One Big Fight to Save One Small Organic Farm

~ Via Change.org ~

More than 20,000 people have joined a popular campaign on Change.org urging officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, to save a 31-year-old organic farm instead of destroying it to build private soccer fields.

Farmer Nick Maravell, Montgomery County residents, and the Montgomery Countryside Alliance, an agriculture conservation non-profit, are leading the campaign on Change.org to save Nick’s Organic Farm, the county’s only organic seed farm. The online campaign asks the Montgomery County Board of Education and County Executive Ike Leggett to conserve the farm and turn it into an education center rather than letting a private athletic organization turn the farm into private soccer fields.

“We are proposing to Montgomery County that Nick’s Organic Farm become a learning center for school children to get a first-hand experience of a working farm that is ecologically sensitive,” said Nick Maravell, the organic farmer who has run Nick’s Organic Farm for the past 31 years and helped launch the online campaign on Change.org . “Where will our next generation of farmers come from? I say they will come from the cities. We need to start developing urban agriculture experiences so that young people can appreciate the value of food production and perhaps pursue it in the future. Our farm would like to play a role in that process.”

“Our brightest future lies in the health of our food system,” said Caroline Taylor, Executive Director at Montgomery Countryside Alliance.  “If we nurture our children through hands-on learning about where good food comes from and how it is best grown, we will cultivate our food, our health and our local economy. Montgomery County would do well to lead in this endeavor.”

Maravell has leased his farmland from the Board of Education for the past 31 years. In March, the Board told Maravell they had rescinded his permit and would be transferring it to the County so that an athletic organization could build private soccer fields. After community members protested, the Board postponed the transfer, allowing the farm to remain on the land for the remainder of the year. Unless the Board or County Executive reverse the decision, Maravell will be forced to vacate his farm in January 2012.

“The campaign to save Nick’s Organic Farm has been started and led entirely by Montgomery County residents,” said Sarah Parsons, Senior Organizer at Change.org, the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change. In fact, a number of residents have expressed their concerns about the issue in letters to the Montgomery County Board of Education and in letters to editors of local publications.

Growing Legacy . . . on Metro’s Edge HD version from Mark Leisher Productions on Vimeo.

“The decision to use this land, farmed organically for 30 years (as far as I know, unparalleled in the DC area and a major achievement), for sports fields is a short-sighted one that will detract from the community,” said Meredith McKittrick, a professor of agriculture and sustainable farming at Georgetown University in a letter to the members of the Board of Education. As a self-proclaimed soccer mom of school-aged children, McKittrick understands the value of sports fields, but contends there are more appropriate places for them when they are needed.  “I would wager that in its soil fertility, biodiversity, and overall ecological health, this land is now unlike any other single parcel of land within a 50-mile radius of (Washington) DC.  It will be murdered within two years of its conversion to sports fields – three decades of irreplaceable work undone in a moment.”

While this case is about one small organic farm nestled between major urban areas, it represents the nationwide concern about preserving sustainable agriculture.  Change.org has publicized it nationwide, and the response is evidence that preserving such organic farms is important to people everywhere.

“Change.org is about empowering anyone, anywhere to demand action on issues that matter to them. It’s been incredible to see how many people have joined this group’s campaign to conserve organic farmland and create a sustainable food education center.”

Supporters of Nick’s Organic Farm are planning a call-in day to County Executive Ike Leggett on November 16 and will deliver signatures from the online petition campaign on

Click HERE to view live signatures of the petition

to save Nick’s Organic Farm.

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