Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"The Churning Point"

Today's Washington Post Food Section had an article by Jane Black entitled "The Churning Point." Ms. Black writes:

"Bobby Prigel seems like a poster child for the local-food movement. A fourth-generation dairy farmer, he wants to build a creamery to make organic butter, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. He wants to sell those products to consumers in nearby Baltimore instead of shipping his milk out of state. He wants to make enough money to pass on the farm to a fifth generation."

This article describes the problems faced by a Maryland dairy producer as he tries to establish a new niche marketing alternative for products from his newly-certified organic dairy farm. This farm is just outside of Baltimore and is surrounded by 'city and suburban-types' who bought land and were a part of the 'white-flight' out of Baltimore. The Prigel's are surrounded by neighbors with influence upon governing systems, and they are organized in the Long Green Valley Conservancy. It pits neighbor against neighbor.

The local county Board of Appeals has yet to rule on the zoning request. The Baltimore Sun has an article on the issue also, and that article was in a recent ChickenFlicker blog post.

Most of the legal argument revolves around whether churning butter, pasteurizing/homogenizing milk and making ice cream or yogurt is an agricultural enterprise. The Prigel family sold their farm's development rights to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation over a decade ago, so the farm can't be developed. Agricultural enterprises are allowed, however, and as the phrase goes 'therein lies the rub.'

Many people across the US and around the world will face similar issues as urbanization increases. It's just that we're facing them sooner in the urban Mid-Atlantic region. If you're ever faced with giving advice to a farmer, a good resource is New Jersey's "Farmer-to-Farmer Advice for Avoiding Conflicts With Neighbors and Towns."

In the interest of full disclosure, I've known the Prigel family for decades, and have enjoyed meals in the family home. I have not, however, been an adviser to the family on this current project, nor have I visited Bellevale Farm for some years.

Hope that helps


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