Eat Local Montco: Montgomery County's Local Food Production Strategy
In March 2018, DVRPC released Eat Local Montco: Montgomery County’s Local Food Production Strategy. Eat Local Montco is based on the ongoing work of DVRPC and the Montgomery County Planning Commission (MCPC). This strategy seeks to strengthen county farms, bolster the health and quality of life of county residents, and implement the county’s comprehensive plan, Montco 2040: A Shared Vision, by promoting local food to county residents, institutions, and businesses. It analyzes the county’s current agricultural and food system resources, acknowledging the challenges of local food production, distribution, and marketing, while at the same time making recommendations to strengthen local farms by linking local producers with local buyers, consumers, restaurants, and institutionsLink to Full Plan
Link to Summary Brochure
Agriculture in Montgomery County
Eat Local Montco offers a chance to look back at where farming in Montgomery County has been, understand what it is like today, and consider what assets and opportunities exist to continue to support farming in Montgomery County in the future. Below are some of the key takeaways identified through an agricultural analysis of Montgomery County:
- Most of Montgomery County’s farms are small family farms
- Montgomery County is losing farms and farmland
- Nursery, greenhouse, and floriculture products are Montgomery County’s top agricultural commodities
- Direct sales are a very small part of overall farm sales
- Agritourism and recreational services are the fastest growing sources of income
Drawing upon an analysis of Montgomery County’s current agricultural resources, ongoing conversations with stakeholders, and examples from innovative programs across the country, Eat Local Montco proposes a range of recommendations, including policy reforms, expansions of current initiatives and programs, and new approaches. The recommendations are intended to be actions or strategies that the county and local governments could implement on their own, or work with other organizations, like a nonprofit or food system partner, to support. The following highlights some of the proposed strategies. Please see the summary brochure or full report for more details.
Create a County Food Policy Council
Food policy councils are formed to encourage collaboration and coordinate work among local food system stakeholders. A Montgomery County food policy council could work to improve access to healthful food and make it easier for farms and other food ventures to do business in the county. It could coordinate existing efforts by different organizations and undertake new initiatives, including implementing recommendations made by Eat Local Montco.Above Photo: Lansdale Farmers' Market | Source: Montgomery County Planning Commission
Support Farm to Institution within Montgomery County
Montgomery County is home to many university and health care systems that serve hundreds, if not thousands, of diners every day. Given their large purchasing volume, institutions can make a significant impact on the local food economy by committing to sourcing from local farms. The County can encourage institutions to support local food sourcing through catering, institute an employee CSA or farmers’ market, and encourage institutions to participate in a Buy Local Week or other local food event.Above Photo: Lansdale Farmers' Market | Source: Montgomery County Planning Commission
Develop a Montco Local Ale Trail
Tourism trails are a popular way to promote destinations that are thematically linked and geographically clustered. Given the density of craft breweries in Montgomery County, developing a comprehensive guide to Montco breweries would help to promote the County’s beer sceneAbove Photo: Forest and Main Brewing Co. in Ambler, PA | Source: Stacey Salter Moore
Buy Local Challenge/Buy Local Week
Buy Local campaigns are one way that governments and residents can support a strong local economy. There are a number of ways to implement a Buy Local campaign, including a Buy Local Week Challenge, where residents commit to eating at least one item from a local farm every day for one week. Other challenges ask consumers to buy a certain percentage of food from local sources throughout the growing season.Above Photo: Philly Food Bucks | Source: Dave Tavani, The Food Trust
Develop Model Agritourism Zoning
To support agritourism enterprises within the county, the Planning Commission should develop model agritourism zoning ordinances and then work with municipalities to adopt their own versions. Agritourism zoning should balance the potential economic benefits of agritourism with potential public health and welfare concerns, such as additional traffic and noise.Above Photo: Living Hope Farm, a preserved farm in Harleysville, PA | Source: Living Hope Farm
With Eat Local Montco, Montgomery County recognizes that food system development is economic development. It is leveraging a consumer preference for local food to enhance its economy and reinvest local dollars into the community. Implementing the recommendations in Eat Local Montco will take the dedicated efforts of many actors working throughout Montgomery County and across the region. Many of these efforts are already underway thanks to the work of outstanding individuals, organizations, businesses, and institutions; however there is much more work to do.
Don’t be afraid to ask where your food comes from, whether it’s at school, work, the grocery store, restaurants, or even the hospital. Take the time to show that consumers prefer local food by asking food suppliers to commit to supporting farmers and other food producers in Montgomery County.
The market for local food depends on demand from consumers. Use resources such as Montgomery County’s 2017 farmers' markets list or Direct from the Farm: A Guide to Buying Local in Montco to find farmstands and farmers' markets that sell local goods. Prioritize eating at restaurants that source from local farms and challenge yourself to set goals for buying (and eating!) local food.
Food systems are complex and many of these recommendations require coordinated effort and leadership. Show your support of Montgomery County's local food economy by talking with the County Commissioners, their staff, and nonprofit partners. Volunteer to help with local food initiatives and donate to organizations that aim to improve residents' access to healthy, farm-fresh foods.