Notes from March 25 Meeting: Our Farming Community and Local Food Supply – What Now?

In Conference

Caroline Taylor

Executive Director, Montgomery Countryside Alliance (

Survey of community members.

  • Concerns for nutritional people in the region
  • Safety of farmers and farm workers
    • Pick-your-own farms… what to do
  • Care for animals
  • Finance for farmers. 80% rely on off-farm income
  • Marketing : way to aggregate
  • Cash flow
  • Difficulty of face-to-face interaction
  • Labor
  • Food chain, food safety
  • Supplies for the farm, could be interrupted

Mike Houston

General Manager, TPSS Co-op (

Decided to close the store and move to online-only model

  • All jobs change
  • Space inadequate for worker and public safety as we go into time of further covid19 spread
  • No supply chain issues, caveat the panic buying, which strained system to breaking point.. UNFI warehouse indicated they had truck shortage. Have now recovered. Small producers picked up the slack
  • Q: Anticipate long term farm to store supply chain problems?
    • A: Hard to know. Local/regional hubs didn’t miss a beat (vs national). Folks can support local and regional providers
  •  Q: How can we help elderly/sick/vulnerable?
    • A: Neighbors watching out for neighbors.  Limit the number of people leaving their house. Co-op will enable community buying, e.g. shop on behalf of neighbors.

Lee Langstaff


Shepherd’s Hey Farm

  • Mostly wool and lamb
  • “If I get sick, how will my animals be taken care of?”
  • “Will I be able to get feed?” — so far, yes. Many farmers are fairly isolated.
  • . thinking about a network of people who can do the work (MD sheep breeders)
  • . writing down procedures
  • Dealing with some desperation of people driving up to the farm, asking to buy a chicken or lamb
  • Social media is a plus, getting positive feedback that folks like to see the farm is operating (normally)
  • Jun-July-September butchering dates are questionable.  Asking customers for commitments in order to reallocate product to other buyers
  • Agricultural Fairs season will be underway before long – and presumably be cancelled. This will certainly affect 4-H activities and livestock sales that take place at those Fairs.  Is there anyone looking into how to provide alternative/virtual versions of these for this community? State Level? MD Sheep & Wool Festival (early May) already cancelled and a big loss for sheep & wool producers in the region
  • Concern about uninvited visitors arriving and asking to buy livestock that is not for sale.

Nick Maravel

Organic Farm and seed supplier

Nick’s Organic Farm

  • Labor is a major concern; how can be certain that it is reliable and keeps other workers and products safe from infection.
  • Has reserve supplies for the season (6-8 mos)
  • Produce own seeds (feed) and have reserves; supplies feed to other farmers
  • Losing sales to restaurants
  • Social distance means self-service
  • Unannounced visitors; will start to lock refrigerators, freezers and buildings.
  • Some concerns about ag suppliers, off-farm processors (beef), other issues
  • Opportunity? Expanded use of CSAs as drop-off points. Some form of health and food safety protocols would be needed

Gene Kingsbury

Fruit grower, Kingsbury’s Orchard (in the Ag Reserve) (

  • Very little flexibility in what he grows (trees planted 5 years ago)
  • Disruptions in supply chain for essential fungicides and pesticides (from Winchester VA suppliers). Has been advance ordering.
  • If they were to be under quarantine, would be difficult for all farmers who relied on the suppliers
  • Containers (boxes) are potential issue (would start in June)
  • Tree supply – is ordering earlier
  • 75% of biz is at farmers mkts
  • 25-30% at local stores. Will the big stores be able to accept direct deliveries? Sometimes haven’t done so
  •  Visitors; can often get over 250/day.  Safety
    • Labor for farm-market uses high school/college students, may be unavailable due to safety concerns

Lorig Charkoudian

MD Delegate

District 20

  • Good news: at end of legislative session, passed legislation enables institutional purchasing directly from MD farmers; grant-funding for aggregation systems.  Importance of the food chain
  • Mentioned financing opportunities: grants and loans
    • $10k quick grant for farms and non-profits
    • $50k loans for, e.g. trucks, converting to online
  • Offered to brainstorm, help navigate and act as liaison with state agencies. Contact her for help w/options.
  • Need to hear from commodity crop farmers if they can make the shift before seeking incentives for them to shift to table crops. If yes, she is happy to help.

Heather Bruskin

Executive Director, Montgomery County Food Council (

  • Food does not look like a vector for spreading Corona (just wash well like everything else)
  • No national supply concerns
  • Additional thoughts: existing labor visas being processed; but concerns about quarantining responsibilities and health monitoring
  • Shift to on-line purchasing/supply will be be big shift
    • What resources available for transitioning to online purchasing platforms?
    • See Food Council website for list of local retailers
  • Grocery stores opening earlier to accommodate seniors and others
  • Farmer markets deemed “essential” offer double SNAP dollars.  How will the shift to online affect these consumers?
  • CSA enrollments are up (see list on website)
  • Working on getting food to hospitals
  • Also on food security for low-income people
  • MCPS buildings being used as emergency food sites (85,000 meals last week)
  • MCPS using school buses to provide food
  • Working with MCPS to try to figure out how to involve volunteers
  • Seniors in senior centers receiving delivered food; grocery store shuttles halted
  • Volunteer center channeling volunteers into work
  • Nonprofits need funding b/c spring fundraising activities have been curtailed
  • Have list of providers on their website
  • Overwhelmed by dedication/passion to feeding everyone in the community!
  • Food Security call Mondays 1-2:30 pm
  • Spring fundraisers canceled; need donations. Amazon wish list.

Jackie DeCarlo

CEO, MANNA Food Center (

  • Small business, worried about staff, do no harm to customers and other participants
  • Trying to maintain all 18 distribution sites
  • Do drop-offs to low-income housing, vulnerable clients
    • Converting at-school distribution to drop-off
    • Expects 3k bags to grow to 10k
  • Trying to make sure that no one is left behind. Working with MCPS to get bags distributed on the weekends.
  • Offering local produce in distribution sites
  • Creating mechanisms for delivery; community food rescue
  • Their parking lot. Could use as pop-up market or CSA distribution site

Dale Tibbits

Special Assistant, Office of the County Executive (

  • Suggestions for farmers mkts, should be lot of signage about distance, washing foods, don’t attend if sick, limited entry, discouraging people from touching produce they’re not going to buy, mandatory handwashing on the way in
  • Formal guidance in the works
  • Mocoeats has list of restaurants doing curb-side distribution
  • Despite uncertain county budget programs continue
  • Office of Ag services still in operation
  • Food aggregation hub and software/platforms for producer planning in MoCo is objective of the county and County Exec. Elrich. County is very supportive of our ag community and services office is available to help.

Jeremy Criss

Director Agricultural Services, Montgomery County Office of Agriculture

  •  Issue of seasonal farm workers. Some held up at border, but returning workers apparently were allowed in. Some have arrived. Some arriving soon.  (H2A workers)
  • Table food production needs dependable labor. Seasonal farmworkers program has been very helpful.
  • Need to consider incentives to increase percentage of local food production
  • Looking at Chesapeake Farm-to-Table out of Baltimore County ’program as example for MoCo
  • Governor has identified all food production as essential.

Q&A Period

  • Philip asking about next steps
  • Caroline: maybe follow-up as distillation of challenges and possible solutions
  • Philip: we will produce report on this and distribute

Nick Maravel (also grows commodities)

  • All soybeans and up to half of their corn is food grade, so could be mixed into local food supply. Concern about food packaging as vector – plastic and cardboard

Carol Allen, Agent Associate in Food Safety, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UMD

  • UMD has lots of info about minimizing spread of virus at farmers markets; virus stability on various surfaces.
  • Existing cleaning/sanitation standards are good enough. Farmers don’t need to institute extra measures
  • Half life of virus in open environment is less than 2 hours
  •   on extension and food safety

Jill (Chocolatiers Palace fudge company).

  • Webpages should say that many farms are not walk-in but some accept visitors.
  • And add food safety information/reassurance

Additional resources from chat:

From Kristina Bostick to Everyone:  09:09 AM

Montgomery Countryside Alliance links: Land Link: and our CSA list:

From jackie to Everyone:  09:10 AM

Details of Manna’s response is


Montgomery County Virtual CSA Fair:

From Philip Bogdonoff to Everyone:  09:14 AM

From Lindsay Smith to Everyone:  09:24 AM

A new resource of potential interest to farmers and technical assistance providers is the CSA-Innovation Network. MWCOG and Future Harvest are members in this region. Still pretty new.


Online platforms and ordering is something that many farmers and TA providers are looking at right now across the country and the region. We are happy to share what we’re seeing if helpful. I would lift up Heather’s comments earlier about ensuring access for low-income people, including SNAP users. My understanding is that there is not a lot of ability to do online SNAP transactions at this time. Thank you for hosting the call. I look forward to the notes. Lindsay Smith, MWCOG


Questions from chat:

From saraservin to Everyone:  09:24 AM

Is Takoma Park lifting or willing to lift the plastic bag ban so that farmers can pre-package more goods at farmers markets?

From Maura Elford Collinge to Everyone:  09:24 AM

Would there be any incentive for food-delivery services (like Hungry Harvest, 4P Foods, etc.) to work with farmers who can’t currently sell produce (or meat/dairy) at farmers’ markets, in order to give them access to a consumer market via delivery? Have those kinds of companies been in conversation with farmers’


Stored in CACS shared Google Drive (mp3 file, 55MB)


Stored at Zoom Cloud

Additional Links

Food Council’s website with food system resources:
Visit Montgomery’s MoCo Eats Restaurant Guide:
Ways to support MoCo Made Food and Beverage Businesses:

Updated tracking document on Montgomery County Food Assistance Provider Sites and Resource Needs:

April 6, COVID-19 Food Security Call