Potomac farm will remain for the farming season, landlord says


POTOMAC,MD: Nick Maravell shows his organic farm. Montgomery officials want to replace the land with soccer fields, but the landowner, the school board, said Maravell can stay until his crops are harvested this year. (Photo by Juana Arias /For the Washington Post) (JUANA ARIAS/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

For 30 years, Nick Maravell leased the 20 acres of land just off Brickyard Road to grow soybeans and corn. But last year, the school board decided instead to lease the land to the county, which wanted it for soccer fields. The county was going to kick Maravell off the property Wednesday.

On Tuesday, however, a county Circuit Court judge put a hold on the board’s decision, preventing the county from evicting Maravell. In a letter to Maravell on Friday, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said the farmer could stay on the land to tend this season’s crops.

“Given the complex legal issues and that they are not resolved yet, I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to say, ‘Get out,’ and he loses his crops,” Starr said in an interview Friday. “That doesn’t seem right.”

Still, Maravell will have to leave after the harvest, Starr wrote. “We also have some concerns about liability,” he said in the interview. “We want to make sure noncritical farm operations stop before we can work things out.”

That includes an education program started by Maravell’s daughter, Sophia, in January. Called the Brickyard Education Farm, it has already played host to some 400 schoolchildren who toured the property.

“It’s just not clear who’s liable if something happens on the farm,” Starr said. “They all of a sudden started this education program a few months ago. God forbid something happens, and because they’re not on a lease, who’s responsible? That’s part of the murkiness that needs to be cleared up.”

Starr wrote that Maravell can ask permission to bring visitors, such as schoolchildren, onto the farm. Nick Maravell said Friday that he is assessing whether he will do that for the education program. His daughter added that students sign a release waiver before they tour the farm.

The school board will meet next Thursday to discuss the farm dispute, Starr said. He said he wanted to write the Friday letter to set some ground rules until the board meets and decides what they want to do.

“We’re in a holding pattern right now until we can really work all of this through,” he said.

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