PLENTY SUMMER 2020 | Page 28

fers resources and support to local farms and food and beverage producers, while seeking to increase the visibility and awareness of the diverse products made and grown here in Montgomery County. Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit Montgomery County in March, businesses have been meeting virtually on a monthly basis during the Food Council’s Food Economy Working Group meetings, sharing best practices, challenges, and collaboration opportunities. The inventive strategies that these businesses have introduced have become fundamental to their livelihood. The Denizens Brewing Co.’s “BeerMobile” has been making beer and food deliveries throughout Montgomery County since March, while the Brookeville Beer Farm’s curbside pickup option has drawn residents out to the Agricultural Reserve for delicious brick oven pizza, beer, and a picturesque drive. Packaged food producers like Cinnamon Tree Organics and Caulfield Provisions Company, who typically rely on farmers markets, expos, or events for a significant percentage of their sales, offered discounts and reduced shipping costs when the outbreak began to encourage customers to shop online. Henry’s Sweet Retreat, a Bethesda-based candy store and dessert bar, began offering cookie decorating kits to keep up with the increase in at-home cooking. A Time to Shine for Local Farms During these unprecedented times, businesses continue working collectively, and residents continue showing their support, to ensure that the MoCo Made movement stays alive amidst the chaos. In early April, One Acre Farm began inviting local farms and food businesses to contribute products to their newly introduced “MoCo Made CSA Boxes,” which include an assortment of local, seasonal fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy products and locally produced pantry items like salsa, rice, and spices, distributed on a weekly basis to roughly 60 Montgomery County families. The MoCo Made boxes, which sell out regularly, have featured produce from Bella Vita Farm, Butler’s Orchard, and Metro Microgreens, among other local partners. “Our MoCo Made box brings to life the Food and Beverage Guide, and showcases how much more diverse we are in the food and farming sector than meets the eye,” says Michael Protas, owner of One Acre Farm. “This has given us the opportunity to meet and connect with other businesses that we might not necessarily work with in a normal year, which has been really exciting. Although some of them are our competition, we all can work together for the common good.” For years, the local table-crop farming community had discussed the desire and need for a centralized system to aggregate and distribute local produce to individual, retail, and wholesale customers. Thanks to COVID-19, a modified version of this type of system came to life in a matter of weeks. Farms that rely on CSA memberships, like One Acre Farm, were overwhelmed with interest during the height of the pandemic in the spring; a survey of CSA farms in the DMV-region, conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), found that this year was one of the most successful spring sign-up periods MoCo Made boxes from One Acre Farm bring together a variety of seasonal offerings from local farm producers and food businesses in Montgomery County. 28 plenty I Summer growing 2020