Suburban agriculture (sub-ag) is the name of a project to build up and network local sustainable companies into a complete industry that will provide MoCo residents with food, clothing, shelter and more.
Sub-ag is about producing and promoting products that are made with locally sourced raw material and labor.
Promoting sub-ag includes
-Sponsoring events to introduce the public to sub-ag products, and encouraging the public to incorporate these products into their lives.
-Coordinating these educational activities with other local companies in the region, and with governmental and educational institutions.
Thus, the the goal of sub-ag is to create a co-op of for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, local governments, and citizens working together harmoniously to advance sustainable living.
The co-op connects companies and people through online and real-world activities and by distributing material to people at farmers markets, on the streets, and by going door-to-door.
All of the co-op companies share a goal of providing local residents with local, sustainable products and services.
The collective, long term success of sustainable industry is dependent on creating a public awareness that living more sustainably is achievable.
That is, we feel that the market now for sustainable products is not large enough to support some of the new sustainable companies that are up and coming. Only by promoting the local sustainable industry as a whole can we generate enough interest among the public to support the individual companies.
For example, many young people have a desire to buy local. They may become frustrated by the limited availability of sustainable products. Farmers markets and some super-markets sell locally made food. The co-op seeks to demonstrate that there are stores that sell local, sustainable clothing as well as a number of other companies offering sustainable goods and services.
We show that it is doable to wear sustainably made local clothing, eat organically grown local food, live in a green home, etc.
What makes sub-ag different from urban farming and other suburban farming initiatives around the country?
The answer is the lay of the land in regard to the local economy and geography.
MoCo has a number of distinguishing characteristics.
MoCo is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. The economy is shielded from economic downturns somewhat by the fact that many people have relatively secure federal government jobs, or they work for companies that draw their financial nourishment from the government via contracts. Other companies supply services and goods to these people.
The co-op companies are in the latter category. They have the ability to supply sustainable products to customers who have the means and the desire to live sustainably. Thus, the region is ripe for a group such as this co-op to experiment with different avenues of creating and promoting sustainable companies.
Moreover, the Northern third of the MoCo is farmland that we have access to, called the Agricultural Reserve.
Relatively close-in to the developed areas of MoCo are hundreds of large, underutilized tracts of prime farmland. Through the MoCo government and a MoCo non-profit, we have access to this land to use it for farming. So there are two advantages here: low cost access to fertile farmland, and easy close-in access to customers.
This Ag Reserve land is in addition to the yards of homes that we will be farming and gardening with the permission of the owners.
And finally, we have a unique approach to farming. Rather than asking workers to spend ten-hour days working the land for ten months a year, we have a shared work approach that encourages farm workers to take advanced courses in other fields.
B. Willow re-aligns indoor dwellers with the world outside through small and large-scale interior plant design for homes, businesses, offices, & any indoor space. B. Willow is a Baltimore company considering expanding to this area.
Here is the link to BWillow.com
Would you be ready to take your life savings and/or put yourself in debt to preserve a local parcel of land from sub-development? A group of friends did just that not far from Westfield Mall. They are turning the land into gardens, a forest refuge, and an artists colony. Their stated goal is to expand beyond their borders to surrounding residential homes, encouraging neighbors to garden more.
Takoma Park Co-op
The Takoma Park Co-op supports the local food industry. The co-op is also taking the lead in organizing all Maryland co-ops into an alliance. The website has a list of the many local food producers who sell their products through the co-op.
Here is a link to TPSS.coop.
Here is a link to an article about the origin of the TPSS Co-op.
Lady Farmer is located in the MoCo Ag Reserve. Here is a quote from the Lady Farmer website: “Join our community. We’re a sustainable apparel company, but we’re about more than clothes. We’re a farm-to-closet revolution for the do-ers, the dreamers, the mothers, the daughters, the farmers and the seekers.”
Here is a link to Lady-Farmer.com
“Paca Summit is an ecologically-friendly company. Paca Summit designs and produces organic hand-knit headwear and specialty outerwear. Our clothing has a fashion-forward flair. We practice a holistic environmental approach to apparel manufacturing through: 1) meticulous planning; 2) sensitivity to natural resource consumption; 3) exercising responsible treatment of animals. All our products are made in the United States.” Paca Summit’s founder grew up in Montgomery County and his company is located here.
ecobeco is a house remodeling company. Tag line quote from the ecobeco homepage: “Creating comfortable, beautiful, energy efficient homes….”. And from the About page: “Your quality of life is our business. We believe that all homeowners should live in comfortable, efficient, healthy homes. ecobeco is your trusted partner for whole home design that impacts you and your family, your community, and the environment in positive ways.” The ecobeco blog can be a portal to learn about other local companies.
Here is a link to the ecobeco blog post promoting Amicus Green Building Center.
Here is the link to the ecobeco.com homepage
Softwine Market trains people to work in local sustainable industry. Here is the link to Softwine Market homepage.