Farms in Montgomery County?
The largest-attended event in Montgomery County each year is the annual Agricultural Fair. Held at the county fairgrounds in Gaithersburg, hundreds of thousands of people take in the exhibits, monster truck shows and carnival. Yet the name of the fair itself is quite striking: “Agricultural”. Our sister jurisdictions of Arlington and Fairfax don’t have such designations… other than the curious pig race, anything to do with farming and livestock is just a sideshow there. But in Montgomery County, it’s front and center.
Why? Well, this county has made a tremendous effort to hang onto that agricultural legacy. Thousands of acres of prime county land is specifically set aside for such uses: animals, crops and other very non-urban activities can be found all over the county (although most of it Up County). And in a time when land for development is becoming scarce and homeowners are moving farther and farther away from already-developed areas, keeping land set aside for farming is a hot topic… even controversial.
In a county that seeks good high-paying jobs that often involve technology and new media savvyiness, why should we still care about farming?
Well, having grown up in a family of almond growers in California (my grandfather and his sons, including my dad, were all farmers), I can appreciate how agriculture is vital even in areas not known for farming. While at the fair, my eight-year-old daughter and I had to have ‘the conversation’ about where her Quarter Pounder comes from (yeah, a few tears were shed!). And we witnessed an array of young kids and teens parading around their cows, goats and pigs… which they had faithfully raised from birth only to say a tearful goodbye before the animals enter the food chain. And while not all of these young people will have careers in agriculture, hopefully enough will make the sacrifice to lead what can be a very challenging life to make sure food is on our tables.
Yes, we want our young people to become citizens of the world… to understand how media works and their role in enhancing communication and making their own voices heard. Yet when you see the drought in the Midwest and understand how food supplies are impacted, you begin to appreciate the amazingly small number of Americans (and yes, some right here in Montgomery County) to whom we owe our comfortable existences. I’m glad we get at least one time a year to celebrate all they do for us, and we at MCM are proud to help tell their stories.