Alternative uses of farmland is key to preserving open space

A cooperative effort between Retreat & Learn and MissionGO helps preserve farmland while demonstrating the potential for faster transport for blood laboratory testing and organ donor matching

Since 2007, Charles County, Maryland, the homeplace of Retreat & Learn, has lost more than 10,000 acres of active farmland and the average farm size has dropped more than 14%.  Besides being a place to learn and promote wellness, another goal of Retreat & Learn is to preserve farmland and for the past year, a cooperative arrangement with MissionGO has worked towards that goal.

The location of Retreat & Learn is Ravens Crest, a 173-acre working farm just south of Washington, DC on a cliff overlooking the Potomac River.   The farm grows hay for cattle and horses, soybeans, and wheat.   While the farmhouse hosts retreats and workshops, the farmland continues to grow many of the same crops it has for decades.

Ravens Crest also serves as a test site for MissionGO — a Baltimore based company developing and testing unmanned aircraft systems (you may know them as drones) for the eventual purpose of transporting organ transplants and blood for laboratory testing.  As you can imagine, it is imperative that before the systems are put into live use, they must be thoroughly tested under nearly every condition and many hours of testing occurs at Ravens Crest.

On August 10, MissionGO along with the The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland (The LLF), who are responsible for organ, eye and tissue donation services in Maryland, conducted a successful flight demonstration at Ravens Crest.  On the day of the demonstration, the crew flew blood delivery shipments on four 5.3-mile circuits representing the direct line flight path for blood delivery. Traveling at approximately 50 miles per hour over a 60-minute period, they clearly demonstrated a better transport method is possible that removes many of the negative variables such as traffic.

Frank Paskiewicz, EVP of UAS Cargo Operations, remarked, “Our team at MissionGO greatly appreciates the ability to conduct these vital test operations at Ravens Crest and we are pleased to be a part of preserving open space in Maryland.”

Retreat & Learn is proud to partner to help those in need of organ transplants.   The use of the farm as a test site is a perfect example of an alternative use of farmland that helps preserve open space and land that grows crops to feed our community.  We are grateful MissionGO chose Ravens Crest as their test location to help us in our goal to preserve farmland.

Photography by Kipke Photography

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