Farmer Spotlight: Eco-City Farms

File-1Miles from the countryside, surrounded by townhomes and busy city streets in Prince George's County, Maryland, one organization is working to serve as a model for urban farming operations. Deborah Wren and the team at Eco-City Farms are working to prove that farming in urban environments is not only viable but is greatly needed in these areas. Wren, the lead farmer of Eco City Farms, draws on her experiences growing up on a dairy farm and studying anthropology in college as she connects people of various cultures, backgrounds, and classes to fresher food in the city. Wren works to ensure that Eco-City's motto of "growing great food, farms and farmers," spans across the organization's two farms in the county.

The Edmonston Farm, the first property Eco-City worked, was founded six years ago on 1.25 acres. The farm started with hoop houses and a small outdoor growing space in a highly residential area. The second property in Bladensburg is larger at 3.5 acres and is known for its permaculture, garden beds, and edible forest. Both properties are Certified Naturally Grown, which is "a practice managed by a farmer collective where farmers from around the world hold each other to certain standards."

PhotoFarmer Wren credits her passion for farming to her upbringing. As one of seven children she was often working outside, helping her mother in the garden or helping her father with the cows. In her undergraduate studies in anthropology she traveled to a number of developing countries. She began drawing comparisons between urban areas such as those in areas like Washington, D.C. and Prince George's County to those in developing countries. The shocking similarities—lack of resources, environmental issues, and lack of access to essential resources such as food—motivated her to make a change upon returning to the United States. Wren began her career with Eco-City Farms as an apprentice just five years ago and is now the lead farmer in her third growing season.

As one can imagine, farming techniques are different for urban agriculture. For example, tractors do not till the soil and extensive sprayers do not water the crops. A part of changing farming into urban spaces is adapting the growing practices as soil, water, and even temperature are all different in the city. Eco-City Farms works with these changes to provide fresh sustainably grown produce year-round to its local community.

PhotoAdjusting to the land is just one factor as Eco-City Farms also works to appeal to different cultures. Nearly 48 percent of its customers and volunteers are Spanish speaking. The organization has an education and outreach coordinator who is fluent in Spanish as the farms are located in what many locals call "Little Mexico." Addressing the cultural differences and unifying people through food is something they hope to achieve as they look to reach a broader audience.

Eco City Farms offers two-size CSA shares and allow members to apply and pay weekly, providing more flexibility to those in lower income communities. In addition to their CSA share, it sells fresh produce at the Riverdale Park Farmers Market on Thursdays and the Port Towns Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Eco-City Farms not only works to deliver food to those with limited access but also provides resources such as nutrition-based education, training programs such as the Beginner Farmer Rancher Training program, as well as hosting composting workshops, and beginner farmers for apprenticeships. Eco-City Farms is a model for the future of urban farming, led by people who want to reconnect people to fresh, healthy food, regardless of their culture, class, or location.

—Kellie Rogers; Photos courtesy of Deborah Wren

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

 


Photo of the Week: Summer Solstice on the Bay

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With more than 150 major rivers and streams flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, we travel by boat within Maryland from the northern Bay heading toward the majestic Chesapeake Bay Bridge, where aesthetically the bridge's design in and of itself is absolutely breathtaking!

This body of water is known for its beauty and bounty; home to an array of beautiful birds, blue crabs, fish, oysters; a passageway for many sailboats, powerboats, and other vessels; place of amazing sunsets and gorgeous sunrises.

—Stephanie Rosier Karas

Ensure that Stephanie and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, 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!


Photo of the Week: Sunrise Sailing with the Grandson He Never Met

Memorial Day weekend cruise, 2016 111This is a sunrise photo from a father-son sailing trip I took with my five-year old son this past Memorial Day weekend. 

It is an amazing experience to introduce my son to sailing on the Bay in the same way my father introduced me to sailing on the Bay some 40 or so years ago. I can practically feel my father's presence with the grandson he never met as I talk about anchoring, navigation, and the stars above us.

—James Wilson

 

Ensure that James, his son, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, 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!


What We're Reading This Summer

PicMonkey CollageHurling ourselves into the Bay or a cool mountain stream as often as possible. Getting up early to watch the sunrise and cast off a few lines before work. Feasting on sweet blue crabs with friends and family. These are some of our favorite summertime activities. And right up there on this list is grabbing a good book and a patch of shade and digging into an extraordinary story. 

So for the second year in a row, we asked some avid readers across CBF what some of their favorite summertime books are. Here's what they had to say: 

Josh Young, Director of Research and Prospect Management: "The Lord's Oysters by Gilbert Byron. A classic, this novel explores the Chesapeake through the lens of watermen and their families in the early 20th Century. Byron really knows how to spin a good yarn; and he writes about areas in and around Chestertown that I first discovered as a college student on the Eastern Shore, so this particular read also carries some personal significance for me. A perfect way to get lost in a lazy summer afternoon!"

Kim Coble, Vice President, Environmental Protection and Restoration: "The book I just finished was awesome—a fiction by Donna Tartt called Goldfinch. It won the Pulitzer Prize, which is easy to understand . . . the writing is fabulous.  You learn a lot about each character and become involved with them from the very beginning. The story is both simple and complex and is centered around a painting of a goldfinch. I highly recommend this book if you want a get-away, well-written novel."

Paul Smail, Staff Litigation Attorney: "As the weather warms I am typically drawn to Swedish crime fiction or the hawks and badgers of Ted Hughes, but a friend recently introduced me to the work of Joan Didion. I've jumped into the deep end this summer with her 1970 novel, Play It as It Lays."

Ann Jurczyk, Virginia Outreach and Advocacy Manager: "Here's one I love (an oldie but a goodie for anyone who likes water)—Spartina by John Casey. You can almost smell the salt marsh and feel his boat rock underneath you."

Alan Girard, Eastern Shore Director: "It used to be that recommendations about what to read would come from my wife. Now that my teenage son has become one of the biggest bookworms I know, my reading list comes from him. New York Times-bestseller The Fault in Our Stars by John Green delivers a great message about life, death, and the world as a place that's bigger than ourselves. 'I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness,' says one of its characters. 'It rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I to tell the universe that it—or my observation of it—is temporary?' A provocative perspective on human nature and our common purpose. And what a thrill when such compelling ideas come through our children."

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

Special Note: A portion of the purchases made through the above dedicated Amazon links will go toward saving the Bay. So get out there and get reading!

 


Photo of the Week: Summer Storm Over Horn Harbor

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This is a 30-second exposure taken from our pier last Friday evening in Peary, Virginia, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

This storm rolled down the Mobjack Bay and took direct aim at Cape Charles. The lightning strike is directly over Cape Charles.

I travel weekly for work all over North America. Likewise, my family is very active, going in different directions all week long. Every Friday when we cross the bridges in West Point on our way to Mathews County, we simply relax and begin to enjoy the peace, quiet, and solitude of the Chesapeake Bay. I grew up on the Bay as a kid, and I'm so thankful that I can raise my children on that same Bay today almost 50 years later!

—Scott Phillips

Ensure that Scott and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, 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!

 


Photo of the Week: "Love" at Cape Charles

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This is of my family at the Chesapeake Bay at Cape Charles, Virginia. This has been our vacation spot for years. I have been going there for about 30 years, [since I was two-years-old]. I now am blessed to be able to share it with my husband, 10-year-old son, and 5-year-old daughter. We love the "at home" atmosphere of Cape Charles, the semi-private beach, natural abundance, and fishing opportunities.

—Brandie Gilbert

Ensure that Brandie, her family, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, 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!

 


Underwater Beauty

I like to think of wild celery as an underwater plant fit for the Disney princess Ariel. Its Kelly Green color, smooth and straight blades, and undulating motion are inherent in the picture-perfect world of Disney—and in clean rivers and streams.

This beauty and unmissable ecological value drives hundreds of Virginians each year to grow wild celery at home, January through June, and then plant the vegetation at restoration sites in the late spring and summer. These grasses or Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) have a slew of benefits: They serve as habitat and food source for critters, reduce wave action to prevent erosion and protect shorelines, filter pollutants and sediment out of the water column, and oxygenate our waterways. Unfortunately, algal blooms and sediment block sunlight—reducing total acreage of grasses to roughly only 20 percent of historic levels.

That's where CBF's Grasses for the Masses program comes in! The process, while rewarding for growers and the underwater critters that depend on them, is an equally heartbreaking occasion akin to sending your 18-year-old off to college. The grasses, once planted, must go off into the world and survive on their own.

This year, 279 volunteers from all walks of life participated in our Grasses for the Masses program, devoting nearly a half of their year to growing 40,000 grass seeds and planting them across roughly 30 square meters in Virginia rivers! We are only more encouraged by the recent news of the rebounding of grasses, which are up by 20 percent across the Bay. Programs like these along with pollution-reduction efforts are working. 

No matter how long I've been a part of this critical program, its the passion and commitment of our volunteers to restoring underwater grasses and clean, healthy Chesapeake waters that never ceases to amaze me. Take a look at the photos below to see their extraordinary work in action, and make sure to join us next year!

—Blair Blanchette, CBF's Virginia Grassroots Coordinator 

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CBF VA Senior Scientist Chris Moore braved Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015 to collect grass seeds for the 2016 season. Seeds are located in a vanilla bean-shaped pod attached to the plant by a pig’s tail curly cue. Photo by Chris Moore/CBF Staff.
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After attending one of 10 CBF workshops across Virginia, growers take home their kits, grass seed, and new knowledge of how to grow underwater grasses. Albert Bingenheimer and his daughter prepare the soil/sand mixture for their grasses. Photo courtesy of Albert Bingenheimer.
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Grower Leslie Mead took full advantage of her ping pong table, which was capable of holding the weight of three kits and lamps. Photo courtesy of Leslie Mead.
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CBF's Outreach and Advocacy Manager Ann Jurczyk and Senior Scientist Chris Moore use a pole driver to repair the struts on the Mason Neck State Park grass enclosure that had been damaged during the winter freeze. The PVC struts hold netting that prevents geese from landing and eating the wild celery grass. Photo by Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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CBF Grassroots Coordinator Blair Blanchette repositions the "Bay Oyster" boat for use in repair of the Mason Neck State Park enclosure as Regional Coordinator Ashley Reams and CBF Staff Scientist Chris Moore look on. Photo courtesy of Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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Ready to plant underwater grasses at Mason Neck State Park! Photo courtesy of Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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Albemarle County Environmental Studies Academy teacher Adam Mulcahy leads his three students into the water to plant underwater grasses at Mason Neck State Park. Behind Adam’s students, you can see Heroes on the Water preparing for their own event. Needless to say, the fishermen were pleased with the plantings. Photo courtesy of Rock Kulisch.
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Grower and Arlington Mill High School teacher Sharon Ruggieri shows off her beautiful grass roots. Strong roots are critical to the restoration process. Photo courtesy of Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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First-time grower Al Bingenheimer proudly displays his record-setting underwater grasses during a Westover Plantation planting. Not even grey weather could dampen the spirits of this Proud Papa! Photo courtesy of Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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After the grass plantings are over, growers clean their equipment to prepare it for next year's use. At this Mason Neck State Park planting on May 14, more than 50 kits were returned and more than 25 square feet of grass planted! Photo courtesy of Rock Kulisch.
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After the planting is all said and done, the grass restoration plots are left to grow and create seeds to restore the waterway. Turtles like these Eastern Painted Turtles benefit from the food and shelter provided by underwater grasses. Photo courtesy of Rock Kulisch.

Photo of the Week: Pink Sky on Nandua Creek

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Living within walking distance of one of the best sunset viewing spots ever, I get many, many great photos but this recently snapped shot has become a new favorite! After enjoying a cookout at my house with my son and family, we noticed the pink sky and jumped in the golf cart to catch what was left of the sunset. That's my four-year-old grandson playing on the dock while his father gave a neighbor an assist with his jet skis. This beautiful spot is on Nandua Creek, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, on Virginia's gorgeous Eastern Shore.

What do the Bay and its waters mean to me? Oh goodness, what don't they mean?! I've lived on or near such bodies of water since I was 10. Boating, skiing, fishing, crabbing, playing, relaxing. Now I'm teaching grandchildren to play in and around [the Bay and its rivers] and to respect these beautiful bodies of water!

—Leesa Walker

Ensure that Leesa, her grandchildren, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, 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!

 


The Importance of Clean Water to Herd Health

Nordstrom April 2016On his first week on the job as a veterinarian back in 1993, Scott Nordstrom treated a case that would stick with him the rest of his life. Shockingly, half of a herd of cattle he examined had died. It turned out that they had been struck by Bovine Viral Disease (BVD), a fatal condition transmitted from the intestines of one animal to the mouth of another.

So Nordstrom set about finding out how they got the disease. The next week, he was called to a farm just upstream with another case of BVD. He traced the source of the outbreak to that operation. "The stream carried the pathogens downstream, spreading it from one farm to the next," according to Nordstrom.

Since then, he's found time and again that as long as cattle are allowed into waterways they are at risk of catching diseases from farms upstream. "The biosecurity program for your cattle herd is no better than the worst farm upstream," says Nordstrom, who is Director of Cattle Technical Services for an animal health company. "If there is a disease outbreak in the herd upstream or even if they are just carriers of infectious organisms and they defecate in the stream, your animals are at risk if they drink from that stream."

Nordstrom travels all over the country to test vaccines for his animal health company. "In the large operations I have been on, they would never, ever, consider having their animals exposed to a stream or any other body of water," he says. "It's just too risky—for both livestock and people."

"Clearly, at least 50 percent of all cattle diseases in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are transmitted through the fecal-oral pathway," stresses Nordstrom. "Several of the big diseases in cattle are carried by water. These include BVD, E.coli, salmonella, leptospirosis, and mastitis." Symptoms of these diseases include fever, lethargy, dehydration, abortion, and death.

Vaccinating animals is a first line of defense against many diseases. But Nordstrom stresses that "the second line of defense is to fence livestock out of potentially infected waters."

There are many programs that include funding and technical assistance to help producers fence waterways and provide alternative sources of water for drinking. Nordstrom participated in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program on his own farm. "We did it for herd health reasons and, besides, I feel good that the water leaving our farm is not going to infect animals downstream," he says.

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

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

 


Photo of the Week: No Better Place on Earth Than Here

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Sunset on the Great Wicomico River, just after witnessing a large pod of dolphins playing near Reedville. An awesome day from start to finish.

I grew up spending weekends in Reedville on the Northern Neck. My memories of crabbing, fishing, and swimming were so wonderful. I bought a cottage on Whays Creek in 2002 to continue the family tradition. We spend every weekend exploring the Chesapeake Bay—kayaking, fishing, and taking photos of sunrises and sunsets! We love the Chespeake Bay and the peace and beauty she provides.

There is no better place on earth than here.

—Sharon Sylvia

Ensure that Sharon and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, 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!