by Alison Wentzell

Montgomery County Interest in School Gardens GrowsBGnews_logo

Montgomery County fosters 202 different schools, 35 of which have gardens where students can observe, ask questions, and take control of their health as part of a local food and advocacy project, according to an article in the Washington Post.  But, interest in gardens is growing throughout the entire school district.

The Montgomery County school district mandates that students pass three different sciences in order to graduate.  Historically, horticulture has been an easy class to pass and draws in students that don’t have much interest in other science fields.  Elizabeth Levien, who teaches at Blair High School in Silver Spring, is excited to see that the students taking horticulture are now excited by the gardens and their class.

Students’ interest in horticulture classes is also growing in Clarksburg, Damascus, and Springbrook high schools.  Teachers from these schools are working together to make gardens a part of the horticulture curriculum throughout the district.  They have already structured a three-year program allowing students to become certified horticulturists.  But students enrolled in the program aren’t the only ones showing interest in the gardens.  Teacher Jill Couts from Sherwood High School has approximately 30 students who go to the green house each week that aren’t even in the program.

Montgomery Victory Gardens’ project director Gordon Clark is ecstatic about the impact gardens are having on schools.  He’s now working with other PTAs and schools in the district to give them the knowledge and resources to help them get started on their own gardens.

For more information, read the Washington Post article here.

North Dakota Flare Ups, Crude Oil Transportation, and the Rise of Solar Energy

Between an 18,000 square mile flare up, the increase in shipping crude oil by rail, and a third growing phase for solar energy; saying there’s a lot going on in the energy sector is a bit of an understatement.  One third of the natural gas produced in the Bakken shale in North Dakota is being burned off in the air.  The effects of the burning are so big they can be seen from space and produces the carbon equivalent of an extra 1 million cars.  Even though oil drillers are burning $1 billion worth every year, low prices, the remote location, and cost of developing pipelines prevent the gas from being utilized.

In fact, leaders in the oil industry are becoming wary of pipeline projects all together, and more shipments are being made by railroad.  However, the Obama administration’s efforts to boost safety standards are making it a bit more difficult to ship crude oil.  To fight this, the oil industry and U.S. railroads are fighting these efforts by pointing out the technical challenges and economic costs.

While the United States is still focusing on natural gas and crude oil, other countries are investing more in solar energy.  In a recent study the Deutsche Bank found that solar energy is entering a third growing phase.  Even oil producing countries are increasing their investment in solar energy, finally allowing it to become a competitive source of energy rather than just an alternative.  The solar energy industry can now start the process of weaning itself off of subsidies and become a self-sustaining industry.

For more information, read the Wall Street Journal article here.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

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.

by Dan Rudt

Funding Threatened for Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Tom Pelton of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation warns that if Congress slashes $23 billion from the federal Farm Bill, as it appears poised to do by next week, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative could be eliminated. The program funds farm runoff control projects in parts of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; Maryland’s Eastern Shore; and the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. The funds help farmers pay to construct fences to keep cattle out of streams, build manure control facilities, and plant strips of trees and grasses along waterways, among other things. Losing those funds, Pelton claims, would make it much more difficult to reach pollution control goals for the Bay.

States Agree to Form Northeast Electric Vehicle Network

Ten northeast states (including Maryland) and the District of Columbia announced the formation of the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network on October 19 to expedite the deployment of electric vehicles in the region and promote the use of alternative fuels. As part of their ongoing collaboration through the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), the participating jurisdictions will promote all clean vehicles and fuels and facilitate planning for and the deployment of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and related infrastructure throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The group will also work together to attract additional public and private investment in infrastructure for clean vehicles.

Americans Believe U.S. Headed in Wrong Direction on Energy

A poll released on October 19 by The University of Texas at Austin found fewer than 14 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction on energy. The 3,406 respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the job that 26 different organizations, corporations, institutions and government bodies were doing to address energy issues. Congress — with ratings of 8 percent satisfied, 71 percent dissatisfied — ranked dead last. “This survey shows that the public craves leadership on energy issues,” said Bill Powers, President of The University of Texas at Austin. The majority of Americans see energy prices as high and likely to increase. Four out of five are interested in learning more about how to reduce their energy use.

Energy Department to Invest $60 Million in Concentrating Solar Power Technologies

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced on Tuesday (10/25) a $60 million investment over three years for applied scientific research to advance Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technologies. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which can then be used to produce electricity. The funding is meant to support research into technologies that have the potential to dramatically increase efficiency, lower costs, and deliver more reliable performance than existing commercial and near-commercial CSP systems. DOE expects to fund roughly 20 – 22 projects, and encourages industry, universities, and National Laboratories to apply.

2012 Beginner Farmer Training Program Accepting Applications

Future Harvest-Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture is accepting applications up to November 30 from new farmers interested in participating in the Beginner Farmer Training Program. Five to ten trainees, mostly college graduates with some farming experience and a commitment to a career in sustainable and/or organic agriculture, will be selected to participate in the free program that begins on January 13, 2012 with a two day conference. Participants will attend workshops one evening per week for eight weeks in February and March at the new Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture. They will undergo field training on a weekly basis at an organic farm in Baltimore Country or Harford County and participate in farm tours and workshops from May through August at various sustainable farms in the region.

Upcoming Green Events

Peter Doo LEED EB: O+M Event, Thursday, October 27, 8:00 – 11:00 am, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor. Building owners, managers, developers and other building professionals are invited to attend a special presentation on LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. Details here.

BG101, Thursday, October 27, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Maryland Clean Energy Summit, Thursday, October 27 – Saturday, October 29, Hilton Inner Harbor, Baltimore. Includes a consumer trade show and conference sessions that are FREE TO THE PUBLIC – on Saturday 10/29 9:30 – 2:30. Test drive a Chevy Volt, learn how to use your smart phone to control your home’s thermostat and lighting while you’re away, how to finance home energy improvements and much more. Click here, then scroll down to “Saturday, October 29th” for more information about the free consumer event.

Audubon Naturalist Society Annual Meeting, Friday, October 28, 6:00-9:30 pm (Program starts at 6:30 pm), Woodend Sanctuary,  MD. Featuring “Looking Back & Forward at Our Region’s Water,” a lively talk by longtime environmental reporter and renowned author Tom Horton. Silent Auction items include six original, framed J.J. Audubon stone lithographs and other rare works of art. More information here.

“The Age of Stupid” Film and Discussion, Friday, October 28, 6:30-9:30 pm, The Festival Center in Adams Morgan, 1640 Columbia Road, NW.  View the climate-change blockbuster film, followed by discussion w/ Mike Tidwell, Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network. More details here.

Rockville Bike Advisory Committee (RBAC) Invites You to Try Nancy’s Bike Route, Saturday, October 29, 2:00 pm. Ride starts at Rockville Memorial Library, heading south toward Bethesda.  Details here.

Bethesda Green First Thursday Happy Hour, Thursday, November 03, 5:00 – 8:00, 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.

by Dan Rudt

Maryland Solar Installation Applications to Double this Year

Margie Hyslop writes in the October 7 Gazette that the state Public Service Commission says it has received 1,550 applications so far this year from Marylanders seeking to certify their homes or businesses as solar renewable energy facilities. At that rate, applications are expected to double the 922 received last year. Montgomery County has more solar power installations than any other jurisdiction in the state. Hyslop says Kevin Lucas of the Maryland Energy Administration estimates 150 to 200 of Maryland’s 1,700 solar power installations are commercial; the rest are residential. The state currently generates 26 megawatts of solar power.

Maryland is not alone in solar energy growth. Public Radio International program, Living On Earth, reports that this year, “the U.S. [solar panel] industry expects to double its production.” The program mentions three reasons for this stunning growth. The first is the federal government solar installation incentive signed by President Bush three years ago. (Not mentioned in the story are the many state and local government incentives.) The second is the huge drop in the cost of solar panels from roughly four dollars and twenty cents a watt three years ago, down to roughly one dollar and twenty cents a watt today. Finally, the advent of solar leasing programs that eliminate the up-front cost of rooftop solar has created a spike in demand.

Gaithersburg Residents Create their Own “Citizens Plan” for Smart Growth

An article by Pam Lindstrom in the October 5 Greater Greater Washington begins with: “Filling a void of vision for a livable, sustainable future for Gaithersburg, my neighbors and I created our own plan for managing growth along the MD-355 corridor.” Lindstrom, with fellow Gaithersburg resident Judy Christensen, and architect Scott Knudson of Wiencek and Associates offering pro bono services, organized three charrettes in spring 2011, inviting neighbors and zoning lawyers representing some of the larger land and building owners in the 355 corridor. They presented their “Citizens’ Plan” to Gaithersburg elected officials and Planning Commission in July, and were met with a positive response. Here is a link to the article and another to a PDF of the Citizens’ Plan on the City of Gaithersburg Website.

Wind Energy: Marylanders are Ready; Are Politicians Willing?

A survey of 805 registered Maryland voters found 62 percent said they are willing to pay an additional $2 per month for electricity if more of it is generated by “clean, local offshore wind farms, instead of coming from coal, oil and gas.” Only 34 percent said they are not willing to pay more. The telephone survey was conducted throughout the state in late September for the National Wildlife Federation and the Offshore Wind Coalition. Margie Hyslop breaks down the poll numbers in the October 10 Gazette, and discusses the possible political ramifications of the survey in a follow up article on October 14.

Hyslop found that politicians who support a Maryland offshore wind farm plan to use the survey results in the next General Assembly session as one justification to move forward. In addition, she says, “advocates are more organized, have hired a lobbyist and are putting together a business coalition” to support the wind farm.

Let your Voice Be Heard; Take the Cycle Maryland Survey

The Maryland Office of Tourism, Department of Transportation, and State Highway Administration are conducting a bicycle user survey to learn more about cyclists in Maryland and what products they would find most useful to help plan bicycle trips. They hope to gain knowledge that will be used to improve cycling products and services. The survey is expected to take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. After you are finished, you may choose to enter a prize drawing. The survey is here. The Cycle Maryland Webpage is here.

County Farmers Selling Pumpkins, Hayrides and Seasonal Fun

Support your local farmer, and have fun doing so! A number of Montgomery County farms are now offering pumpkins and hay rides, pony rides, petting zoos, mazes and haunted houses. For a list of pumpkin farms and their offerings, click here and scroll down to the Montgomery County listings.

Upcoming Green Events

Montgomery County Community Service Week, October 16 – 22. The Montgomery County Volunteer Center invites you to participate.  Attend the Volunteer Engagement Expo on Saturday, October 15 from 1-6pm at White Flint Mall where representatives from 20 local nonprofits will have information about current volunteer opportunities or click here for more information.

Green Home Expo, Saturday October 22, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. This free educational event is held at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor, above Capital One Bank. 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.

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.

Community Meeting about Bus Rapid Transit, Monday, October 24, 5:30 – 8:30 pm, Parks and Planning headquarters, 8787   Georgia  Ave., Silver Spring. The Montgomery County Planning Department hosts a community meeting to discuss bus rapid transit (BRT). The proposal includes dedicated traffic lanes for buses along as many as 16 traffic corridors covering 150 miles. Come see where the service is proposed and let the planners know how you think Bus Rapid Transit service can best fit into our community.

Food Day, Monday, October 24, 7:00 pm, at the Church in Bethesda, 5033 Wilson Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814. 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!

LEED for Existing Buildings, Operations + Maintenance Event, Thursday, October 27, 8:00 – 11:00 am, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor. This presentation is designed specifically for building owners, managers, developers and other building professionals. Details here.

BG101, Thursday, October 27, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Maryland Clean Energy Summit, Thursday, October 27 – Saturday, October 29, Hilton Inner Harbor, Baltimore. Includes a consumer trade show and conference sessions that are FREE TO THE PUBLIC – on Saturday 10/29 9:30 – 2:30. Test drive a Chevy Volt, learn how to use your smart phone to control your home’s thermostat and lighting while you’re away, how to finance home energy improvements and much more. Click here, then scroll down to “Saturday, October 29th” for more information about the free consumer event.

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.