Soccer or Food? Help Save Nick’s Organic Farm

What is it about loss of farmland, erosion of biodiversity, degradation of soil and tightening control of the global seed market the good people at Montgomery County’s Board of Education don’t get?

Yes, physical activity is important. Yes, soccer fields are worth having.

However, this is 2012, when the global food system is under so much stress that trading Nick’s Organic Farm for a private soccer organization is akin to turning over the majority of the world’s seed supply to a handful of private chemical companies.

Come to think of it, that is exactly what we have done. The biggest seed producers are chemical companies such as Monsanto, Du Pont, Syngenta and Bayer. That makes Nick’s Organic Farm in Potomac all the more crucial. We need these pockets of stubbornly organic, non-GMO seed growers. With seed company consolidation, soil degradation, fuel costs, water woes, loss of young farmers and climate change poised like sledge hammers over the crops we rely on, places like Nick’s are the insurance policies we would be fools to do without.

So I am trying to wrap my mind around the curious decision to end a 32-year lease. I’ve put soccer balls and organic agriculture on two sides of a balance, and the weight keeps coming down on the side of the seeds.

The community is not happy. When the Board of Education announced the end of that long lease, hundreds of people turned out to public meetings to speak against the plan. Over 50,000 people signed petitions, including this one on Care2, which gathered 26,293 signatures.

Next: Brickyard Educational Farm

The Board of Education is not paying attention to public sentiment. Take a look at these photos of Brickyard Educational Farm, a new program in response to the threatened closure. It’s a farm-to-school experience at Nick’s Organic Farm.

Here is what Sara Shor says of that cool project:

Our vision is to use the whole 20 acres as an educational hub with a portion devoted to a farm incubator program, a portion for farm-to-school field trips, and a portion to continue cultivating organic seed that contribute to our nation’s food security. We believe that having all of these components in one place will serve as a national model. We have already served over 1500 students through Brickyard Educational Farm, and we have the capacity to serve thousands more if we are able to keep our lease.

Next: Let’s Try to Save This Farm

Help me, people. I’m totally lost. On one side we have over 1500 students already, and the promise of thousands more, who have a chance to learn some of the most important lessons of human health and survival. On the other side we have a few dozen kids (or even a few hundred, though the smaller number sounds more likely) per year who will benefit from access to new soccer fields. Am I missing something? This sounds like the classic no-brainer.

A lot of organizations have signed onto a letter to Governor O’Malley, asking him to please “do what you can to save this valuable asset so Maryland can become a national model in this growing movement to revitalize local food and farming in America.” Among those who have signed are Rodale Institute, Audubon Naturalist Society, Green America, DC Farm to School, Growing Power, growingSoul, Slow Food DC, Sierra Club, Maryland and Montgomery County Chapter, Maryland No Child Left Inside Coalition, Environment Maryland, Maryland Public Interest Research Group, and Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

I’m shaking my head. Soccer fields…food. Organic agriculture…soccer. The chance to educate thousands of young people about food and food systems…soccer. The private soccer organization probably has more money than Nick. That’s pretty common in agricultural circles. I used to be a farmer. I know that drill.

Even if the soccer organization has ten times the money to pay for a lease, the Board of Education is sending a very strange message to students and their families. If I interpret it correctly, the message is something like this: Money counts more than the future of food.

If money is not talking here, what is? Let’s try again, Care2 readers. Sign the petition, and we’ll try to move the mountain.

Update: The decision to pull the lease from the organic farm and give it to the soccer organization seems even stranger. I just learned the latter will be paying only $1500 per year for the lease.


Related Care2 Stories

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Urban Farmer Told to Shut Down or Face Legal Action

Vancouver Plants Orchards in Parks and Golf Courses

Save the Tomatoes: Plant the Seeds of Biodiversity

Why Monsanto Fails at Sustainability

The Adventures of a Real Life Lorax in Monsantoland

UCS Exposes Lies Behind Monsanto Claims

Armed Police Drive Gardening Occupiers Off Reclaimed Farmland


Photographs courtesy of Brickyard Educational Farm; Photo 1 by Tory Cowles; Photo 2 by Anna Johnson; Photos 3, 4 & 5 by Mollie Chang

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Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobetz1 years ago


Arild Warud
Arild Warud3 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Robert O.
Robert O.3 years ago

Thank you Cathryn.

Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jessica O.
Jessica O.3 years ago

I am guessing they can find another location to play soccer.....

Marie W.
Marie W.3 years ago

More organic; less soccer.

David Nuttle
Past Member 3 years ago

If the School Board is so foolish as to convert productive farmland into a soccer field they should provide nearby structures (as a replacement) for indoor/ urban farming 24/7/365 ...farming that may also be used for educating their students about agriculture, science, resource conservation and the environment. In brief, the School Board needs to be responsible for replacing what is being lost. (It would be helpful to know who on the School Board has connections with the Soccer club.)

Harsha Vardhana R

Thanks for the awareness spread!

Harsha Vardhana R

Thanks for the awareness spread!

maureen j.
maureen johnston3 years ago

Sounds like good old fashioned political payola to me.

The farm should stay were it is, and the soccer club find another venue.