Bread & Beauty, A Year in Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve
Landscapes don’t simply happen. Just as the force and flow of ancient glaciers deposited soil and shaped hills, our decisions about property, policy, family, and food also shape the landscape. So much of what we value—a clean environment, local food, a diverse landscape, and a varied economy—comes together in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve. The Reserve is the result of vision and hard work, and is adapting as it moves into a new generation. Beyond seasonal farm visits to pick apples or cut a Christmas tree, the Reserve needs policy and public support. Farming isn’t antique, it is current and vital to our future.
Until the 1940s, Maryland farmers fed their communities, but post-war changes expanded our foodsheds, bringing food grown across the country and the world to our supermarkets. As local land became less competitive for farming, it became more attractive for suburban development. Between 1939 and 2015, Montgomery County lost 71 percent of its farmland.
That loss was slowed in 1980, when citizens, farmers, politicians, and planners came together to create the Reserve, recognizing the value of land set aside for the environment, farming, history, and community. It was a prescient decision that must extend into the future by enacting zoning that prevents farmland fragmentation, passing regulations that allow varied and necessary farm operations, and developing economic systems that offer access to supportive markets.
Driving up I-270, you glimpse fields where the Reserve meets the road, but get off the highway, slow down, and you’ll see its history and beauty. Stand with neighbors cheering as the Thanksgiving Stirrup Cup starts its chase, take the winding drive to Button Farm to hear Tony Cohen’s vivid stories of the Underground Railroad, sit on the hard benches of the Seneca Schoolhouse and imagine a lesson taught around the pot-bellied stove, lift your toddler toward a blue sky to pick a crisp apple at Homestead Farm.
The Reserve’s 93,000 acres have enabled family farms to last through generations, and are now fueling a new generation of farmers who are sometimes finding new farm products and sometimes returning to old ways of farming. At Soleado, Sophia Watkins continues her grandmother’s passion for farming, but rather than cattle she grows rows of fragrant lavender. Likewise, each generation has shaped Waredaca, from a recreation camp to an equestrian center, and now as an artisan brewery. Gregg Glenn and his family strive to create a farm that integrates livestock and produce, while they reach out to a wider community with education and recreation. Most Montgomery County farms are family-run operations, where each family makes its own decisions about the future, working with neighbors on shared concerns about soil quality, markets, and farm operations.
Bread & Beauty, A Year in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve captures a real sense of place. Its recipes have been handed down and developed from the particulars of this place and its people. They are a legacy of family and labor, just as the Reserve is a legacy of stewardship we hand to the future. We hope the book communicates the importance of stewardship and engages readers in the Reserve’s history, value, food, people, and natural beauty and inspires us all to care for our extended community—from friends and family at the table, to the land that sustains the health of our environment and the appreciation of our past. It is a lasting (and hopefully stain-spattered) record of the people, places, and flavors of the Ag Reserve. Net proceeds from the sale of Bread & Beautybenefit Montgomery Countryside Alliance and Manna Food Center.
HARDBACK, 9.5” X 9.5”, 320 PAGES, FULL COLOR PHOTOGRAPHS, ESSAYS AND 120 RECIPES