UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s County Council approved resolutions for the preservation of farmland in Brandywine and approved a minor amendment to allow urban farming in the county’s Gateway Arts District at their meeting on Sept. 24.
Dwayne Catterton, the owner of Bonnie Breeze Farm Inc. in Brandywine, applied in May to permanently preserve the property as part of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation Program (MALPF).
The MALPF, created by the Maryland General Assembly in 1977, became one of the first programs created in the U.S. for agricultural land preservation. The program purchases agricultural preservation easements to restrict development on prime farmland and woodland. According to the MALPF, as of 2016, the program has purchased easements on 2,218 properties totaling 300,916 acres of permanently preserved land.
The resolution was favorably recommended to the county council out of the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee (TIEE) on Sept. 12.
According to the committee, the application was formally introduced to the county council at the end of July but required an extension due to the council’s August recess. It received pervious approval by the Prince George’s County Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board, the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District and the Planning Board in June. It required a public hearing at the county council’s Sept. 24 meeting but no one signed up to speak on it.
“It’s a very nice working farm and I’m very excited to have it and its soils, the reason why it qualifies for Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation is because it has excellent soils so I’m very excited to be able to present this property for preservation,” said Agland Preservation Administrator Jeanine Nutter during the TIEE committee meeting.
The preservation would have no fiscal impact on the county as state agricultural funds will be used for the purchased. The 244-acre farm is currently a working hay farm but the owners plan to add animals to it at a later date.
The county council unanimously approved the resolution during their meeting and it will now go to the MALPF for final approval.
The county council also approved a minor amendment to the 2004 Approved Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment for the Prince George’s County Gateway Arts District which would allow urban farm uses in areas classified as traditional residential neighborhoods.
The minor amendment was recommended to the county council for approval by the Planning Board. According to Planning Board documents, a joint public hearing was held on the matter on April 30 where most of the speakers supported the amendment.
A traditional residential neighborhood for approved urban farming is defined by the Planning Board as containing single-family housing with a pattern of interconnecting narrow streets and shaded sidewalks with easy access to town centers and Metros while protected from encroachment or significant loss of integrity.
An urban farm permits a nonprofit or for-profit organization to “cultivate fruits, vegetables and flowers and permits beekeeping, composting, agricultural education and incidental sales on the property but excludes livestock. A Health Department permit is required if the owner plans to sell their fruits and vegetables.
“The nonprofit organization or for-profit business operating an urban farm shall be a cooperator with the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District and operate under an approved Farm Management Plan,” the Planning Board said. “Accessory structures ordinarily found in association with an urban farm are permitted.”
During the public hearing, representatives from the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council, the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District and several individuals cited the reduction of food deserts, boosting the local economy and providing healthy produce to low-access residents as reasons for their support.
Margaret Morgan-Hubbard, the owner of ECO City Farms, an urban farm located in Edmonston and Bladensburg, said urban farming can improve the food landscape within the county and pointed out that “healthy food for all is a basic human right.
“Local residents know that they breathe cleaner air, experience less stormwater contamination and pooling and have two attractive, biodiverse educational amenities in their neighborhoods thanks to the fact that ECO City Farms grows food in ways that protect the earth and its people literally in their backyards,” Morgan-Hubbard said.
“Urban agriculture is about feeding people and nurturing communities and it’s also about practicing climate-smart agriculture.”