We're Halfway There: Dutch Hollow Cattle Company

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This is one in a series of articles about farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed who have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and efficiency on their farms. As a result of these success stories, we're halfway to achieving the nutrient reductions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waters. View the rest of the series here.

Butch Snow and his wife Melody Tennant have a beef cattle operation in Rockbridge County in the headwaters of the James River. It's a cow/calf operation and a grass-finished beef business called the Dutch Hollow Cattle Company. They own one farm and lease four adjoining farms.

The pair rotate their cows and calves through 19 grazing pastures, allowing each pasture at least 45 days of rest. This allows Snow and his wife to extend their grazing into mid-January, which has cut their need for hay in half.

"Because of our rotational grazing system, we've sold all of our hay equipment," explains Snow. "I'm buying better hay than what I could make." 

Snow contends that by rotating his cattle herds, he gets more grazing days and has healthier livestock.

"Since we started rotating, we have fewer pink-eye outbreaks and fewer parasite problems. We are also weaning heavier calves."

But "you can't rotate if you don't have water," Snow continues. The couple has used several combinations of CREP, EQIP, and the state's agricultural cost-share program to get their cows out of the streams and build rotational grazing systems.

"I attribute my better herd health to better water. They would rather drink out of a trough than in the creek. When I found out these programs help pay for wells, I was motivated to enroll. I could not have swallowed the cost of these improvements. It actually works."

Snow also persuaded the owners of the farms the couple leases to enroll in programs that help pay for cross-fencing, stream exclusion, and alternate watering systems. The owners enrolled in the programs, and Snow coordinated the conservation work.

"It was definitely worth it for me to make these improvements on farms I didn't own," he says. "We get healthier, heavier calves, and the owner gets capital improvements on the land and better forage with fewer weeds."

—Bobby Whitescarver  

 Whitescarver lives in Swoope, Va. For more information, visit his website.

Learn more about how farmers throughout the Bay watershed are working to improve both water quality and efficiency on their farms through critical Farm Bill programs. 


Christina's Clean Water Story

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Photo by Damon Fodge.

"When I was a little girl there was a sandy beach at the foot of Market Street in Historic Annapolis. At that time the waters of Spa Creek were clean and clear enough that we would collect brine shrimp, minnows, baby crabs, and snails.

As an adult, I live in Shady Side, Maryland. We live a block from the Bay. Our neighborhood has recently completed a shoreline restoration project so we have a little sandy beach. It [has] been tough seeing the [Bay's] decline over the years in so many areas, but it looks like people are taking a serious interest in [restoring our waters] and giving back. It's great to see."  

—Christina Demorest-Sugg
Shady Side, Maryland 

What does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your clean water story here!

 

 

 


Our Community on Camera!

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The Avalon Theatre in downtown Easton, Maryland.

What do the community of Easton, a menhaden fishing boat, and nesting pelicans all have in common?

 

You'll see all of them in film on October 17 at the Avalon Theatre in downtown Easton!

This past summer, CBF, in partnership with the Avalon Foundation, hosted the Clean Water Concert Series on Harrison Street in Easton, Maryland. These concerts brought the community outside to listen to some incredible music, learn more about the Chesapeake Bay, and visit with local environmental organizations.

While the music was playing and people were up and dancing, Midshore Community Television (MCTV) was collecting clean water testimonials from concert goers, who shared their stories about living on the Eastern Shore and the connection we as a community feel to the Chesapeake Bay (perhaps you were one of them?!).

Throughout the course of the concerts it became clear that not only is the Chesapeake a part of our daily lives here on the Eastern Shore, it also has a special place in our hearts. From the stories of people who grew up wading in the Choptank and working the fishing boats, to those who found their way down here and stayed, it's clear that the Bay links us all together. So, lets take a moment to celebrate that connection with our community, with the Bay, and with the 18 million other people, and 3,000 different species of plants and animals who share this watershed.

On Thursday, October 17, from 7 p.m.–9 p.m., CBF will premiere some of these videos at the Avalon Theatre, along with some other videos that Chesapeake Bay Foundation has put together to highlight the incredible community of people and wildlife who live alongside, and depend upon, the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

This film event is free and open to the public, so come on out. Come see your community on camera and learn more about the connections we all have to the Chesapeake Bay!

See you at the movies!

Bess Trout, CBF's Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist 


Karen's Clean Water Story

KarenWathen_19052253_rockfishGifts of the Chesapeake 

In a deep slumber, I feel a hard, calloused hand grab my foot and vigorously shake it. This is Dad's traditional signal to communicate to me that it is time to go. Neither of us utters a single word; just a simple shake of the foot and I know exactly what to do. Like clockwork, I leap out of bed, throw on a few layers of clothes and sprint to the 18' Carolina skiff tied up to our dock. I jump into the boat where my Dad is impatiently waiting for me to untie the bow so we can cast out on our usual Saturday morning adventure.

There he sits in his captain's chair, with his arms folded tightly and perched atop his belly, giving me the "you're-almost-late" look. In a crumpled up 7-Eleven bag, I spy two cream-filled doughnuts atop the steering console: our usual Saturday morning treats. I rush to release the bow lines as I anticipate biting into a creamy, chocolate covered doughnut while watching the sun perch above the Chesapeake. My seven-year-old spirit bubbles with excitement as I hear the roar of the outboard motor gear up for another big day. Racing the rise of the springtime sun, we chart out through the cool and misty open waters.

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When the calendar falls on April 20th in Southern Maryland, people drop their boats in to the frigid, brackish waters and set out to stalk the king of the Chesapeake: the striped bass. The morone saxatilis, better known as the rockfish, striper, and/or striped bass is a highly respected and cared-for population. In 2007, President George W. Bush issued an executive order that the coveted striped bass be considered a protected game fish. The striper is one of Maryland's most vital commercial and recreational fish; so important, in fact, it has been declared the Maryland state fish. The rockfish provides the people of the Chesapeake Bay watershed with delicious meals but also a challenge that fosters intimate relationships amongst those who seek to catch this special species.

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We finally reach the prime real estate for our hunt of the coveted striper. Dad rushes around the boat, gathering the rods, fidgeting with the lures, attempting to steer clear of neighboring vessels and keeping a keen eye on the depth finder. At the tender age of ten-years-old, I stand in awe as I watch him perfect the process. Flawlessly, he executes the preparation and gracefully drops two lines into the depths of the Chesapeake. With our bellies full of sugary sweets, we sit side-by-side anxiously awaiting a bite from a striper. It is during these idle times that the true pleasure of fishing is elicited.

I listen to Dad tell me about how things were back in his day; he narrates stories of adventures and triumph in an animated and fabricated manner that keeps me on the edge of my cold, plastic seat. He talks about how he walked five miles to school, uphill both ways and tells innumerable tall tales of his childhood. I reciprocate the story swapping by rambling on about the boy in school that I like and how he never waits for me after lunch and how he always pays more attention to my friend Chelsea. He listens intently and advises me to move on; my ten-year-old spirit is devastated but there is a sense of safety in his voice that compels me to take his advice. We sit and talk until we see a sharp bend in one of our rods; the secret sharing stops and the action begins.

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Trolling is the most popular strategy used to capture stripers in the Chesapeake. It consists of setting up fishing lines, dropping them over the sides of the boat and slowly cruising through open water as the lures drag behind. The slow glide of the boat gives the tacky, brightly colored lures a lively spin which makes them look quite appealing to the hungry stripers who lurk within the dark waters of the Chesapeake. The infamous striper is known as a "lazy feeder," meaning that when it feeds, it travels with the current and simply eats what it comes across rather than fighting the current and searching for prey; this fact is crucial to ones success in capturing the coveted striper. Within the charter industry, trolling is a very popular strategy because it is a relatively simple and hands-off process. This allows the attendees on the boat an ample amount of time to kick back, enjoy a few beers and simply revel in the beauty of the Chesapeake. It should be noted that even though this is a relatively simple process, when the striper finally bites the trolling lures, a dramatic bend in the rod warrants grown adults to propel themselves into a mass hysteria of excitement. These fish are true fighters and it can sometimes take upward of half an hour to get one striper reeled in.

Other techniques used to capture the striper also include jigging, bottom fishing, and surf fishing. One of the most exhausting and exhilarating strategies used to capture the striper is the jig. Jigging is a technique where a boat anchors near a submerged structure in the water such as pilings or docks. From there, the striper-seekers take a rod with multiple fish shaped lures on the end and bob it vigorously up and down in the water at a considerable depth. This makes an illusion of a school of fish and stripers go crazy at the sight of fast movements and bright colors of the lures. This technique is used less on charter boats more so for the individuals who consider themselves true anglers. Trolling seems to be the charter strategy of choice in the Chesapeake because of the perfect dichotomy between action and relaxation that it provides.

*******

I am looking at a photograph framed in my room. Twenty-years-old, there I stand on that same dock that I raced down each Saturday morning as I anxiously awaited our fishing trips. My Dad and I stand closely with excited eyes after one of these exhilarating mornings spent fishing the depths of the Chesapeake. I am gripping the mouth of my thirty-inch rockfish with both hands, trying to hold back laughter as my Dad cracks a joke about how he can barely hold it up. My face indicates that I am struggling to keep it in my hands; looking at the photo, I can feel my arms quivering and my grip slipping from the slimy coating of the fish. I am reminded of how hard I constantly tried to impress him with every detail of my life; if I drop this fish, I will never hear the end of it. I am the strong daughter; the closest thing to a son that Dad has and I can see myself in this photo filling those shoes.

Dad stands next to me with his entire forearm stuffed up into the gill of a forty-eight-inch striper. Effortlessly, he holds up the humongous fish; he is truly the last John Wayne. Never one to crack a smile in a photograph, I can see the faintest look of excitement in my father's eye and I can see that the times we have spent together on the Chesapeake have given us much more than just a few big fish. Looking at this photo, I am reminded of the striking dichotomy of both the closeness and distance between us; we stand together with only our elbows gracing one another. Close enough to touch but far enough away that it doesn’t appear too "soft."

Karen Wathen
Leonardtown, Maryland 

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!



Nadine's Clean Water Story

Mom photo"I am the mother of four beautiful children. I am concerned not only about them but about their children and their children's children and their children's children.

What we do now creates all of their futures. Are they not going to be able to know the joy of crossing a stream by hopping from stone to stone? Are they never to peer down into the river and see crayfish at work? Will the stench of the river be too overwhelming that when they need to sit by its banks and listen to its music they will find no respite? I want them to have a world filled with all forms of life. I want them to hear and see the frogs and tadpoles in the spring and to be able to hone their reflexes by catching them instead of with video games.

We as people need wildness, and we need to cherish its message of inter-related individuality. I want that for our children and for the generations to come."

—Nadine Zsebenyi
Baltimore, Maryland

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!


Sam's Clean Water Story

SamSchoedel_photo1This [past spring] we planted a garden . . . to help reduce [stormwater] runoff to the Bay. The garden will help by sucking up [pollution] and stopping it from going into [our] rivers and eventually into the Bay . . . 

Our final project in science [class this spring] was to research a plant and make a presentation about it for our garden. Our group wanted to do something different, so we did the purple pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant. This plant would help the garden by absorbing runoff and eating pesky insects. The only downside to this plant was the constant pruning and babying that would go into it. Most of the other plants [for our garden] were perennials . . . but didn't have to be pruned constantly.

In the end, our plant was not chosen [for the garden], but it was still fun to [grow], and I enjoyed knowing that we were helping the Bay by planting a garden. [My close friend] David Deaderick said, "Every plant counts." It is very true.

—Sam Schoedel
Fredericksburg, Virginia

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!

Good Things Are Happening!

Across the watershed, from Pennsylvania to Virginia, people are pulling together to restore the Bay and its waters. Through a variety of innovative, collaborative clean water projects, good things are starting to happen! Take a look below at this photo series of some of these successes . . .

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Students from Manchester Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia, develop their own Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint during their Bay studies aboard "Baywatcher," CBF's James River education vessel. Photo by CBF Staff.
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State Representative Todd Rock and Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher joined CBF, the Antietam Watershed Association, and Washington Township to plant 600 seedlings at Antietam Meadows, a community park located in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. CBF, the Antietam Watershed Association, and Washington Township are working to establish an 11-acre streamside forest buffer along the Antietam Creek. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.
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On Maryland's Eastern Shore is a model for what a small rural community (4,200 people) can do. So far, the town of Centreville and nearby residents have built 350 residential rain gardens to slow down and soak up runoff; protected nearly 5,800 acres of farms and forests from future development; and increased the use of cover crops on farms to more than 5,000 acres a year. Forty homeowners also grow pollution-filtering oysters in more than 220 cages hanging from piers and docks. Photo by CBF Staff.
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CBF, the Harrisburg Community Action Commission, Danzante Urban Arts Center, and the United Way of the Capital Region partnered to educate 25 Lower Dauphin High School students about stormwater, how rain barrels can help alleviate stormwater, and ways that communities can improve their environment and local water quality by implementing green infrastructure projects—like rain barrels. The students then constructed and painted 12 rain barrels to be used in a downtown Harrisburg community. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.
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Many livestock farms in Maryland are deciding to raise their cows, sheep, and other animals the old fashioned way—on pasture rather than in confined animal operations. The switch helps lower pollution to nearby streams and helps rural counties meet Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals for agriculture. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.
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The Town of Ashland, Virginia, recently resurfaced much of its municipal parking lot with thousands of permeable pavers and installed a bio-retention basin to capture stormwater runoff. The project allows runoff to soak into the ground and be filtered naturally rather than run off into nearby Stony Run, a Chesapeake Bay tributary stream. One of several low-impact projects in the town, the "soft" parking lot reduces flooding, lowers nearby air temperatures, protects streams, and captures runoff pollution targeted by the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Photo by Chuck Epes/CBF Staff.


 


Photo of the Week: Beauty and the Beast

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The old Cape Henry Lighthouse, Virginia Beach, VA. Photo by Eddie Weindel/eddieweindel.com.

"The Bay is like a far off planet that most disregard and use as a means of self indulgences. Walking the varied shorelines in search of images . . . I find blight that takes me to a better self understanding and the role I play in the world. I find bottles, cans, clothes, plastics, and all other unwanted things tossed aside from the users of the Bay. I wonder where each of these items traveled from. Was it by mishap? Was it intentional? Did the last person to see these items understand the meaning of what they where doing?

Yorktownshoreline". . . I wish that someday we may take images of these things, the things that break the beauty of the Bay . . . [These images] will win no awards, but if it stops one person from tossing things into the Bay and its wonderful flowing streams and rivers, it will have done it's job. [Therefore, I'm including] in my submission a image I took at Yorktown, by far one of the cleanest shorelines I have seen to date, and still this was present . . ."

—Eddie Weindel

Help protect our waters and shorelines: Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Music, Clean Water, and the Eastern Shore

Everyone is up and dancingThe Eastern Shore of Maryland has a great deal to be thankful for. From the rich history of the beautiful colonial towns that dot the landscape, to the farms and forests that stretch from Cecil to Worcester Counties, we are in a unique position to enjoy the "Land of Pleasant Living." 

Of course, we also have the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams right in our own backyard. The Bay has long supported the livelihoods of many who live and work here, but it impacts our lives far beyond our valuable fishing and tourism industries. The Bay brings us together as a community: It's part of our heritage, and we need to work hard to ensure that it is fishable and swimable for future generations to enjoy. 

Sharing ProduceTo help raise awareness about the Bay and involve the community in its restoration, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is partnering with the Avalon Foundation to host a series of concerts in downtown Easton. The series kicked off in June with a Farmer's Market concert featuring national recording artist Susan Werner, who wowed the crowd by singing and telling stories about her own agricultural background. The  event continued with a ticketed show at the Avalon Theatre with Susan, followed a week later by an outdoor, block-party-style concert featuring the XPDs on June 8. We conclude the series with a final concert on June 29, this one featuring the popular and fun Eastport Oyster Boys.

At each concert, CBF volunteers and staff are prompting people to share stories about the Chesapeake Bay and its value in their lives. It is amazing to hear about all of the ways in which clean water motivates us, from those who grew up fishing and swimming in the Bay, to people who came to this area because of the beauty and opportunity provided by this important resource. The Chesapeake Bay brings us together as a community, and we all have a story to share about the many ways it impacts our lives.

The Crowds Come OutAnd now with the science-based, multi-state, bi-partisan Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint guiding it's restoration, we can unite as a community around clean water. We may all have different backgrounds, and often we have different opinions. But our connection to the Bay and to this area is something we all have in common.

This is the moment in time for the Chesapeake Bay, and for the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This is the moment to restore our national treasure and ensure that the oysters, crabs, and finfish that call this area home will thrive. And most importantly, it is the moment to guarantee that future generations have their own stories to share with their children and grandchildren about the Bay. We'll see you Saturday!

—Photos and Text by Bess Trout, CBF's Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist 

Can't make it on Saturday? Tell us your own Chesapeake clean water story here!


Changing the Flow: A Holistic Solution to a Stormy Problem

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The restored floodplain slows down the water, keeps the soil in place, and creates wildlife habitat. Photo courtesy of LandStudies, Inc.

Just a few blocks from Lancaster City is the home of CBF members Paul and Judy Ware. Their five-acre property along Marietta Avenue was falling prey to an all-too-familiar marauder—stormwater runoff

Velocity, as it turns out, was not only moving pollutants and debris downstream, but also the Wares' front yard.

 

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Before the Wares embarked on this project, rushing water during storms was eroding away their property. Photo courtesy of RGS Associates.

On any given day the flow of this spring-fed, unnamed tributary to the Conestoga River would be considered a lazy meander, but that's definitely not the case during heavy rain events. Velocity, escalated by the channeling-by-design function of a culvert beneath Marietta Avenue, transformed the gentle spring-fed stream into a roaring river. Over time, the Wares were left with an eroded, severely channelized stream with six-foot banks. The creek, the waterways downstream, and the Bay, were left with excess sediment and polluted run-off. 

Mr. Ware worried on several levels: for the safety of his 7-year-old grandson who loves to look for frogs and other critters; for the erosion of his property; and for the water quality of the creek itself. Mr. Ware, who also owns property in Maryland, understands the connection between our actions here in Pennsylvania and the potential impacts downstream. He decided that the solution to their stormwater woes was to transform it from a burden into an asset. 

 

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This culvert continues to serve as the main transport of water beneath Marietta Avenue and onto the Wares' property, but it no longer has an eroding effect on the property. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.

So Paul and Judy called upon the expertise of John Hershey, Client Manager for RGS Associates, Inc., and LandStudies Inc., to design an alternative. The conventional solution would be to add-on to the already existing stormwater detention basin, which was situated near the culvert. Considered the status-quo for dealing with stormwater run-off, these basins are designed to hold onto the increased flow while allowing pollutants and sediment to settle out. But for the Wares, a bigger basin in their front yard was anything but palatable.

Looking through a big-picture lens, Mr. Hershey and LandStudies approached the project with a holistic mindset.

Their plan: deconstruct the existing stormwater retention basin, restore and reconnect the stream to its floodplain, plant native pollution-filtering plants, and establish wetlands for additional filtering and for enhanced wildlife habitat.

Their goal:  create a slower, healthier, meandering stream that would naturally handle increased flow, even during heavy rains, without eroding away the property. By re-establishing a natural floodplain the Wares would handle their stormwater in a natural, greener way.

 

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Paul Ware (left) and John Hershey, Client Manager for RGS Associates, Inc. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.

To Paul, who enjoys the challenge of finding creative solutions to everyday problems, it was an investment that made sense. This was not just a solution to the problem on his property, but also an opportunity to inspire his neighbors and the community to maybe think a little differently about how we "handle" water. 

The Wares' next project: establishing a rain garden to help hold and filter water.

For Mr. Ware, he says that he no longer worries; the frogs have returned, the ever-changing colors of the plantings and flowers are a joy, and he knows that not only is his grandson safe, but that the water on his property and downstream is now cleaner.

Congratulations and thank you to the Wares' for their efforts to improve local water quality and the Chesapeake Bay.

—Kelly Donaldson

The project was supported by Lancaster Township, and it's believed to be the first of its kind in Pennsylvania where a municipality permitted the removal of a traditional suburban stormwater basin in favor of floodplain restoration. 

 

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This project serves as an excellent reminder that keeping soil in place and out of our streams can have multiple water quality benefits. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.