Organic Farmland on Brickyard Road Could Become Soccer Fields

Pending a Board of Education vote on Tuesday, the 20-acre farm on Brickyard could become soccer fields once the county owns it.

Organic farmland on Brickyard Road could become a soccer field, if the Board of Education votes on Tuesday to approve the request submitted by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

Nick Maravell, who has done organic farming on the 20-acre lot behind his house on Brickyard Road for 31 years, said he feels as if the community has not been given the opportunity to express concerns and opinions about the plans for the site.

“What is the perception here is that the policy process is being shortened and valid points of view are not able to be provided before a decision is made,” Maravell said.

Montgomery County Public Schools currently owns the property and, if the Board of Education approves the proposal, they would grant a ten-year land lease to Montgomery County, said county spokesperson Patrick Lacefield. The county would then put out requests for public-private partnerships, which would allow private athletic organizations or community groups to help design, construct and maintain the fields, Lacefield added.

The fields, although owned by the county, would be funded through the private partner, Lacefield said.

The addition of a soccer field is part of Leggett’s push to increase the number of soccer fields in the downcounty — an area with a high population of soccer players, Lacefield said.

In fact, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission outlined some of the county’s field needs in the future and recommended a maximum of 123 additional fields — most of them multi-use rectangular fields — should be created by 2020 to accommodate for sporting needs. 

“The County Executive is concerned that there are not enough fields in the area, especially for soccer,” Lacefield said. “There is a high proportion in Bethesda and Potomac and there are not enough fields to accommodate them."

The land was originally designated for a school, but according to the Potomac Master Plan, the land could be used for recreational use if not for a school. Lacefield said he has received complaints about the lack of public hearings, but the county can't hold hearings until they own the property.

Montgomery County Facilities Management called Maravell on March 3 and told him when his five-year lease on the land ended on March 22, he could not renew is lease. Although the lease was set to expire, no warning had been given indicating it would not be renewed, Maravell said.

Maravell — a certified organic farmer — raises seed stock on the land and produces corn and soybean seeds. These seeds are then sold to other companies or farmers to grow organic products. 

Also, Maravell uses some of the seeds for his own organic farmland in Frederick County—property that cannot harbor the seed operation as well. The seed stock crops can’t move easily as the soil takes years to meet the organic standards, he said.

“I run a diversified operation so that the different parts compliment eachother,” Maravell said. “I’m raising organic seed so I can plant my own organic seed, but I raise enough so that I can sell some so that I get reimbursed for it, so this will take away the diversity and one of the legs of the table that supports my operation.”

County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac sent a letter to Board of Education President Christopher Barclay on March 4, recommending that the Board of Education postpone Tuesday’s vote until the community can offer input.

“Our county rightfully prides itself on both process and transparency. In this matter, our county has not adequately met either of those expectations,” Berliner said in the letter.

Although Maravell and community leaders did not know about future plans for the site until last week, meeting minutes from a Nov. 16 MSI Soccer Board of Directors meeting alluded to a future public-private partnership to develop new soccer fields at Brickyard pending the county’s release of a request for proposal.

MSI Soccer Directors were not available to comment by the time the story was published.

There will be a public comment period before the Board of Education at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and Maravell said he plans to prepare a two-minute statement. The Board of Education will vote on  the Brickyard site along with several other agenda items at 2 p.m.

ande March 07, 2011 at 10:01 PM
.We should be supportive of local, organic farming. This is an investment in the environment of our children and our planet. .Is Mr. Maravell's livelihood being jeaprodised with short notice to discontinue farming here in an already stressed economy? .Shouldn't we encourage production and farming or should we just continue to depend on imports?
Charles Boehne March 07, 2011 at 10:31 PM
Chuck says - Mr. Maravell should be permitted to continue his organic farm. Our County has been supporting farming within our county and has recognized this support by establishing the Agriculture Reserve within the county to encourage farmers to continure agriculture production in an effort to limit housing developments that greatly reduce farming acreage in our county.
MCPS Cluster Coordinator March 08, 2011 at 01:19 AM
A school. MCPS always says there is not enough land for schools, kids are in portables across the county, but this site is not needed? Really. Then trade it for a larger piece of land in a better locale.
Peggy Dennis March 08, 2011 at 02:08 AM
Leave this land as organic farm land. Mr. Maravel has spent years nurturing and building the soil so it will qualify as "organic", something we have precious little of in Montgomery County. To have to start all over again somewhere else would cost years of building all over again. Turning 20 acres into a" mini-Soccer-Plex" - with the attendant parking lots would be hugely disruptive to this quiet neighborhood. Brickyard Road is already a major commuter road. Having more traffic on it would be horrible! Not to mention the noise of non-stop games from multiple playing fields. Peggy Dennis
Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. March 09, 2011 at 03:39 PM
Leave the farm. Instead of taking the land for a soccer field, provide Mr. Maravel with a grant that would allow his farm to be used for young people to learn about organic farming. This would be a recreational and educational opportunity that would preserve the neighborhood's tranquility. There are loads of soccer fields, but how many places like Nick's Organic Farm? Henry S. Cole, Ph.D.
Beth Borzone March 11, 2011 at 02:23 AM
During a time when the issue of climate change is of utmost concern and organic foods have been shown to increase the health and even brain function of adolescents, I question whether ripping up an organic farm to create a soccer field is the message we should be sending our students. It seems very short sighted to me. Perhaps the organic farm can be used to expand the Farm to School Program which has been very successful in educating young people about farming and food production in Maryland. http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/foodserv/special/farm.shtm
Beth Borzone March 11, 2011 at 02:39 AM
Here's a clip about a school in Wisconsin that saw dramatic improvements in behavior and learning when they stopped serving processed foods in their cafeteria. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CFHaLGChEc&feature=related
Maggie March 24, 2011 at 10:47 PM
I guess I must be the only person here who isn't a member of the Communist party, but who's property are we talking about here? The answer is the TAXPAYERS. And yet, it's being leased to a private individual at a ridiculously low rent compared to its market value. I have nothing against organic farming or organic foods. Eat them all the time. Pay a premium for them at Whole Foods. But that's not what I want my tax dollars going to support. Recreational uses or a school are appropriate public expenditures. Giving a private individual 20 acres in Potomac for next to nothing for an organic farm..... If Mr. Maravel wants to pay market rate, I suspect he'd have to add at least two zeros to his annual rent check. And if all of you that prefer a private organic farm enterprise to a public recreation facility want to put your money where your mouth is, then pay up.
Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. March 24, 2011 at 11:17 PM
Dear Maggie, Why not simply advocate for the land use that you prefer rather than denigrating the previous commenters and especially Mr. Maravell who has put his heart, soul and money into his passion for wholesome, fresh, locally grown food. Also, why is this an either /or? (1) perhaps Mr. Maravell would be willing to allow some recreational and educational farm gardening on the property and (2) there are surely other places for a soccer field where the neighbors show greater support for this kind of land use. Thanks for the read. Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. Publisher Ekos-Squared: http://ecosquared.wordpress.com/
Maggie March 25, 2011 at 01:05 PM
Dear Dr. Cole, You miss my point. Your suggestion that I advocate for a land use that I prefer is tantamount to running a popularity contest for taxpayer owned property. As I said, I have absolutely nothing against Mr. Maravell or organic farming. I just believe it is a private enterprise that belongs on private property. Or, if the County deems the Brickyard property "excess" it should be sold or leased at fair market value based upon the underlying zoning ($5-10+ million?). While everyone is entitled to have their own opinion of what they would like to see the property used for, they need to be disavowed of the notion that they can misappropriate taxpayer assets and funds for such purpose. The public use of a school or recreational facility is the only appropriate use of taxpayer funds and assets. Would you be advocating that the County go out and purchase or condemn property elsewhere in the County area to hand for nominal rent to organic famers there? Or setting aside part of Seneca Lake for a private catfish farm? Again, easy answer - for all those that favor an organic farm, grab your checkbooks and support Mr. Maravell in an open RFP bidding process. I might even contribute myself.
Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. March 25, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Dear Maggie, You are clearly a person with passionate beliefs, which I respect. However, I would suggest that you seek bigger targets. Hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies (your money and mine) are going to Big Energy and Big Agribusiness. Maravell's wonderful farm is not even a micro-drop in the bucket compared to the subsidies paid to corporate farms. Unlike these giants, Maravell has been a stellar steward of the land and model for ex-urban agriculture that we will need in the future. To see an example of the ability of mega-corporations to keep their subsidies see: http://ecosquared.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/senate-votes-to-continue-big-oils-35-billion-in-subsidies-so-much-for-deficit-reduction/ Henry S. Cole, Ph.D., Publisher Ekos-Squared Blog
Claudia Raskin April 05, 2011 at 01:56 AM
Hi Maggie, The point is land is being held in trust for the people of Mont County to be used for school construction. Soccer fields are not school construction. These soccer fields will be built and operated by a private non-profit athletic organization. Use and access to the fields will be under their control, and they will charge a user fee. The private athletic organization will finance the construction of the fields. And the County is considering if it will offer to reimburse them at the end of the ten year lease for capital costs. In addition, the County has said that they might not have to pay rent on the fields. So, the taxpayer could end up paying for the private development of these fields while the private organization charges user fees, all while likely paying no rent. Something is wrong with this picture... The Montgomery Countryside Alliance and other environmental, agricultural and food organizations signed a letter urging Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett to instead form a County Food and Agriculture Policy Council, with Nick’s Organic Farm in Potomac as an anchor for agricultural education. The Montgomery County Department of General Services is hosting a meeting tonight to discuss this option. Claudia Raskin
Stephanie Simpson April 06, 2011 at 02:36 PM
As one 13 yr old put it, having a soceer field is a WANT but having safe food to eat is a NECCESSITY...Seems like the school board needs to be educated on the difference between those two. and get their priorities straight..Half the time kids dont even know where their food comes from...Working on an organic farm would give kids the same benefit of physical exercise as soccer PLUS it would be educational and an investment in the future.....Building parking lots for the soccer field would create more impervious material over the land, which would again wreck havoc on sustaining the area for organic, safe farming and elimnating crucial birds, insects and plants that are neccessary to sustain an organic farm.....Has anyone even thought about this???...If we dont have safe food to eat locally, no one is going to be playing soceer!.....Lets get our priorities straight and really think about this....As a master gardener intern, Im disgusted by these turn of events, without any fair democratic participation or due process from the residents in the area.... School officials just skip over the process hoping people who disagree with them will just go away, without any accountability for themselves.....Wrong ,wrong, wrong. Stephanie Simpson
Paul April 06, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Mr. Maravell has had the use of the property for the duration of his lease at a bargain price. He should be content with what he has had. The property should now return to the taxpayers of Montgomery County. Adding soccer fields on the property until it is needed as a public school would be an excellent use of public resources. The entire population of Montgomery county will benefit from the soccer fields. If you have children, they will benefit from additional opportunities for exercise and if you do not have children then you will benefit from the increased number of children that will be involved in sports instead of hanging out with nothing to do other than to cause trouble. Any activities that we can provide, at minimal expense, to the children within the county benefit everyone.
Bernie April 07, 2011 at 02:54 PM
So, growing organic seeds in densely populated area is a NECESSITY? C'mon. What's best for the most? We have literally thousands of MontCo kids playing on substandard fields, when they can even get a field at all. (Many teams are paying the SoccerPlex $300 per game.) And you've got a nationwide epidemic of obesity, and a generation of kids plopped in front of the TV and the computer. Sorry folks, this is a no brainer. But I won't be surprised if someone miraculously discovers that this farm is the last remaining habitat of the gnarly-headed titmouse, or somesuch, so the project can be delayed for 5 years.


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