Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Didn’t TBD Mention Nick’s Organic Farm?

If you were watching TBD tonight and were heartened to see coverage of a soccer field controversy in Montgomery County, you might have been surprised by the piece.  It showed farmer Nick Maravell, but it made no mention of Nick's Organic Farm being the unique resource that it is, or even being organic.

Instead, the segment portrayed opposition to the project as well-heeled Potomac residents who don't want soccer traffic near their homes, and as a private farmer worried about his livelihood while farming county-owned land that should be put to public use.

Take a look--and post a comment to ask them yourself why they didn't report the true source of the controversy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The April 4th Meeting

What a night. An overflow crowd mostly dressed in green to support Nick's Organic Farm and public process filled the PES cafeteria on Monday night, only to be told that the lease between the BOE and County would be signed the next morning.

What can you do now? Sign on to a letter to Ike Leggett, proposing that the County form a Food Policy Council with Nick's Organic Farm as the anchor for an Ag/Food Education Hub. Click here. Please share this petition far and wide- we have 600 signatures now, keep em coming- we want 1000! We are sending the lists of names along to Ike as they come in. Share our petition on Facebook!

The event garnered a lot of great press, there is some great video and articles below. If you have your own video, send it along- The pursuit for process continues...

Potomac Patch


The host for our petition,  (above) had been following this issue from the beginning. Click here for the first of their articles on this topic.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Public Meeting April 4- Please Attend!

Please plan on attending the public meeting to discuss installing soccer fields on the Brickyard School Site.
Be advised- this is not a "hearing" but a "meeting", a proper public hearing has not been held nor been scheduled on the topic of the use of this public land (besides this one that assumes its use will be soccer fields). 
We will be "live blogging" from this event and hope to have some video available the next day. Check back here that evening for a play-by-play.

When:   Monday, April 4 at 7:30pm
Where: Potomac Elementary School, 10311 River Road, Potomac MD
Also: Please show your support for the Brickyard Farm and public process by wearing green.

 Please Read on for an update from Brickyard Farmer Nick Maravell, with video of Ike Leggett's comments on this issue at the recent Kensington Public Meeting.

Dear Supporters,

I am asking for your help again. Montgomery County will hold a public meeting on Monday April 4 at 7:30 p.m. on the proposal to install soccer fields on the un-built school site that I have been farming organically for over thirty years. The meeting will be at the Potomac Elementary School, 10311 River Road, Potomac MD.

It is important to have a good showing of support at this meeting where you will be able to ask questions and comment on issues to County project staff. The exact format of the meeting will be decided soon, and we will get back to you when the County has that information available.

To show your support, please wear something green—a shirt, scarf, hat, jacket, etc. Our large showing at the March 8 Board of Education meeting was noticed.
I always hold out hope that our public comment could lead County Executive Ike Leggett to reconsider the situation and explore alternatives that would better satisfy the expectations of all members of the community.

Background and periodic updates are on our website Click on the Media tab and the Brickyard Property tab to see our press release and letter to our supporters after the school board vote to lease the land to the County. Also on the website are local newspaper articles, testimony given to the school board by me and others from all parts of the County, and selected insightful letters from supporters.

The letter from Ginny Barnes summarizes the position of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association, the major civic association in the Potomac area. The letter from Diana Conway outlines the views of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance, which promotes sustainable agriculture. The letter from Councilman Berliner describes the lack of normally expected process on this matter. Councilman Levanthal has expressed sympathy for Councilman Berliner's position as well. The column from Peggy Dennis in the Montgomery Sentinel (under the media tab) and the letter from Professor McKittrick both touch on the process as well as the agricultural issues.

Please contact me and/or check the following websites if you would like any further background information.
A good blog on this issue: background :

For a March 23rd response on YouTube from County Executive Isiah Leggett on this issue, go to minutes 29:50 to 32:00
We are encouraging continued letters and written comments on this proposal be sent to editors of your local newspapers, the County Executive, the County Council, and the Board of Education. For all these email addresses go to: a cc to us at

Let me know if you want more information. We will get you more information when we have it.

The County announcement is printed below:

From: Hartman, Ken
Kenneth.Hartman@montgomerycountymd.govSent: Friday, March 25, 2011 3:53 PM
Subject: RE: Brickyard Junior High Site Meeting - location update
Importance: High
* * * PLEASE NOTE UPDATED LOCATION * * * The public meeting on the Brickyard Junior High School soccer field proposal will be held on Monday April 4, from 7:30-9pm at Potomac Elementary School, 10311 River Road.
I am assisting the Department of General Services and Department of Recreation in facilitating this meeting of local neighbors and Potomac community groups to discuss the development of a request for proposal (RFP) and contract for services for soccer fields on the Brickyard Junior High School property.

As you may know, the Montgomery County Board of Education recently authorized a lease with Montgomery County for the 20-acre school site on Brickyard Road. Montgomery County intends to use the property for development as soccer fields. The Board of Education action stipulated, and the County agreed, natural turf fields without lighting or sound system. The Board of Education also stipulated that the County sublease the property for use as a farm in 2011 and work to assist the former lessee in relocation.

In addition to these stipulations, the County's project management team needs neighbor input on other operational parameters and concerns. This information will be used to draft the RFP and contract. Neighbor feedback is critical in ensuring the property is a good neighbor, while meeting the broader County need for additional fields for organized play. At the meeting, project staff will outline milestones in the process ahead and opportunities for public involvement.

Please pass this along to interested members of your community.

The following is a link to the location of the Brickyard property:,+potomac,+md&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Brickyard+Rd,+Potomac,+Montgomery,+Maryland&gl=us&ll=38.997683,-77.220165&spn=0.00517,0.007467&t=h&z=17_______________________________________________Kenneth B. J. HartmanDirector, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center Bethesda - Chevy Chase - North Bethesda - Potomac - Rockville 4805 Edgemoor Lane
Bethesda, MD 20814
o: 240-777-8206
f: 240-777-8211

Monday, March 21, 2011

Washington Post Article: Write a Letter to the Editor

 Brickyard Farm and the BOE decision made the local pages of the Washington Post this morning.

Now is the time to write letters to the editor on this article, decrying the lack of transparency and public process. Not sure what to write? Some bulleted talking points are here.
( note that they do not accept attachments- they will not be read)

 Letters to the post must be exclusive, in your email, blind copy (bbc)  the following district 15  state representatives, or email them your letter separately:


Sample Letters

What follows are real letters on this issue, stuck on what to write? Just copy and paste. If you would like to share your letter, please send it to

Letter to the Editor, Potomac Almanac

Legacy Of Deceit?
To the Editor:
The combination of violating the Potomac Master Plan and circumventing the public process is a formula for a very bitter battle. It appears that Ike Leggett, our County Executive who ran for office on a platform of greater public transparency, has succumbed to the greatest political pitfall of all in thinking he is above due process and that he knows better than his constituents. He has singlehandedly decided that Montgomery County needs more soccer fields and that Nick Marvell’s 31-yearold organic farm on Brickyard Road has no public benefit. He directed the school board to terminate the organic farm lease and enter into a lease agreement with Montgomery County who is in turn now contemplating a lease agreement with MSI, a private soccer advocacy group whose consultants have been reported be hand-in-hand with Mr. Leggett’s representatives as this whole plan has playedout.
His decision on the Brickyard property is not in keeping with the Potomac Master Plan, yet he has instructed his office staff to tell citizens that it is in keeping with the Master Plan. I know it is not in keeping with the intent nor the letter of the Master Plan because I have personally spoken with writers of the Potomac Master Plan, and what Mr. Leggett is doing is not according to this plan. As Mr. Leggett has announced that he is not running for office again, it is very difficult for me to accept that this is the type of legacy that he wishes to leave in Montgomery County.
The press and several local blogs have attempted to pit soccer lovers against environmentalists on this issue, when this is not the issue at all. Montgomery County has well over 200 soccer fields, and there are many more in Mr. Leggett’s soccer fields expansion plans. Montgomery County only has one Organic Seed Farm and once it has gone it will never be able to exist again due to the presence of genetically modified crops within the broader Agricultural Reserve in Montgomery County.
The issue is that there has been a breach of public trust; a complete circumvention of the public process; a potential loss of a unique characteristic of Montgomery County; and just plain bad planning. The roads leading to the Marvell Farm are not designed, nor capable of handling the traffic that these fields will require to be a successful operation. The immediate neighbors who will be most impacted by this proposal were not notified nor consulted.
The broader community has not been asked whether they think that the existence of a local,
profitable, sustainable and successful business is a public benefit. Soccer lovers and environmentals alike should be outraged by this lack of process.
Mr. Leggett and his representatives have made it pretty clear that they are not going to listen to what people say no matter what is said about necessary processes, procedures, and just plain common sense. We do not live in a monarchy, and Mr. Leggett must follow and be guided by the Potomac Master Plan.
He must not make his legacy in Montgomery County one of lies, subterfuge and deceit.
Barbara Hoover
West Montgomery County Civic Association

From DC Urban Gardeners
Please notice today's article on the loss of Nick Maravell's farm in Potomac MD (front page, metro section).  He has been renting the 20 acres from the school system for 30 years, running an organic farm and serving as one of the region's most stalwart activists and mentors on behalf of organic farming all while.   Now the school system wants the land back to create soccer fields. 

Seriously!!! - Can it be said that Montgomery County has no other land with which to create soccer fields.  At the very least you''d like to think that the County Board of Education would partner with the County Parks Department to add soccer fields to park lands and then partner with Nick Maravell  and the Maryland Assoc for Environmental and Outdoor Education Green Schools Program to create the premier learning opportunity for all Montgomery County students at Nick's farm. 

Such a location would provide opportunities for hands-on learning in ALL academic subjects for students in every grade level.  It would provide internships and work programs for students who best thrive in experiential learning settings - not just in math and science, but also language arts, communications, business development, etc etc.   For example, look at Growing Power  and The Edible Schoolyard at

It is an outrage that The Montgomery County Board of Education is so short-sighted and lacking in focus on the extraordinary opportunity the farm presents for its students.   While it has the opportunity to create one of the best learning opportunities and partnerships in the nation, instead it is  willing to destroy an ecological wonder.  Is this decision-making strategy one of role models for our youth?

This plan should immediately be stopped.

Judy Tiger
former coordinator of youth & community gardens in DC

From A Community Resident
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Dear County Executive Isiah Leggett,

Please help me to understand your stand on environmental issues and county costs.  On one level,  I've heard you say that this recent proposal for the 5 cent charge on plastic grocery bags is not going to be for the revenue, but rather, it's for the environment.  

In your letter dated November 10, 2009, however, you clearly ask Shirley Brandman to consider "the twenty-acre Brickyard Road site is largely vacant and underutilized."  I wonder how you came to the conclusion that it was underutilized when, for the past 31 years, a nationally recognized, organic, non-GMO seed & feed producing farm has been there thriving, and supplying both the farmer's, and other farmer's, local organic livestock farms.  One of the most environmentally sound and friendly ways to utilize a fair-sized parcel of land so close to our Potomac River, and so close to many homes enjoying well water.

What study suggested that it was largely vacant and underutilized?

In the same letter, you also noted that: "There would be no cost to MCPS as as any development costs will not be the responsibility of MCPS."  Respectfully I ask then Sir, who will be paying for the additional traffic lanes, the water & sewage lines to be run?  

Once the proposed fields would be in, and the irreplaceable, nationally recognized organic farm destroyed, what assurance would we have as a neighborhood, as a county, that artificial turf will never be used so it won't run into our water supply (similar to what many believe has happened at the Richard Montgomery artificial turf field where 38,000 tons of crumb rubber was added to make up for what was lost over the winter)?

So, I respectfully ask: "What IS your stand on the environment?"

Thank You for your consideration,

Maria Fusco
10723 Rock Run Dr.
Potomac, MD 20854

From a Community Resident/ Civic Organization
Dear Board of Education Members,
As a civic activist and environmentalist, I am disappointed in the hurried process, the lack of transparency, and the very concept put forth for the 20-acre MCPS site on Potomac’s Brickyard Road.
I question the wisdom of kicking off a nationally-recognized organic farmer while the County is simultaneously expending so much time and effort to energize local/organic agriculture, farmers’ markets, young farmers, environmental stewardship, Chesapeake Bay relief, water-quality protection, etc. The particularities of this site for growing seed free from GMO contamination make it unique within the County to my knowledge. In addition, there appears to be significant disagreement over the need for these proposed ball fields, based on their location and accessibility to the rest of the county. Where was the public in the discussion on these issues?
We are told there would be no artificial turf, no lighting at night. That is helpful. But what about when the next County Executive & Council roll in and get pressured? As we know too well, once a new use is established, the tendency is for growth. What would prevent this predictable course of events?
For the immediate neighbors the core issues are noise, lights, traffic, trash, commotion, loud whistles, etc. My concerns include those impacts but more central still is the need for transparency in the underlying decision to fundamentally change the use of this land and to walk away from a farmer serving his community with fresh, local, healthy produce and seed.
Enthusiasm for all things local and organic is exploding. By way of example a Potomac Village store is selling an organic lettuce mix from Poolesville at $7.99 per 11 oz. clamshell. Say what you will about personal choices, but this product is prominently advertised as local and organic, and it is selling out. More broadly, our seasonal farmers’ markets and local growers are outstripped by the rising demand from families and restaurants for local and/or organic produce.
The time for public input is now. We ask for reasonable notice and hearing, so that your decision will be better informed and therefore better serve the public. At a minimum, this decision should be put off to allow further discussion.

Diana Conway, President

Montgomery Countryside Alliance

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Background Info: Other Blogs, Documents, FAQ, etc.

Other Sites covering this Topic:
1. Many articles on this issue are on Nick Maravell's website
(including written testimonies made on the Tues. mtg @ Board of Education prior to the vote to change lease):  

2. The Parent's Coalition of Montgomery County
3. The West Montgomery County Citizen's Association 
P.O. Box 59335, Potomac, MD 20854
4. Montgomery Countryside Alliance
P.O. Box 120, Boyds, Maryland  20841
Can I watch the BOE proceedings?
Sure, click here (the beginning will have the great  public comments from farm supporters, to see the discussion and vote, click on "consent items" and click "watch now". This only seems to work with Internet Explorer.) To see the memo from School Superintendent Dr. Weast to the BOE that accompanied the agenda that day, click here.
Where are the exiting MSI soccer fields?
All ~185
of them can be found 
right here 
A concerned Potomac resident has figured out that there are 20 existing soccer fields  in the 20854 zip code:
1) Avenel - has multiple fields
2) Bells Mill elementary - 5 fields ?
3) Beverly Farms
4) Buck Branch
5) Bullis - multiple fields
6) Carderock Springs (Bethesda, 20817) - elementary school for RF
7) Cold Spring elementary
8) Falls Road Local Park
9) Heritage Farm Park - Hall
10) Hoover MS
11) Ivymount Seven Locks
12) Heights School
13) St Andrews
14) McLean School of MD 
15) Our Lady of Mercy
16) a new field is being put in at Potomac the Potomac Community Center
17) a new field is slated for (or is being put in at) Glenn Road
18) another field is slated for expansion - can't find the name
19) North Potomac Community Center  20878
20) Churchill High School
What is so bad about Artificial Turf Anyway?  
There are many health and environmental issues (detailed best at associated with artificial fields. Locally we also feel that the many longtime natural turf farming families in the County should be getting that business to benefit the local economy. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

What is this about? What Can I do?

Welcome to Brickyard Rd...

The Montgomery County Board of Education owns 20 acres on Brickyard Rd. in Potomac, Maryland, they have been holding it for future school construction. For the last 31 years it has been leased to Farmer Nick Maravell, Mr. Marvell has been growing certified organic and non-GMO (non- genetically modified) seed crops, critical to organic farmers throughout the region. On March 7, 2001 Mr. Marvell was given 2 weeks notice that his lease with the County would be ending to make way for a lease between the BOE and the County that would turn the farm into soccer fields that had been planned in meetings by the county starting in 2009.

Concerned residents mobilized and spoke up for the farm and for proper public process at the BOE meeting three days later, but the BOE voted 5-2 to end Mr. Marvell's lease, giving him until January 2012 to leave the farm.The soccer fields have been a done deal even before the BOE hearing, giving local residents no chance to weigh in on the land use for this publicly held land.

This blog will be fighting to keep the farm for reasons we will be laying out in depth, however we know some in the community really welcome more soccer fields.

No matter what you want to see happen with the land, everyone can agree that the proper public process and transparency were totally absent here. MoCo residents expect and deserve better.

We can disagree, but lets have the opportunity for a public conversation about land that is publicly owned.
If we don't fight for public process now, this will not be the last time the county leaves the public out of big decisions.

So what can you do?

The BOE has made their decision, but you can write to the County Council and the Executive, along with your state level representatives.
Letters to the editor are also great, the Gazette, Post or any local publication are key to getting the word out about this.
All the contacts are below,  if need help on what to say, read on for some talking points.
We would love to see any email you send out- cc us: 

The County Council:

Contact Executive Leggett:

Ike Leggett 240-777-2500

Contact your State Senators and Delegates:

Press Contacts
Letters to the Editor at the Gazette:
Seek out your local paper's contact info

What should I say?
The best letters are respectful, fact based and personal. Why does this issue matter to you? That is what you should write. Below are a few points to make, categorized by topic: (no time to compose your own? Sample letter here just cut, paste, add your name, hit send)

Lack of Public Process:

-There was a complete lack of transparency and  public process here, meetings on this issue were taking place as early as 2009. One year ago the Planning Department cautioned the County that this issue would be controversial and public input need to be solicited as soon as possible, that never happened.

-Once the Public is allowed to weigh in, the only decisions that will still need to be made are on what lighting, paving and other features the soccer fields should have. There will be no place in the process for the public to say they want the acreage to remain in its current use as a farm.

-This plan may actually cost tax payers money. When the County sub leases the land to MSI who will hire contractors to build the fields, all improvements  to the property will be reimbursed to MSI by the County when the BOE needs the land back for school construction. There is no cap on how much MSI can spend to make reimbursable improvements. Currently Nick’s Organic Farm does not consume much in the way of public services, including ambulance, police, fire, not to mention the mowing, and even fertilizing needed to keep fields up to FIFA standards.



Quality of Life in the Community:

- In the development review process with the County, each soccer field must have 60 parking spaces to accommodate payers and fans. With 4 fields planned for this property, that is 240 parking spaces, but that is just cars parked at any one time. The number of cars moving up and down Brickyard road, (which used to be a designated Rustic Road, the road has not changed, the designation has) could be many times that number in tournament play. 

-The County has been saying that the fields can not have lighting or use artificial turf (about which there are many safety and environmental concerns),  but there is no reason this will not change under a new Council or Executive.

-The community around Brickyard has already weighed in on what they would like to see on this property in the Potomac Master Plan of a few years ago. Residents were interested not in ball fields but either keeping the farm there or having a public park. What good is a master plan if it is not implemented on the ground?


The Value of Keeping this Land in Farming:

 -Mr. Marvell's farm can only be located downcounty, organic and non-gmo certification of seeds can only be done in an area without many gmo crops around, as a result the the rural areas of the County will not work for this farm. It is uniquely sited for success where it is.

-This action represents a breach of trust between farm leasees and the County. Organic farms take between 3-7 to be established. The BOE's decision sends this critical small business out of the County for good.

-This plan is in conflict with the County's stated goal of promoting increased production of sustainable local food. The  next closest non-GMO, organic seed producer is 4 hours away from local farmers.

-How can we promote these leases and grow new farmers if the the leases can be unilaterally terminated?  The lack of collaborative communication means farmers will go elsewhere, taking their healthy local food, environmental and open space, and economic benefits with them. 

Thanks for writing in, it really does make a difference.  Keep checking this blog for updates as this issue continues to develop, we will also be posting all the background info here as well. Stay Tuned...