Farmer Spotlight: St. Brigid's Farm

St. Brigids 3
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. 

St. Brigids 2.jpg
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.

St. Brigids 4
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.

St. Brigids 1
Photo courtesy of Linda Farwell.

 


State Must Invest in Its New Clean Water Plan

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

Brook-trout-1200
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

Bob&Maggie Cahalan2 blog-1200
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.

Bob&Maggie Cahalan Ashley Spotts blog-1200
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.

Ebaugh stream Bob blog-1200
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


CBF Pennsylvania Carries Restoration Message to Nation's Capital

Casey-1200
Standing outside the Washington, D.C., office of Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania are, from left: CBF PA Executive Director Harry Campbell; Lee Ann Murray, CBF PA assistant director and attorney; Liz Hermsen, senior policy advisor to Senator Casey; Clair Ryan, CBF watershed restoration program manager; and restoration specialists Steve Smith, Ashley Spotts, and Kristen Hoke. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Frank and Kandy Rohrer's proactive approach to improving the land and water quality on their Lancaster County farm, sets a positive example for others.

Since 2000, the Rohrers have installed two streamside buffers on their 200-acre farm, taking advantage of Pennsylvania's Conservation Resource Enhancement Program (CREP) to help reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into nearby waters. They also put in grassed waterways, cover crops, and employ no-till production.

Restoration specialists from CBF Pennsylvania carried the Rohrers' success story, and others, to the nation's capital Dec. 2 and 3, to demonstrate the importance and challenges of their work to the two U.S. senators from the Keystone State.

The Pennsylvania field staff took the opportunity to meet with staff members for Senators Robert Casey, Jr., and Pat Toomey, while in Washington, D.C. for a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Farm Service Agency's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Nationwide, CRP encompasses over 23 million acres, with 625,000 contracts on 410,000 farms. Pennsylvania's CREP is part of CRP.

CREP participants receive funding to create buffers, wetlands, wildlife habitat, grass filter strips, native grass stands, and more. The program pays up to 90 to 140 percent of the installation cost and annual rent, which is usually between $40 and $240 per acre/per year.

Through CREP, CBF and its partners have planted more than 1,800 miles of streamside buffers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In Bradford County, the partners under CREP planted over 3,000 acres of trees, making the county a conservation leader in Pennsylvania.

For Alix Murdoch, CBF's federal policy director, getting field staff together with top federal legislators was exciting. "It's the first time I've been able to bring in restoration staff, who I consider the source for where the action is really happening for us," Murdoch said. "Getting the final link in the chain in where our power, engineering and contributions come from, all the way up to the Hill where decisions are made on the federal level.

"Restoration staff spoke specifically about their experiences, where they work and what they do," Murdoch added. "It was totally relevant to the federal program and is the type of feedback that federal members need to hear."

Restoration specialists Steve Smith, Ashley Spotts, and Kristen Hoke emphasized the value of the CREP program, the importance of stream buffers, and the need for funding, when they met first with Liz Hermsen, senior policy advisor for Senator Casey, in the Russell Senate Office Building.

"It was a privilege to be asked to represent restoration staff and to tell them how CBF really does walk the walk and puts money into restoration," Hoke said. "We're not just telling people to put money toward restoration. For me, talking about the projects I've work on gives me new hope that my workload and the interest in CREP will pick up and I can be a method for that and help facilitate that."

Hoke works in Cumberland, Dauphin, and Franklin counties. Spotts works in York, Lancaster, Lebanon, and Chester counties. Smith is in Potter, Tioga, and Bradford counties. Restoration specialists Jennifer Johns and Frank Rohrer were unable to make the trip.

Other CBF Pennsylvania staffers making the trip to Washington, were Harry Campbell, executive director; Lee Ann Murray, assistant director and attorney; and Clair Ryan, watershed restoration program manager.

A key message delivered to top legislators from Pennsylvania, was that CBF's passion and commitment to clean water in the Commonwealth, is implemented by Pennsylvanians themselves.

"It's that local connection, understanding that we work for CBF, but we are Pennsylvania residents, concerned about Pennsylvania rivers and streams and that we want to work with farmers to get them to do what they ultimately want to do. And help their bottom line," Lee Ann Murray said. "It's that more local connection that maybe in the federal government gets lost in the process. It is important that they understand that what we are doing back home in the state is relevant and important and is a good use of funds. This visit puts a face to the work. That there are real people doing the work with real people who are constituents, and farmers."

The Pennsylvania contingent then met with Tyler Minnich, aide to Senator Toomey, in the Hart Senate Office Building.

Ashley Spotts spoke about the projects on the Rohrer farm, and detailed cooperative efforts to implement conservation practices on Amish farms in Lancaster County. "It was nice to finally be recognized that we are doing good things in our state," Spotts said. "I want to do right by my farmers and landowners and I want to help them as best I can."

Clair Ryan emphasized that CBF and farmers get good value when farmers participate in CREP funding. "It seems like the whole game with government programs is to do more with less and that is what we were explaining, how we do work on these programs, in a very efficient manner," Ryan said. "We bring private funds to the table that wouldn't be leveraged otherwise and we're committed to being good partners on these programs."

Casey-2-1200
CBF staffers met with Tyler Minnich, aide to Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

"These are the types of things that farmers by and large want. Most know it will be helpful to their bottom lines and to their operations," Harry Campbell told Tyler Minnich. "It's just that they don't have the time because of the demands of the work that they do, nor the resources necessary to do it on their own. Barnyard improvements, for example, are something that farmers recognize they have to get to, but when will they fit it in and get the assistance for it?"

Earlier in the day, Steve Smith attended a luncheon sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, honoring landowners participating in CREP. Smith and his family have owned land near Mansfield, Tioga County, and participated in CREP for 25 years.

Smith said there was a real diversity of conservation groups and landowners from different states at the luncheon. Smith had the chance to talk with USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse, about the need for additional funding. Smith was happy to tell the Undersecretary and senators about, "The importance of keeping CREP going and about the needs we have in Pennsylvania," Smith said. "The Bay situation and our shortfall in Pennsylvania is the most important thing to stress to them. We need funding to get there."

The Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitment. Agriculture is the leading source of pollution, specifically the runoff of harmful nitrogen and sediment into Pennsylvania rivers and streams. 

At a reception that evening commemorating the 30th anniversary of CRP, the CBF staffers heard Undersecretary Scuse say the program does what many hoped it would do when it was created. "It solved problems," he told the gathering. "But it also added improved qualities to many American lives. There are not many provisions in laws implemented that can lay claim to so many unanticipated benefits. I'm proud to that we can show that American farmers and ranchers are directly involved in addressing this very critical social issue of climate change."

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts was in his fifth year as a member of the House of Representatives, when he introduced legislation authorizing CRP as the Farmland Conservation Acreage Preserve Act of 1985. "CRP not only encourages producers to conserve marginal farm land, but proved a valuable safety net to producers during some of their most difficult times," Roberts said. "An important aspect of CRP now includes a variety of initiatives that address specific conservation challenges such as improved water quality, reduced soil erosion, and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species." 

Through success stories about working with landowners like the Rohrers and Plain Sect farmers, the message made clear to legislators by the restoration contingent, was that clean water counts in Pennsylvania.

"I would hope we continue to meet with other legislators within our PA delegation, while differentiating ourselves from other national organizations that are conservation or environmentally-minded, that they typically hear from," Harry Campbell said. "This sets us apart in their minds as to who we are and what we do, and also what we are trying to accomplish."

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


Farmer Spotlight: Ladybrook Farm

C and V NZ
Carin Celebuski and Vince Matanoski on their travels. Photo courtesy of Carin Celebuski.

A sustainable farm in Baltimore County is emerging thanks to two new farmers, Carin Celebuski and Vince Matanoski. As the volunteer coordinator at the University of Maryland Arboretum, Carin "has always been into everything green." Farther from the farming fields is Vince who currently serves as the deputy director of the Constitutional and Specialized Torts Branch as well as a Captain in the United States Naval Reserve in sub-Saharan Africa.

Vince explains "that after all of the years in this kind of work, I want to do an honest day's work." In just few short months both Carin and Vince will be hard at work on their new property, Ladybrook Farm. The couple purchased the land and farmhouse hoping to convert the fields stripped from grain production into permanent pasture.

The idea of starting a sustainable farm developed as they both wanted to turn their strong interest in local foods and the environment into a business. The aspiring farmers wasted no time in preparing for their new careers. They attended events and conferences such as the Future Harvest: Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) Conference last January. While there, they met CBF's Maryland Restoration Scientist Rob Schnabel who discussed how smart farming can help Maryland meet its Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals for healthy, sustainable waters across the region.

22699080272_4bec049caf_z
Planting trees at Ladybrook Farm this fall. Photo courtesy of Carin Celebuski.

After learning about the vision for Ladybrook Farm, CBF's Maryland restoration team got involved. This fall more than 100 volunteers planted 800 trees across four acres. This spring, we'll work to plant six additional acres of forested buffers to help clean and filter water and improve the overall health of the land. Although Vince was in Africa for business during the first planting, Carin worked with the volunteers digging, planting, and sharing her vision for Ladybrook Farm.

The enthusiasm and work ethic the couple shares for the endeavor is clear and will undoubtedly translate into the success of Ladybrook Farm. Vince and Carin have even begun their own honey production, which they are looking forward to integrating into the farm. Upon the completion of the farm store and barn, goats, vegetables, and bees will roam the land slowly bringing it back to life. Additionally they will use a rotational grazing system to improve productivity and reduce the impact on the environment.

What's more, Vince looks forward to working with retired thoroughbred race horses stemming from a lifelong hobby. "I grew up riding, and I am looking forward to working with the horses, to retrain them for second, more permanent careers . . . bringing them to the farm will allow them a chance to relax and relearn what it

V Bees
Working on their honey bee production. Photo courtesy of Carin Celebuski.

means to be a horse again, giving them a new purpose and meaning for the rest of their lives."

Vince and Carin hope to have the farm open this spring, eventually selling sustainably grown and processed goat cheese, honey, vegetables and perhaps some fruits and cut flowers at their farm store. And Ladybrook Farm will give retired racehorses a second chance and new meaning in life just as it will fulfill the vision shared by two new farmers who want to help Save the Bay.

—Kellie Rogers

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

 

Group Planting photo
Ladybrook Farm tree planting this fall. Photo courtesy of Rob Schnabel/CBF Staff.

A Farmer's Support Means Cleaner Water

Donor Charles Bares
Charles Bares, a dairy farmer from upstate New York, is a generous supporter of CBF’s work to defend and implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. He believes, like CBF, that the Blueprint can improve waterways across the United States.

"I was an environmentalist before I was a farmer," Charles Bares says by phone one warm September morning. Bares has taken time out from managing his dairy farm–which comprises 5,000 acres and a few thousand cows–to speak about his support of CBF.

Bares and his family live in upstate New York–outside the Bay watershed. In fact, he's only been to the Chesapeake Bay region a handful of times. Yet, he generously supports CBF's work.

"You're going out there and fighting the good fight, and that's what I appreciated," he says.

Bares strongly believes in CBF's work to support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, a plan that he hopes will foster change and influence the cleanup of other polluted bodies of water. 

From defending the Blueprint in the courts, to our hands-on restoration work and educational programs, Bares believes that CBF is laying groundwork that will help provide clean water to people all over the United States.  

"The work that CBF is doing . . . people are going to stand on those shoulders," he says, adding, "[CBF is at] the forefront of changing opinions and getting policy makers behind you and showing how many people care and how [they] can make a difference."

Bares emphasizes that the American Farm Bureau Federation—the group challenging the legality of the Blueprint—does not speak for all farmers. "They certainly don't speak for me," he says.

Bares traces his passion for protecting the environment to his enjoyment of the outdoors, which began during his childhood in suburban Cleveland. He remembers summers spent fishing, birdwatching, and exploring nature, experiences that taught him to appreciate the environment and inspired him to become a farmer.

Over the years, the amount of time he has spent outdoors has given him a unique perspective on the impact of pollution. As an example, he mentions toads, a species that has been hit especially hard by pollution and habitat loss. He describes seeing the amphibians during summers while he was growing up and compares it to what his children see today. "To my kids it would be unbelievable. It would be like the world is being overtaken by toads!"

Not content to passively watch these changes occur, Bares and his brother formed a company that uses technology to reduce agricultural pollution. Known as Rowbot, the company produces small robots that roll through cornfields applying the exact amount of nitrogen fertilizer that the plants need. This is a departure from traditional farming practices, in which fertilizer is sprayed broadly across fields by large machines. Although the robots are still being tested, the idea holds the potential to reduce pollution and save farmers money.  

"[We wanted] to do something that could make a difference," Bares explains, noting that the project utilizes his expertise in farming, and his brother’s background in engineering.

In addition to his company's innovative use of technology, Bares is an advocate for more traditional methods of reducing agricultural pollution as well, including the use of BMPs or best management practices. These techniques, such as utilizing cover crops to prevent erosion, and fencing livestock from streams and creeks, make farming more sustainable. "It [doesn't] take a lot of money, it takes a willingness," he says.

He emphasizes that being a farmer and caring about the environment aren't mutually exclusive. "There are lots of farmers out there who don't want to pollute. They want to leave their creek behind the barn the way they found it . . . for their kids and grandkids," he says, adding, "We all just have to take care of our own little piece [of land] and lead by example."

—Melanie McCarty
CBF's Donor Communications Manager

Are you interested in joining the clean water movement just like Charles Bares? Click here.

 


Burgers and Brews for the Bay: Getting to Know Your Neighborhood Market

 Clagett Cow Panorama

Photo by Kellie Rogers.

Did you know that you can eat your way to a cleaner Chesapeake Bay? That’s right! A few weeks ago, we hosted our first Burgers and Brews for the Bay event at our sustainable Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Guests gathered on a beautiful fall Sunday to enjoy craft brews and local food while learning about the importance of local, sustainable food and how it reduces our impact on the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

12065503_10153571455780943_814758139210011269_n
Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

One event attendee recalled that she felt she had "stepped into a different world," surrounded by organic vegetables, herbs, and grass-fed animals. Clagett was the ideal location for the premier of this event as the farm demonstrates how agriculture can be made both profitable and sustainable.

Notable chefs traveled to the farm to feature grass-fed beef (provided by Clagett Farm Manager Michael Heller) in their own interpretations of gourmet sliders. Six food stations, each paired with a local craft brew, presented those sliders and other fresh ingredients like grass-fed lamb, organic herbs, and vegetables, all produced at the farm.

Today many people believe that we could not feed the world's growing population if every farmer were to switch to sustainable farming practices. But that simply isn't true. A research team from the Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC) group stated that contrary to popular belief, the global industrial food system uses 70 percent of the agricultural resources while producing a mere 30 percent of the world's food.

12108156_10153571449980943_911041629220492822_n
Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

In contrast, what the ETC group calls "peasant food systems" (or food from local, sustainable farming) are responsible for 70 percent of the world's food with access to only 30 percent of the agricultural resources.

What's more, through more local, sustainable farming practices, the consumer is able to have a better, more personal connection with their farmer and their food. 

Burgers and Brews not only helped educate and connect event participants with their own "neighborhood market," it also highlighted the fantastic work of various, regional programs through educational tables set up around the farm throughout the day:

  • Capital Area Food Bank is the largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and its companion problems. The food bank works with our Clagett Farm CSA to deliver fresh organic produce to communities in D.C. with otherwise limited access.
  • Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) supports local and sustainable food through existing and prospective farmers. Future Harvest CASA shared their mission to provide education, networking, and advocacy to help build a sustainable Chesapeake foodshed.
  • Attendees could also learn about local and sustainable farming opportunities through our Maryland Grazers Network. The Network, started by Farm Manager Michael Heller, is a farmer-to-farmer mentoring program that pairs experienced livestock, dairy, sheep, and poultry producers with farmers who want to pilot or switch to rotational grazing practices. Grazers Network mentors spoke with visitors who were interested in the benefits of grass-fed products not only for their own health but for the health of the animals and the environment.
  • The Chesapeake Chapter of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local Campaign, which CBF coordinates, was on hand to promote local and sustainable food sources for the betterment of the community, economy, and the environment. The Chapter's Eater's Guide to Local Food in Maryland is a resource, which includes a directory of sustainable farms, locally sourced markets, CSAs, craft breweries, and farm-to-table restaurants.
12143143_10153571466270943_3547425303019652315_n
Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

Throughout the day at the farm, guests also enjoyed live music by local bluegrass band Fiery Deep. Clagett farm staff set farm equipment out on display nearby, while tractors pulled wagons for hay rides around the property. The six food stations featured Maryland, D.C., Delaware, and Virginia brews including Bold Rock Hard Cider, DC Brau Brewing, Devil's Backbone, Dogfish Head, Fordham & Dominion, and Mully's Brewery. The delicious food menu included items like the "Fire It Up" beef slider topped with spiced tomato sauce and fresh pesto, Moroccan ground lamb sliders with roasted garlic and tomato jam, and a pastrami and Swiss slider with local sauerkraut. Other farm staff cooked fresh homemade vegetarian and meat pizzas in the farm's clay oven. Children and adults sipped on local root beer floats in the main tent where rain barrels and Clagett's grass-fed meat were offered as raffle prizes. Next to the main tent, our Education Program entertained kids climbing on hay bales, painting pumpkins, and printing fish on T-shirts.

Most importantly, event participants learned of the health benefits of grass-fed meats, the major sources of agricultural pollution to our waters, and ways that farms can become more sustainable. Attendees returned to their own neighborhoods later that day, full from a day packed with fresh, local food, craft brews, and learning opportunities that offered insights into delicious ways to help Save the Bay.

—Kellie Rogers

Check out our Facebook Photo Album for more photos of this fantastic and educational day on the farm!

 

12143133_10153571455675943_8025651755917347766_n
Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.