Pop-Up:  Ag Reserve

June 16: A Visit to the Ag Reserve

What did you do this summer? If you are a summer intern at MCEDC, one experience is a chance to jump on the metro, explore different parts of the county, and help us tell the great story of Montgomery County from their newcomer’s viewpoint.

Anna Wright is grad student studying Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a special interest in food economy and agriculture. Claudia Elzey is a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania, studying City & Regional Planning. These fabulous interns join us by way of the Montgomery County Council’s new 10-week Summer Associates program, a unique opportunity for grad students to gain real-world experience across multiple fields. The program is a collaboration among the Council, the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight, and MCEDC. 

So first up, we sent them to the sprawling acreage of MoCo’s Ag Reserve.

Pop-Up #1: Agricultural Reserve, June 16, 2017

Five quick takes

  • A ‘not so’ hidden gem: The Ag Reserve is one of Montgomery County’s great treasures. With 93,000 acres of rolling hills dotted with one-horse towns, the reserve has been protected from development since 1980. But that doesn’t mean there’s no economic activity here. Around every bend, another small farm is doing booming business in apples, pumpkins, and other table crops.
  • Young and hungry: The reserve’s smallest farm might be the One Acre Farm in Boyds. Farmer Michael Protas - fast-talking, sunburned, and only in his thirties - is growing onions, fennel, broccoli, and lettuce on land leased from Adventist HealthCare. The veggies will be packed in boxes and distributed to those who have bought a share in the harvest. And what a bounty he has!
  • Big and busy: At the other end of the size spectrum is Lewis Orchards. Slopes covered in apple and peach trees unfold behind the big, clean farm shed. Under the gentle whir of ceiling fans, customers line up to buy bags of snap peas and summer squash. As for me, I’ve picked out a massive peach and berry cobbler. Who cares if I haven’t brought tableware? We’ll eat it right out of the tin.
  • So near, yet so far: Chugging along the winding roads of the Ag Reserve, the pop-up ladies feel like they’re a million miles away from the beltway. For long stretches, the only thing to see is sun-drenched leaves and farm fields. Here and there a few wood-frame houses cluster, with colored banners hanging from the mailboxes.
  • Self-milking cows:  Onward to Rock Hill Orchard, which doubles as Woodbourne Creamery, Montgomery County’s only dairy farm. This place is where high-tech meets small-scale, natural agriculture. Sixty tan-and-white Guernsey cows graze peacefully near a rack of solar panels, which power the laser-guided milking robot. Whenever a cow feels like it, she can walk to a stall to be milked, and the robot will treat her to some grain. It’s good to be a cow at Rock Hill.

What’s their next Pop-Up stop? Stay tuned to the next newsletter.