Project Suburb is for people who want to live a homestead lifestyle in the suburbs of Washington DC.
DC suburbs were designed to be extensions of the city. One of the first, Takoma Park where I grew up, was built by B. F. Gilbert and intended to be “a fashionable suburb for Washington bureaucrats and a sylvan resort community where Washington’s wealthiest families could escape the unhealthy summer air in the capital.”
We expand on that definition and also redefine the suburb as a place where one can live independent of the city while still having the advantage of being near a city and all it has go offer.
Let’s think about it. In a true homestead, a person, or a group of people, live on a piece of land in a rural setting, and basically live off the land. They might have a large garden, some farm animals, and a well. They might spin their own thread, make some of their own clothes, and heat their home using wood or in some other sustainable manner. Their goal might be to live off-grid. And in many cases they rely on cooperation with other nearby homesteaders for things like roads, for extra support when needed, and for barter and trade of the products of their labor.
Can all this be done in a suburb? The answer is “yes” if we make the group of people living together on a piece of land those of us throughout MoCo who can coordinate with each other in building a distributed homestead.
The first step in that direction, perhaps, is to survey companies that are already producing goods and services.
Here is a list of local companies selling sustainable goods and services. Help us add to this list until we have a complete local industry that will to provide MoCo residents with food, clothing, shelter and more.
We also include in the list non-profit organizations, academic institutions, local governments, and citizens who working together harmoniously to advance sustainable living.
We are actively promoting companies through online and real-world activities such as distributing material to people at farmers markets, on the streets, and by going door-to-door.
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 Suburb 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.
Sustainable 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.
Moreover, the northern third of MoCo is farmland that we have access to, called the Agricultural Reserve.
In the Ag Reserve are hundreds of 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
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 website
The Charles Koiner Center for Urban Farming
Link to website
Quotes from website:
“The mission of CKC Farming is to manage and preserve urban farms that inspire the next generation of sustainable food innovators through hands-on, farm-based education.”
“CKC Farming is a small local land trust, dedicated to protecting urban land for the purpose of agriculture and education. CKC Farming was founded in 2018 specifically for the purpose of protecting Koiner Farm (currently the only urban farm in Montgomery County, MD). While Koiner Farm is and always will be our flagship farm, we envision a network of urban farms throughout Montgomery County protected from development and accessible to the public, so that generations to come can connect with food and farms.”