10 with Fertile Ground – A local, sustainable farm tour and lunch. Join us for this family friendly tour of Rocklands Farm, in Poolesville, Maryland, just 35 minutes north of Bethesda. Free bus transportation leaves from Bethesda Green at 11:45 am and returns at 3:30 pm. Lunch will feature Rocklands’ own grass-fed beef burgers with a variety of vegetarian sides and fruit cobbler. The series concludes on September 19 with dinner at Chef Tony’s Restaurant that 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 Cheryl Kollin, Principal, Full Plate Ventures

Chef Tony Marciante, who plans his local and seasonal menus daily, was amazed to learn recently that there are 561 farms in Montgomery County. Farmer Shannon Varley is so busy between growing food, raising a young family, and finding land for new farmers that she has little time to find new buyers for her meats, vegetables, eggs, and flowers. Red Wiggler’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members can’t understand why there’s a limited supply of their favorite organic vegetables and fruits.

On the Farm; Around the Table – Connecting farmers, food, and community in three meals explores the complex issues around building our local, sustainable food system and introduces you to those who are the passionate architects of this system. “We’ve invited farmers, chefs, health professionals, conservationists, and consumers to break bread together – literally and metaphorically,” explains Dave Feldman, Executive Director of Bethesda Green, who is co-hosting the events with Full Plate Ventures.

This late summer educational series will also delight the palate with locally-produced and homemade breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dave offers, “What better way to engage people about these issues while enjoying food prepared with the late summer’s bounty grown and prepared by our presenters.” Breakfast will include freshly baked breads with sour cherry jam, fresh fruit, and quiches made with pastured eggs and locally-crafted sausage and vegetables. Lunch will feature Rocklands Farm’s own grass fed beef burgers with a variety of vegetarian salads and fruit cobbler. Dinner at Chef Tony’s Restaurant will feature a menu around seafood, artisan cheeses, local wine and whatever is fresh from the farm that day.

Our first event on August 21, Closing the Loop in Our Food System, will introduce you to the components of a food system and the complexities of fitting pieces of this food puzzle together.

Throughout the On the Farm, Around the Table series, we will introduce you to Full Circle Foods (FCF), a collaboration of entrepreneurial and non-profit businesses that are passionate about building a sustainable and healthy food system in our region. Our goals are ambitious: 1.) Strengthen farmers’ market capacity by aggregating and distributing products into new markets they cannot reach individually; 2.) Establish relationships among growers, aggregators, distributors, and buyers that support ecological growing practices, fair wages for all workers, and the local economy; and 3.) Collect food waste for composting to return nutrients to the soil.

So, fill your plate, meet your farmers, engage in the conversation, and join us for what will be a delicious experience.

Bethesda Green and Full Plate Ventures gratefully acknowledge our supporters, including MOM’s Organic Market, Chef Tony’s Restaurant, and all of our contributing partners.

Green News & Events, Week of July 25 – 31, 2011

by Dan Rudt

Ribbon Cutting for Maryland’s First Wind Farm – Constellation Energy held a ribbon cutting ceremony last week at the site of Maryland’s first commercial wind farm. Constellation’s 28 wind turbines, spread along eight miles of Backbone Mountain in Garrett County, can produce enough electricity for 23,000 homes. Reporter Scott Calvert of the Baltimore Sun reports on the mixed reviews the turbines are receiving from Garrett County residents.

More American Families Growing Their Own Veggies – The National Gardening Association says the number of U.S. households with food gardens grew from 36 million in 2008 to 43 million, or 37% of all households, in 2009. Four out of five home gardeners have at least some college education, while two-thirds of them are over 45 and a slight majority are women. For more information, see the attractive infographic on the Mother Nature Network, or mnn.com.

Maryland Wins Federal Grant for Conservation and Parklands – Senators Cardin and Mikulski have announced a $723,598 matching grant to the state from the Department of Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). According to the press release, the LWCF grant “will enable Maryland’s state and local governments to establish urban parks and community green spaces; to restore and provide public access to rivers, lakes and other water resources; and to conserve natural landscapes for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment.” LWCF matching grants “leverage public and private investment in state and local public outdoor recreation.”

Car Sharing Provides Multiple Benefits to City of Baltimore – Zipcars, Inc., which has provided car sharing services in Baltimore for the past year, has released results of a Baltimore member survey showing multiple benefits for the city, as well as for Zipcar drivers. Nearly half the survey respondents were able to avoid buying a car, while 18% sold their existing cars. Some said they drive less and walk, bike and use public transit more than they did a year ago. For the city, fewer cars means less pollution, less congestion and less competition for parking spaces.

Sustainable Food JobsSustainablefoodjobs.wordpress.com has been around since 2009, so this may not, strictly speaking, belong in a news roundup, but if you are interested in the field and not familiar with the site, it is well worth visiting. Unlike the many sites that waste your time with jobs that are unrelated to your search term, all the listings I have seen are actual sustainable food jobs! The site also provides links to college programs in sustainable agriculture as well as sustainable food blogs and companies and organizations you can contact for information and networking.

Volunteers Needed to Distribute Recycling Info at MC Ag Fair – The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection seeks volunteers to staff recycling information tables during the upcoming County Agricultural Fair, August 12 – 20. To volunteer or request additional information, contact the Recycling Volunteer Program at (240) 777-6445 or ana.arriaza@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Upcoming Green Events

The Buy Local Challenge, July 23 – 31. Support Maryland farms. Eat at least one thing from a local farm every day during Buy Local Week. And, bring the challenge to your workplace today.

BG 101, Thursday, July 28, 4 – 5:30 pm. Bethesda Green’s monthly orientation session. Learn about Bethesda Green history, programs, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Home Canning Demonstration, Saturday, July 30, 10:30 – 11:30 am. Learn to can food at the Bethesda FreshFarm Farmers Market at Veteran’s Park, corner of Woodmont and Norfolk.

Connecting Local Farms, Food, and Community in Three Meals

Join Bethesda Green and Full Plate Ventures to enjoy the gastronomic pleasures of three local, seasonal, and home-style meals while meeting those who are building a healthy, local, sustainable food system in our region. Register early; space is limited!

  • Closing the Loop in Our Food System: Breakfast, Panel Discussion & Optional Farm Market Visit, Sunday, August 21, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm. Location: Bethesda Green & Bethesda Central Farm Market. More information here.
  • Fertile Ground: Local Sustainable Farm Tour and Lunch, Saturday, September 10, 12:30 – 3:00 pm. Location: Rocklands Farm, 14525 Montevideo Rd., Poolesville, MD 20837. More information here.
  • Savor Local Flavor: Four Course Dinner and Discussion with Chef Tony, Monday, September 19, 7:00 – 10:00 pm. Location: Chef Tony’s, 4926 St. Elmo Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814. More information here.