Farmer Spotlight: Gravel Springs Farms

AThe story of Gravel Springs Farms is of a driven young couple—Paul and Emma Sorenson—who wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. When Paul and Emma met it was clear that they shared a passion for the outdoors, an appreciation for the land, and a strong desire to help others. With more than a half million acres of farmland in Maryland owned by people over the age of 69, the Sorensons are among a young minority of farmers. But the future of farming is dependent on these younger generations.

In 2013, the Sorensons dove into the agricultural field by purchasing Emma's family's 150-acre farm. Today they own and operate 10 acres of vegetable production while one additional acre flourishes in cut flowers. The couple had never thought of farming as a career option but their desire to connect people to the land led them down the road. Paul explains that while they "didn't know how to farm, Future Harvest CASA (Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture) allowed us to learn from each other, we jumped in head first, attending field days and programs." The programs and field days Paul attended were offered at the Beginning Farmer Training Program, which allows members to maintain a job and/or start their own farm enterprise while completing the program. Participants learn through hands-on field work as well as workshops and conferences about building and growing a successful farm. The program teaches beginner farmers about the basics of crop production, business management, and marketing. As new farmers, the resources offered by Future Harvest CASA were an integral part of the farms success. 

The Sorensons have an eye towards becoming sustainable, and while they are not 100 percent self-sufficient, they are as sustainable as they can be as a growing operation. They create their own compost and are constantly doing things to mitigate the impact of their farm on the environment. In the fall of 2013, less than a year after purchasing the farm they connected with CBF's Watershed Restoration Scientist Rob Schnabel to create a 2,026-tree, 10-acre forest buffer on their land. With the help of more than 100 volunteers, the Sorensons were able to plant four acres of trees that fall and an additional six acres the following spring.

In addition to expanding their flower and vegetable operations, the Sorensons hope to one day expand  their operation by converting the conventional crop fields to permanent pasture for 100 percent grass-fed animal production. Paul is a member of the CBF's Maryland Grazers Network, a grazing mentorship program. Although he has only been farming for a few years, he actively encourages others to recognize that there are outlets other than farmers markets to sell produce. "Not everyone can market," he says explaining that most farmers markets are saturated. Instead he encourages farmers new and old to look into outlets like selling wholesale or to institutions, as well as having aspects of customer interaction such as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). They have done some institutional and restaurant sales and they are in the process of setting up sweet potatoe sales to the local school system. Frederick County Public Schools are looking to source things like sweet potatoes and squash from Gravel Springs which will be available when school is in session. By providing fresh local produce to area schools, Paul hopes to serve as an example to other farmers who can tap into an expanding market while continuing to educate the public of all ages on the benefits of local foods.

"Local sustainably produced food is important. We have found that we and our CSA members have a better experience knowing where their food comes from . . . customers trust what I tell them and so I do what I say I am doing."

Gravel Springs Farms offers small and large produce shares that go for 21 weeks. In addition to produce, one can also purchase grass-based and pasture-raised meats from a partner farm. Once one purchases a meat or produce share, Gravel Springs offers add-ons such as apples, peaches, eggs, and cut flowers. Be sure to sign up today—May 1 is the last day to register!

—Kellie Rogers; Photo courtesy of Paul Sorenson


Farmer Spotlight: Birds Eye View Farm

Carole Morrison 1Our featured farmer this month manages a unique operation in Worcester County, Maryland. Carole Morison, co-owner of Birds Eye View Farm in Pocomoke City has spent years speaking out against the big chicken companies who dominate the food industry and the landscape. Morison is best known however for her role in Food, Inc. a documentary where she exposed the conditions of the chickens and the poultry industry after welcoming camera crews inside her poultry houses while under contract with Perdue. Although it took her three years of chicken free houses, she decided to get back into the industry in a far less conventional way.

It all started after marrying her husband Frank in 1986. The couple bought two chicken houses and began to grow birds under contract for Perdue. Not long into their production she began to challenge the conventional agriculture system explaining that Perdue dictated everything from equipment upgrades, to feed additives, to flock size.

In 2006, the directors of Food, Inc. approached Morison, and despite knowing she would lose her contract—a great source of fear for any contract grower—she agreed to participate in the film, believing that consumers deserved to know the truth.

Carole Morrison 2The Morisons received the Perdue Grower of the Year award in 2007, having outperformed every other grower. But just three weeks later, Perdue ended the Morisons contract due to failure to comply with full enclosure of their chicken houses, a costly upgrade that the Morisons knew would create financial problems as well as additional health problems for the chickens. Their chicken houses were emptied in 2008 by the time the eye-opening documentary Food, Inc. first aired.

Soon the film took off, and Morison traveled across the country and around the world talking about her work and why she was so vocal against the chicken industry. In her time spent traveling, Morison connected with farmers and people who shared successes of their alternative farming operations. And so she was inspired to join the chicken world once more.

After transitioning away from a traditional contracted poultry farm, Birds Eye View Farm is now home to a 600-hen, free-range, pastured egg operation where the Morisons are able to control every aspect of their process as they deem fit.

The houses that used to hold 54,000 birds now serve as a shelter and laying area for the 600 hens. Even when the full flock is inside at night, the birds have more than six times the space the meat birds had during the previous years. Birds Eye View Farm was the first on the Delmarva Peninsula to be certified as Animal Welfare Approved, the highest third-party certification standards in the country.

Carole Morrison 4One of the greatest difference in her work is that she now enjoys it—the chickens are happier as well! They like to follow her on walks and enjoy special treats, especially watermelons. The flock is made up of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, and Delawares, all of which are traditional heritage breeds. Each chicken has access to more than 14 acres of pasture and typically lays an egg every other day. The Morisons strive to produce healthier hens and more nutritious eggs. 

"First I would tell people to, know your food, know your farmer," says Morison. "I think you will be much more satisfied. Second, make an effort to keep your money in the community and local region. And third develop the local food system by having choices for farmers and choices for consumers."

Today people visit Birds Eye View Farm to watch happy chickens roam and pick through lush green fields. The locals pick up their eggs from the farm while others in Maryland can pick up a dozen from Whole Foods Markets. The success of Birds Eye View Farm is almost as remarkable as the stretch of Morison's advocacy efforts. "I'm not saying that our model is the only way, but I do know that the market is wide open." Morison says she struggles to meet the demand of consumers who want to buy a product that they know is good for their own health, the environment, and their community.

"I started to retire . . . [but it just didn't] happen, so I guess I'm not ready to give up yet." There are some who tell her to consider slowing down, but a woman with this much passion and a genuine drive to connect people to their food is going to be one tough egg to crack.

—Kellie Rogers; Photos courtesy of Carole Morison

Learn more about how farmers across the watershed are working to improve both water quality and farm productivity in our Farmers' Success Stories series.

 


What Did You Do on Your Spring Break?

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An unusual group of laborers could be seen bending and lifting in the distance on Paul Quick's farm in Union Bridge, Maryland. They were students from the University of Virginia, doing community service earlier this month as part of an Alternative Spring Break program.

While many of their classmates were still sleeping in, these 10 UVA students were working up a sweat as the sun rose and delivered unseasonably warm temperatures.

Each year at this time an inspired slice of students from many colleges commit to spending their spring break helping in the community in various ways. The UVA students volunteered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, where they worked at the organization's Oyster Restoration Center and Clagett Farm for several days, and then one day to help Quick on his farm.

IMG_4651Quick decided several years ago to put his farm in a conservation easement, to honor his father-in-law's wishes that the old dairy farm not be developed. As part of the arrangement, Quick used federal funding to get 20 acres of trees planted along streams on the property. The trees help buffer the stream from possible polluted runoff from the corn and soy crops.

Those trees have now matured. The students' job was to cut off plastic sleeves called "shelters" that had protected the young trees from hungry deer. With about 7,300 trees needing this attention, it was a day of hard labor for students who may be more accustomed to a library or classroom.

The labor was equally strenuous earlier in the week at CBF's Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Maryland, where the students cleaned debris off old oyster shells before planting them in restoration efforts. Those shells, which will be used to grow oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay, are heavy. The students had to use a simple device to lift a pallet full of shells above their heads and "shake" the pallet. It was hard work.

But the students said this was the way they preferred to spend their vacation: "It's worth it, but boy, it was a lot of work," said Maggie Daly, a Third-Year biochemistry student from Yorktown, Virginia.

IMG_4646"My shoulders will be sore tomorrow," said Sarah Overton, a First-Year student from Herndon, Virginia.

Daly said she considers herself "environmentally conscious" but wanted to put that ethic to work in the field so to speak. Overton said she felt the same, and also saw the program as a way to see another part of the region. She had always wanted to visit Annapolis, for instance.

Another student, Conner Roessler, a Fourth-Year from Midlothian, Virginia, was doing the program for the second year in a row.

For his part, farm owner Quick said he was glad for the help. He said the conservation easement required him to plant some trees to help buffer his farm streams, but he decided to plant far more.

The trees not only will help keep the streams clean, they also will provide habitat for deer and other wildlife which Quick enjoys.

Rob Schnabel, a CBF restoration scientist who worked with the students, said trees not only help prevent pollution and stream erosion, but also help cool the stream so trout and other aquatic life are more apt to survive. Unfortunately, Maryland is far behind in its goal to get the banks of farm streams planted with trees, he said.

—Tom Zolper
CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

Check out more photos of these inspiring students in the field.


Addicted to Making a Difference

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CBF volunteer Kit Johnston (second from right in the middle row of photo above) has lobbied for clean water with CBF as well as for a host of other causes. After taking part in CBF's Lobby Day in Richmond last week, Kit reflects on how one person really can make a difference by meeting with their elected officials.  

Taking time to lobby for issues you believe in during the Virginia General Assembly's short annual session can become a bit addictive. It's intense . . . and empowering. I first got hooked when I linked up with a coalition of environmental and local groups, not including CBF, to lobby our state legislators not to lift the uranium mining ban in Virginia. And we won, with a little help from the National Academy of Sciences and senators and delegates willing to listen.

You may think that your senator and delegate really don't want to hear from you. Or that you will be at a loss for words. You may even assume that the General Assembly dice is loaded against us on funding issues so important to our Bay such as stormwater control. But the fact is, your delegation does want to hear from you. You are a constituent after all. And they really want to know what you have to say. They get tired of hearing from professionals who may have neither your conviction nor the greater public interest in mind. But sometimes they find that folks like you and me have a personal take on the issue at hand that they hadn't considered before. 

Thanks to CBF's Lobby Day this year, I met my new delegate, Nicholas Freitas, for the first time. He turned out to be someone who listens. And someone who seemed to relate to the fact that so many of the farmers in his district will be stuck if this General Assembly doesn't pass additional funding for agricultural practices such as stream exclusion aimed at cleaning upstream waters that feed the Bay.  

As far as I'm concerned, clean water is a right, not a privilege. Every impairment or threat to clean water in Virginia is a threat to public health, safety, welfare, and even national security.

—Kit Johnston, CBF Clean Water Captain
Madison County, Virginia.  

 Learn more about our legislative priorities this year in Virginia.


Farmer Spotlight: St. Brigid's Farm

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Photo courtesy of Judy Gifford.

Tucked away in Kent County's Kennedyville is a land where cows graze on clover, and creeks flow freely. This charming piece of land, known as St. Brigid's Farm, is home to 200 grass-fed beef and dairy cows. The farm is named after St. Brigid, the patron saint of dairymaids and scholars who was renowned for her compassion and often featured with cows at her feet. Partners in the farm have remained steadfast in practices that not only protect the health of the cows but the consumers that rely on responsible stewardship of the land. 

Judy Gifford was raised on a dairy farm, which eventually led her to earning a degree in Animal Science from the University of Connecticut. After 16 years in the public sector, she returned to her roots by establishing a 69-head Jersey dairy operation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with partner Dr. Robert Fry.

Robert graduated from the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1977. After years of working with cows, he became interested in Managed Intensive Grazing, also known as rotational grazing as a healthier alternative to grain-fed production. After meeting in 1991 and beginning St. Brigid's in 1996, the partnership between Bob and Judy continues to strengthen. 

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St. Brigid’s Farm Partner Judy Gifford. Photo courtesy of Judy Gifford.

The 62-acre farm established in permanent pasture provides relief to the Chesapeake Bay in comparison to many conventional agricultural practices. Despite the benefits of the sustainable farm, Judy explains that small-scale operations are "a dying breed." A host of unique challenges come when considering small-scale farming, such as marketing: "[you] have to be flexible and look at ways to maximize your resources."

But Judy explains that St. Brigid's success is grounded in the three legs they believe make a sustainable farm. "We believe that a farm needs to be economically viable, which we achieve through producing high-quality Jersey milk and grass-fed beef, [be] ecologically sound, and promote community involvement." The rotational grazing practices of St. Brigid's produces healthy cows and meets the pollution limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Judy and Robert's dedication to local foods and their community is evident in their annual event Field to Fork. The proceeds from the event are donated to a different organization every year. This past year's benefitted a group that does not feed people but rather rescues them in times of trouble—the Kennedyville Volunteer Fire Department. During the dinner, farmers and consumers sit side-by-side in the green pasture enjoying a four-course meal grown from Maryland soil.

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St. Brigid's annual Field to Fork dinner. Photo courtesy of Linda Farwell.

In addition to their commitment to their community, St. Brigid's Farm is a partner of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local Chesapeake Chapter, which promotes local and sustainable foods by connecting consumers to producers, and which CBF coordinates. St. Brigid's is also a partner in the Maryland Grazers Networka mentorship program that pairs experienced producers with farmers who want to learn new grazing skills. Sustainable practices, like rotational grazing, have allowed St. Brigid's to develop a healthier product for the consumer. In stark contrast to the confined animal operations that line the Eastern Shore, Judy and Robert demonstrate just one success story of the great things that can happen when science and the land come together in harmony.

—Kellie Rogers

Maryland farmers like Bob and Judy are doing their part to clean up pollution to their local waterways. So why is it that big poultry companies take little responsibility for the harmful waste their chickens produce?! This week, Maryland legislators are considering the Poultry Management Litter Act, which requires big chicken companies to take responsibility. This legislation would ensure cleaner, healthier waters for us all, and it would protect Maryland farmers and taxpayers from costs that should be borne by the large poultry companies. Click here to learn more and to send a message to your legislator.

Learn more about how farmers across the watershed are working to improve both water quality and farm productivity in our Farmers' Success Stories series.

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Photo courtesy of Linda Farwell.

 


State Must Invest in Its New Clean Water Plan

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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The brook trout, which flourishes in clean, cold water Pennsylvania streams, stands to benefit tremendously if the Keystone State's new "reboot" succeeds. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

Pennsylvania has unveiled a new strategy for cleaning up its polluted waterways, and it will take the necessary investments from leaders in Harrisburg, and a unified effort across the Commonwealth, for the plan to succeed.

While this "rebooted" effort establishes a framework for success, it is just the first chapter of a long story.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) acknowledged that it alone cannot provide and protect clean water as called for in the new plan.

The plan's success requires a comprehensive approach involving the farmers, businesses, and homeowners. Resources, leadership, and commitment from Governor Tom Wolf and the legislature are essential to get Pennsylvania back on track toward its clean water goals.

Of the nearly 2,000 miles of creeks, streams, and the Susquehanna River that flow through York County, 350 miles are polluted. Agriculture is the source of pollution to 160 miles of waterways, and urban and suburban runoff is responsible for pollution in 130 miles of York County waters.

In 2010, the Bay states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, and each state developed its own plan to meet those limits. This came after more than 30 years of failed restoration commitments.

The states also made two-year milestone commitments to take specific actions to ensure progress toward reducing pollution. The goal is to implement 60 percent of practices to restore local water quality in the Commonwealth by 2017, and 100 percent implementation by 2025. Unfortunately, the state will not meet its 2017 goal, as acknowledged by DEP Secretary John Quigley.

Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania have been damaged by pollution. Efforts to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are off-track by millions of pounds.

The new plan defines six immediate and longer-term actions designed to get Pennsylvania back on track.

The Commonwealth intends to significantly increase the number of farm inspections and establish a culture of compliance. At current DEP staffing levels, it would take almost 57 years for each farm to be inspected just once. The DEP will use conservation district staff and its own staff to accelerate its inspection rate to meet the EPA recommendation of inspecting 10 percent of farms annually. DEP inspected less than 2 percent of farms in 2014.

A voluntary farm survey, conducted by a partnership of agricultural entities, seeks to locate, quantify, and verify previously undocumented pollution reduction practices that have been put into place. The plan also establishes a Chesapeake Bay Office within the DEP in order to improve management focus and accountability.

The new plan also calls for accelerating the planting of streamside buffers, the most affordable solution for filtering and reducing the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution.

The plan addresses the challenges of polluted runoff from urban/suburban areas, including updated permit requirements and implementation plans by local governments, and the development of innovative financing opportunities.

If this new plan has a weakness, it is in identifying sustainable funding sources. According to a Penn State study, it will cost nearly $380 million per year, or $3.8 billion over the next 10 years, to implement just the agricultural practices that would get Pennsylvania back on track to meet its clean water goals for 2025.

If Pennsylvania is to make progress in providing and protecting cleaner water, the Commonwealth must invest in the new plan, in Governor Wolf's 2016-17 budget and in the legislature's follow-through. A new Growing Greener initiative would be a down payment for such efforts, but more resources will be needed.

Investing in clean water pays dividends. Conservation practices not only improve water quality, but can improve farm production and herd health, reduce nuisance flooding in communities, improve hunting and fishing, beautify urban centers, and even clean the air.

A 2014 economic analysis found that fully implementing Pennsylvania's clean water plans will result in an increase in the value of natural benefits by $6.2 billion annually.

Adequate funding and technical assistance are critical to the success of this plan. The Governor and legislature must step up and ensure that the Commonwealth lives up to the clean water commitments it made to fellow Pennsylvanians.

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. Healthy families, strong communities, and a thriving economy depend on it.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Clean water counts. Lend us your voice and urge our leaders to implement Pennsylvania's new clean water plan, and to clean up York County's rivers, streams, and swimming holes.


This Week in the Watershed

Plma-cartoon-1200
Fairness is a principle that virtually everyone endorses. Synonyms for fairness include justice, equality, and impartiality. These virtues are at the foundation of an ethical, righteous, and moral society. When fairness isn't present, people tend to get angry, feeling they have been exploited, abused, and manipulated. With this backdrop, we can't help but look at how poultry litter is handled in Maryland and come to one conclusionit's not fair.

Currently, large poultry companies require farmers who grow chickens under contract to dispose of the birds' litter at their own expense. Taxpayers also help foot the bill, with subsidies provided to the small farmers to transport some of the manure. Meanwhile, the massive poultry companies making record profits are getting off scot-free.

This week the Poultry Litter Management Act was introduced with the support of more than 50 legislators. The bill would require poultry companies to take responsibility for manure produced by their chickens. Farmers would still be able to keep and use any manure for which they have a state-approved plan.

The consequences of excess poultry litter are severe. While some manure can be applied to fields as fertilizer, many of the fields are over-saturated with phosphorus, and the excess nutrients runoff into local rivers and streams, ultimately reaching the Bay. The Maryland Department of Agriculture recently estimated about 228,000 tons of excess manure are currently applied to crop fields in Maryland.

These excess nutrients cause algae blooms that threaten public health; harm aquatic life like blue crabs, oysters, and fish; and create an enormous "dead zone" in the Bay. Throughout Maryland, residents and businesses are making sacrifices to help clean our waters. Stormwater management fees help fund upgrades to stormwater treatment plants and reduce polluted runoff, homeowners and businesses reduce runoff through installing rain barrels, and dog owners "scoop the poop," as a shining example to Maryland poultry companies. As Senator Richard S. Madaleno stated, "Everyone must do their part to mitigate pollution into our state's iconic natural treasure." We couldn't agree more.

Tell your elected leaders today that you support the Poultry Litter Management Act—and they should, too.

This Week in the Watershed: Poultry Poop, Dead Fish, and Crab Pot$$$

  • Maryland has lost $1 million in federal funding for oyster restoration due to the delay in the Tred Avon oyster restoration project. The Hogan Administration inexplicably asked for the project to be delayed in late 2015. The loss of funding also puts in jeopardy federal funding for future years. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A tragic fish kill in Maryland is directly tied to the onslaught of polluted runoff. The kicker? Only days after the death of 200,000+ fish, the County Council where the fish kill took place voted to cut funds to reduce polluted runoff. (CBF Press StatementMD)
  • The Poultry Litter Management Act was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly this week. If passed, the bill would require big poultry companies to be responsible for the manure produced by their chickens. Currently, the manure is the responsibility of small contracted farmers. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • This year's "Bay Barometer" from the Chesapeake Bay Program reveals that the Bay is making progress in several areas, but there is still work to be done. (Daily Press—MD)
  • Rescuing empty oyster shells from the trash can saves a valuable tool in oyster restoration efforts. A county executive in Maryland wants to further incentivize oyster recycling efforts. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Shortly after Pennsylvania released a new plan for cleaning up the Keystone State's waterways, the EPA restored $3 million in program funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. (CBF Press Release—PA)
  • With Maryland and Virginia legislative sessions in full swing, there are plenty of Bay-related issues being addressed. (Bay Journal
  • Turns out that all the plastic that is landing in the ocean has extremely negative consequences for baby oysters. (Washington Post—DC)
  • We love this editorial in support of the Poultry Litter Management Act. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A recent poll revealed that Virginians highly support funding for conservation and clean water, considering projects on these environmental issues top-spending priorities even when the state budget is tight. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)
  • A program to retrieve abandoned crab pots has proved to be a worthy investment. (TakePart)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 16-February 6

  • Across Virginia: Help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Participants grow wild celery, a type of underwater grass, in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of growing, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click here to find one near you!

February 6

  • Salisbury, MD: Join CBF at Poultry Litter Management Act information session to learn more about this important legislation and what you can do to help. Coffee and pastries will be served! Please RSVP to Hilary Gibson at hgibson@cbf.org or 410-543-1999.

February 8-11

  • Western Shore, MD: Join us at one of our upcoming "State of the Bay" legislative briefings for an evening of information, discussion, and action. Learn about the current "State of the Bay" and your local waterways. Dive deep into the issues at play in the current session of the state General Assembly—including the Poultry Litter Management Act—and what you can do to be involved in those decisions. Information sessions are being held in Towson (2/8), Ellicott City (2/9), College Park (2/10), and Severna Park (2/11). Click here to register!

February 16

  • Annapolis, MD: The inaugural Annapolis "Save the Bay Breakfast" will feature an update on the current State of the Bay and the hottest topics affecting the future of the Bay and its rivers and streams in this year's Maryland General Assembly session. We hope you will join us and other fans and friends of the Bay for good food for the body and mind. Click here to register!

February 18

  • Richmond, VA: Join the CBF Hampton Roads office for a special "Lobby Day" in the state capital. Participate in the legislative process from the inside out. Meet your representatives, see the delegation in session and committee, and raise your voice for water quality issues in your community. Interested? Contact Tanner Council at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757-622-1964, ext. 3305.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Farmer Spotlight: Whitmore Farm

Picture 1The opportunity to purchase a farm gave Maryland native Will Morrow a final push into a mid-life career change. From a residential landscape design firm in D.C. to the hills of Frederick County, Morrow credits his interest in eating well in the city to spurring him into organic- and pasture-based farming. 

Despite the weeds and abandoned structures, Morrow invested in a 30-acre farm property in the Valley and dedicated himself to restoring the land to its previous splendor. Upon purchasing the land in 2003, Morrow established Whitmore Farm as a way of honoring the successful pioneer years of Benjamin Whitmore and his family. The property, which lies within the Monocacy Watershed, is bordered by Toms Creek and now serves as a Certified Organic Production.

Morrow notes that a large part of the farm's success—both environmentally and economically—is approaching the business with a consumer perspective: "We were the people shopping at farmers' markets in the city. We were the people seeking out and eating at restaurants that sourced locally. So, as a producer, I was familiar with the venues I wanted to sell at. I was also comfortable navigating the tight urban landscape for deliveries. And, I knew my buyer well. I was selling to myself."

Picture 2Morrow works to emphasize sustainable agricultural practices while he raises acres of crops and livestock. The farm specializes in both Heritage and American breed pasture-raised livestock for lamb, pork, and poultry for eggs. Morrow's philosophy toward animals is not only evident in the pasture-raised system but through his Livestock Guardian Dogs, a team made up of five rescued Great Pyrenees and a central Asian Shepherd.

In addition to his pastoral operations, Morrow is always looking for new ways to improve the sustainable production of the farm. He remains steadfast in his philosophy that ". . . part of our farm's mission is to use sustainable ag practices that respect the land and provide healthy food to our customers."

Picture 3The small but mighty farm raises grass-fed and finished lamb, pastured pork, and pastured eggs. In addition to the livestock and poultry productions, Whitmore Farm is also home to a sustainable and certified organic produce operation. Morrow grows an assortment of tomatoes, peas, arugula, beets, carrots, and flavorful figs to distribute to restaurants and sell at farmers' markets.

What's more, Morrow is a huge advocate for clean water. During an interview with the Baltimore Sun in November, he stated that the American Farm Bureau Federation was "on the wrong side of history" when it and its allies petitioned the Supreme Court to review their challenge to Chesapeake clean-up efforts.

Picture 4"As I get older, I tend to focus more on the long view," says Morrow. "Society, culture, and values are not static. They evolve over time . . . people farming today farm differently than their parents did and different still from the way their grandparents did. To think that we have reached the apogee in farming and that our current agricultural system is beyond reproach is naive and arrogant. The Farm Bureau is ignoring the science and values that most of the farmers I know hold dear. The status quo is not acceptable. The sooner they accept that, the sooner we can focus on the solutions."

A staunch believer in the power of education, Morrow has hosted numerous field days and informative trips for teachers as well as served as president of the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) Board. "Education is key for the next generation of farmers," he says. Appropriately, CASA's mission is to provide education, networking, and advocacy to help build a sustainable Chesapeake foodshed—something Morrow does every day on his farm in Frederick County.

—Text by Kellie Rogers; Photos courtesy of Will Morrow

Learn more about how farmers across the watershed are working to improve both water quality and farm productivity in our Farmers' Success Stories series.

 


What's Your Poo IQ?

CBF_FacebookAd01-PoopQuiz-560x292Think about it: There are hundreds of millions of people, livestock, pets, and wild animals that live in the Chesapeake Bay region. Every single one of us eats and that means every single one of us . . . well you know.

But do you know the impact of all that poop on our rivers, streams, and Bay? Take the quiz and find out!

You'll learn, for instance, how many of Virginia's rivers and streams are poop contaminated; how long it would take Pennsylvania inspectors to inspect all their farms; and how many tons of excess doo Maryland's chickens produce each year (Hint: It's a pretty insane number).  

Of course, in the wise words of children's author Taro Gomi: "Everyone poops." We can't avoid that necessary part of life, but we can make sure our water quality doesn't go down the toliet. So sit down, grab your #2 pencil, and take the Poo IQ Quiz!


Clean Water Among the Many Visions for "Many Streams Farm" in Southern York County

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Bob and Maggie Cahalan on their southern York County farm. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Among the many dreams Bob and Maggie Cahalan have for their southern York County farm, protecting the water that runs through it is one of their most important.

With the help of CBF in Pennsylvania and restoration specialist Ashley Spotts, the Cahalans and their partners planted more than 300 native trees and shrubs on three acres, as buffers to trap and filter pollutants that would otherwise flow into Ebaugh and Shaw streams. The cool, babbling waters converge into Deer Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River, and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay.

CBF is emphasizing clean water efforts in York County through its "Clean Water Counts: York" program, which organizes and mobilizes residents to urge leaders in Harrisburg to show greater commitment to improving water quality, and focuses on the need to clean up York County's 350 miles of impaired creeks, streams, and rivers.

The Cahalans live in Greenbelt, Maryland, and with partners Eugenia Kalnay and Jorge Rivas, bought the 37-acre farm in Stewartstown, just north of the Mason-Dixon Line, in 2011. It is no longer a working farm, in that there currently are no crops or livestock to tend.

The forested and streamside buffers on Many Streams Farm are unique in the diversity of plants chosen. Various oaks and hickories, persimmon, paw paw, honey locust, and several types of berry-producing shrubs are among the 40 species.

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The Calahans inspect a tree on their farm with Ashley Spotts, CBF Pennsylvania Stream Buffer Specialist. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

With guidance from CBF, Many Streams Farm benefited from the Commonwealth's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which makes annual rental payments for land taken out of pasture or production and based on soil type.

"The CREP plan has everything they need to know, including tree and shrub numbers, maintenance requirements, contractor lists, tree lists, and reimbursement costs for the program," CBF's Ashley Spotts says.

"CREP had value beyond monetary value, because it had certain procedures that were developed and outlined," Bob Cahalan says. "We had to plant to a certain date and get 70 percent to survive."

The Cahalans intend to practice permaculture amid the farm's rolling hills, streams, and wetlands. They see permaculture as the harmonious integration of landscape and people, providing food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable and ethical way.

"Experimenting with restorative and re-generative soil building agriculture that does not depend on annual plantings for food sources is a major goal," Maggie Cahalan says. "We hope to foster increased use of perennial and tree crops as food sources for humans and animals. We think it is especially appropriate for the sloped land of this piedmont hill farm."

The Cahalans would like to produce half of their personal food on Many Streams Farm. They have plans for spiral orchards of varieties of apples and cherries; a medicine wheel garden of ginger, berries, witch hazel and other medicinal plants; a farm museum; and a greenhouse. They are installing 30 solar panels to generate energy for farm needs and even have a project to harvest acorns and make bread.

They also see the property as a place for environmental education, a nursery for heirloom and edible native plants, and an opportune place for senior citizens to contribute and integrate.

The Cahalans' interest in clean water and the Chesapeake Bay extends beyond their York County Farm.

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Bob Calahan in a stream on his farm in southern York County. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

They are very active in the non-profit CHEARS (CHesapeake Education, Arts, and Research Society), dedicated to the health of all who share the Chesapeake watershed environment. It is a vehicle for volunteer work to help the health of the Bay. The goal of the non-profit is to foster rural-urban linkages for the good of the Chesapeake watershed in urban, suburban, and rural areas in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

The Cahalans are also very much committed to Chestory (The Center for the Chesapeake Story), with roots in southern Maryland and the work of the late Tom Wisner. It is a group of artists, scientists, citizen activists, educators, poets, writers, and waterfolk who believe that art, song, and story can be the thread that binds people with the deep spiritual Chesapeake experience.

The Cahalans' passion for the Bay grew out of their reading CBF's State of the Bay report in 2005. "One of our first activities was to write an article for the little town we lived in, in Greenbelt," Maggie Cahalan says. "It was to summarize materials from the Foundation, and it galvanized us. I think the work of the Foundation in educating people is really important."

— B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator