Brickyard Educational Farm operates on 20-acres of publically owned Montgomery County school board land. It is a project of the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization called the Chesapeake Institute for Local and Sustainable Food and Agriculture (CILSFA). Brickyard Educational Farm’s philosophy is that hands-on, environmental and agricultural education experiences are essential components of a well-rounded education for every child and adult to lead healthier lives while improving the environment at the same time.
Through four core programs, Brickyard Educational Farm strives to bolster national food security through its Seed Saving Program, provide agricultural education through its existing Farm to School Program, grow the next generation of sustainable farmers through its Farm Incubator Program, and provide local organic food for public school cafeterias through its Farm to Cafeteria Program.
The Seed Saving program would be a continuation and tribute to the agricultural history on a smaller portion of this acreage. By teaching the skills set of saving certified organic, open pollinated, Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)-free seeds, BEF will be contributing to a global effort to preserve our natural genetic biodiversity through an apprenticeship program aimed at new and beginning farmers.
Brickyard Educational Farm plans to expand the current Farm to School field trip program to three acres in order to help fulfill the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system’s Environmental Standards and the Jane Lawton Farm to School Act.
The proposed Farm Incubator Program, similar to a business incubator program, is being designed to support new and beginning farmers to start up their own successful farming operation. This will help to alleviate some of the major obstacles beginning farmers face, by sub-leasing them a plot of land at an affordable rate, and by giving them access to shared resources.
The proposed BEF Farm to Cafeteria Program is an effort to grow food for MCPS schools that is local, organic and affordable. However, the extent of this fourth and final program depends on the ability of MCPS to receive local farm produce at competitive prices. The beginning farmers in the farm incubator program will be required to sell a percentage of their produce back to the school system.
Studies have shown the benefits of farm-based education include improved focus and success in other academic subjects, collaboration skills, and self-empowerment. Brickyard Educational farm will be a multi-functional agricultural education center that bolsters our nation’s seed stock and food security, serves school children through school lunches and farm-based education opportunities, and grows the next generation of sustainable farmers. This vision would help build Montgomery County’s local food and business economy while simultaneously improving the health and academic achievement of students.