ABOUT THE BOOK
Landscapes don’t simply happen. Just as the force and flow of ancient glaciers deposited soil and shaped hills, our decisions about property, policy, family, and food also shape the landscape. So much of what we value—a clean environment, local food, a diverse landscape, and a varied economy—comes together in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve. The Reserve is the result of vision and hard work, and is adapting as it moves into a new generation. Beyond seasonal farm visits to pick apples or cut a Christmas tree, the Reserve needs policy and public support. Farming isn’t antique, it is current and vital to our future.
Until the 1940s, Maryland farmers fed their communities, but post-war changes expanded our foodsheds, bringing food grown across the country and the world to our supermarkets. As local land became less competitive for farming, it became more attractive for suburban development. Between 1939 and 2015, Montgomery County lost 71 percent of its farmland.
That loss was slowed in 1980, when citizens, farmers, politicians, and planners came together to create the Reserve, recognizing the value of land set aside for the environment, farming, history, and community. It was a prescient decision that must extend into the future by enacting zoning that prevents farmland fragmentation, passing regulations that allow varied and necessary farm operations, and developing economic systems that offer access to supportive markets.
Driving up I-270, you glimpse fields where the Reserve meets the road, but get off the highway, slow down, and you’ll see its history and beauty. Stand with neighbors cheering as the Thanksgiving Stirrup Cup starts its chase, take the winding drive to Button Farm to hear Tony Cohen’s vivid stories of the Underground Railroad, sit on the hard benches of the Seneca Schoolhouse and imagine a lesson taught around the pot-bellied stove, lift your toddler toward a blue sky to pick a crisp apple at Homestead Farm.
The Reserve’s 93,000 acres have enabled family farms to last through generations, and are now fueling a new generation of farmers who are sometimes finding new farm products and sometimes returning to old ways of farming. At Soleado, Sophia Watkins continues her grandmother’s passion for farming, but rather than cattle she grows rows of fragrant lavender. Likewise, each generation has shaped Waredaca, from a recreation camp to an equestrian center, and now as an artisan brewery. Gregg Glenn and his family strive to create a farm that integrates livestock and produce, while they reach out to a wider community with education and recreation. Most Montgomery County farms are family-run operations, where each family makes its own decisions about the future, working with neighbors on shared concerns about soil quality, markets, and farm operations.
Bread & Beauty, A Year in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve captures a real sense of place. Its recipes have been handed down and developed from the particulars of this place and its people. They are a legacy of family and labor, just as the Reserve is a legacy of stewardship we hand to the future. We hope the book communicates the importance of stewardship and engages readers in the Reserve’s history, value, food, people, and natural beauty and inspires us all to care for our extended community—from friends and family at the table, to the land that sustains the health of our environment and the appreciation of our past. It is a lasting (and hopefully stain-spattered) record of the people, places, and flavors of the Ag Reserve. Net proceeds from the sale of Bread & Beauty benefit Montgomery Countryside Alliance and Manna Food Center.
Montgomery County, Maryland’s 93,000-acre Agricultural Reserve is a nationally recognized model of farmland and open space preservation, and a thriving, bountiful place. Its buildings, landscapes and people tell diverse American stories of independence, agriculture, slavery, technology, and culture.
Not only is the Reserve a regional economic engine, its trails and parks afford respite for people and wildlife while preserving fresh air and clean water. There are equine pursuits, animal rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries, educational and recreational activities. Its farms and producers provide a full table—meat, produce, fruit, dairy, grain, wine, beer and more that is local, healthy and part of a long-standing agricultural tradition.
Writer - Claudia Kousoulas worked as a planner in Montgomery County for more than 20 years. She is also a freelance writer whose work covers architecture, design, cooking, and culinary history. You can see her work at Appetite for Books.
Project Coordinator - Ellen Letourneau is an event planner creating festivals, dinners, photo safaris, fundraisers and other happenings to help non-profits expand their outreach and people to celebrate life. She is also an amateur weaver and bread maker. She can be reached at email@example.com.
George Kousoulas is an architect and photographer at Block 53 who has photographed architecture, still lifes, and people, exploring how light and subject interact. He was one of first to extensively document Miami Beach's Art Deco architecture and presented a fresh take on the capitol city in Washington, D.C., Portrait of a City, a collection of black and white images.
Martin Radigan has spent over a decade seeking out and photographing beautiful places, and this was one of the motivations for him and his family to move to the heart of Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve almost four years ago. Martin enjoys landscape photography, portrait work, and telling stories through environmental portraits. His images have appeared in a range of publications, and been used by organizations dedicated to the appreciation and protection of wilderness spaces and natural resources, such as American Rivers, The Smithsonian, and the National Park Service. Martin is passionate about teaching and leads several photography workshops and tours every year. You can see more of his work at martinradigan.com
Stylist - Emma Kingsley is the art director and co-founder of Lady Farmer, a sustainable apparel company founded in the Agricultural Reserve. She is excited to help share her love for this special landscape through storytelling and imagery.