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!


Good News about Oysters

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3.2 million spat on shell were planted in the South River this July. Photo by Erika Nortemann.

Persuading microscopic oyster larvae to "set" on old shells is as simple as placing plenty of both into a large round tank of circulating Bay water and leaving them together for several days. Right?

Not hardly. This Chesapeake miracle is absolutely dependent on good water quality. Some years, successive sets die off, handcuffing restoration programs.

But not this year, at least so far. CBF's MD Oyster Restoration Center at Shady Side has been able to produce a record number of spat (i.e. baby oysters) on shell, the universal currency of restoration. "The spring and summer have been extremely kind to us," said Capt. Karl Willey as he deftly maneuvered Patricia Campbell, CBF's 60' oyster planter, around Thunder & Lightning, an oyster reef in the South River that is open to harvest by watermen wielding hand tongs. "The hatchery at the University of Maryland Horn Point Laboratory started producing larvae early—in April—and has continued. We've seen strong spat sets in our tanks since then. We've actually gotten ahead of schedule, with 31 million spat set on shell and placed on restoration reefs in the Little Choptank...Now we have July to work small projects with some of our partners. That's why you found Kate [South River Federation Executive Director Kate Fritz] and me counting spat on the dock this morning." 

Indeed, as Dan Johannes, Pat Beall, and intern Patrick McCabe loaded spat on shell into the large bins on either side of Patricia Campbell's long foredeck, Karl and Kate carefully examined a random sample of several dozen shells, counting the pinhead-sized spat on each. Eight-to-twenty spat on each shell allowed him and Kate to estimate how many spat the big boat would be planting on this day: 3.2 million. 

Loading and counting completed, the crew and several volunteers, including Kate's Board Chair, Kevin Green, climbed aboard for the one-hour run up to South River. We slowed briefly to watch a large pod of dolphins fishing in the river's mouth, then got down to work on a sanctuary reef 11-14' deep off Larrimore Point. As Kate and Kevin watched on the foredeck, Dan started up the hydraulic system that tilts the bins full of spat on shell inward to the conveyor belt that runs down the center of the foredeck. Pat and Patrick began to regulate the flow of 1.4 million spat on their shells into a steady stream on the belt, all moving forward to drop onto a rotating "planter wheel" at the bow that throws them out in a circle 10-12' in diameter. Meanwhile, a GPS antenna mounted beside the wheel sent a continuous signal of our track to the electronic display in front of Karl at the helm, recording the data on a memory card. This technology arms Karl with the data to know everywhere this program has planted since 2003.

We dropped another 0.5 million spat on shell on an 8' sanctuary reef tended by John Flood, an South River Federation Board member emeritus, and 0.3 million on another sanctuary off the mouth of Little Aberdeen Creek. Finally, we moved to Thunder & Lightning, to drop the last 1 million in 10-12' where local watermen partners would be able to harvest them once they grow out in two-to-three years.

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CBF's oyster planting boat, the Patricia Campbell. Photo by Erika Nortemann.

Tiny predators like mud crabs that live on the reefs eat spat, but survival from spawn to adult for these guys set in concentration in our tanks is higher than natural sets in the wild," Karl said. "The density at which we plant [5 million spat on shell per acre] produces dense clusters." 

At the end of the month, Patricia Campbell and her crew will partner with the Coastal Conservation Association/Maryland to set 72 concrete reef balls with spat and place them onto the MD DNR's Tilghman Island Artificial Reef, in 18-20' of water due west of the island. The reef balls themselves have a special story: they have all been built by high school students in masonry classes, expressly for this purpose.

After three decades of bad news about oysters, imagine being able to get ahead of schedule with good news. Here's hoping we can make it last...

—John Page Williams, CBF's Senior Naturalist


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!

 


Another Outrageous Attack on Clean Water and the Champions Who Stood up to It

NewPhoto by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

Just this week another outrageous attempt to undermine the historic Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint rose, this time in the halls of Congress. Here's what happened:

Representatives Bob Goodlatte (VA) and Glenn Thompson (PA) offered an amendment to the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill that would gut the federal-state effort to clean up our Bay and its rivers and streams.

The Interior and Environment Appropriations bill sets funding levels for many important things, including EPA's work to Save the Bay. Mr. Goodlatte's Amendment #57 would keep EPA from using any funds to take "backstop" actions against states failing to meet their pollution-reduction goals set under the Blueprint. These backstop actions are what give the Blueprint its "teeth,” the very things that set it apart from any previous federal-state Bay cleanup effort. Previous efforts all lacked meaningful consequences for failure to reduce pollution. The Blueprint holds polluters accountable. And this summer's improving water quality and abundance of underwater grasses are a testament to the fact that it's working!

CBF President Will Baker sent a letter to representatives from the Bay region, urging them to vote NO on Mr. Goodlatte's amendment and asking them to redouble their support for the watershed states, communities, and farmers who are on the front lines of this historic restoration effort.

Yet still, late yesterday, the House passed Mr. Goodlatte’s damaging Amendment #57 that undermines the Blueprint clean-up effort—in direct opposition to the will of Bay states and residents.

Although we're disappointed the amendment passed, there is a silver lining worth celebrating. In an unusual show of unity for Washington these days, the vote demonstrates that a bipartisan group of Bay legislators are standing strong in support of the Blueprint, a federal-state collaboration that is working!

CBF would like particularly to commend the efforts of Reps. Chris Van Hollen (MD) and Bobby Scott (VA), who led efforts to defeat this damaging amendment.

And here is a breakdown of the Bay delegation vote on the amendment:

FOR (in support of the bad amendment): Representatives Barletta, Brat, Collins, Costello, Dent, Goodlatte, Griffith, Hurt, Jenkins, Katko, Marino, McKinley, Meehan, Mooney, Perry, Pitts, Reed, Rothfus, Shuster, and Thompson.

AGAINST (in support of clean water): Representatives Beyer, Carney, Cartwright, Comstock, Connolly, Cummings, Delaney, Edwards, Forbes, Gibson, Hanna, Harris, Hoyer, Rigell, Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Scott, Van Hollen, and Wittman.

We are incredibly grateful to those above who stood up for clean water, in opposition to this amendment. They truly are champions of our Bay and its rivers and streams. If you live in their districts, please take a moment now to thank them.

The Appropriations bill still has to be reconciled with the Senate's version before it heads towards the President's desk for signature. We will keep you posted about how you can help ensure this harmful amendment isn't included in the final bill. Until then, thanks for your continued support. These encouraging signs of collaboration simply would not be possible without you speaking up for the Bay, its critters, and our communities.

—Alix Murdoch, CBF's Federal Policy Director


The Chesapeake's Oldest and Largest

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A fish with unparalleled historical significance, the Atlantic sturgeon is threatened with extinction on our watch. Photo courtesy of iStock.

There's an ancient fish in our Chesapeake Bay, and it's threatened with extinction on our watch.

That's right: A local fish—the Atlantic sturgeon—survived Ice Ages, just to become endangered millions of years later by poor water quality, destruction of its habitat, and overfishing.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries is proposing to designate "critical habitat" for Atlantic sturgeon. CBF will be weighing in on this critical designation—and we hope you will, too.

The Atlantic sturgeon has a long history in the Chesapeake Bay, earning the title of its oldest and largest fish species. These prehistoric fish have been around for 120 million years, and each one can live 60 years, grow to 14 feet in length, and weigh up to 800 pounds.

But their numbers have dwindled, and, in 2012, the Atlantic sturgeon was added to the Endangered Species List. Now, NOAA Fisheries must identify those areas that are most important for the survival of the species—the "critical habitat" needed for spawning, rearing, feeding, and migration to other important habitat.

The link between the health of sturgeon and the health of the Bay and its major rivers is an important one. The Bay's degraded water quality has created barriers between important habitats, interrupting the species' life cycle. By restoring water quality through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, we will be helping to recover one of the region's oldest, most extraordinary fish species.

From Virginia's James, Pamunkey, and Mattaponi Rivers to Maryland's Potomac River to Pennsylvania's Lower Susquehanna to the Delmarva Peninsula's Marshyhope Creek and Nanticoke River, sturgeon have spawned and survived across the Chesapeake Bay region. They'll need these areas—along with the healthy water quality that will allow them to get to these areas safely—in order to survive.

What can you do to help? Public comment on the critical habitat designation will be taken until September 1. Stay tuned for updates on how you can weigh in to support our recommendations for designation. In the meantime, more information on the proposal and comments can be found here.

Wow. Modern-day dinosaurs right here in the Chesapeake Bay. Don't your kids and grandkids deserve that same sense of wonder?

Let's work together to ensure that a fish that has been here for millions of years will still be here, spawning and someday thriving, for generations to come. 

—Bill Goldsborough, CBF's Director of Fisheries


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.

Baltimore by the Numbers

111,000 oysters! 3,000 perennials! 250 paddlers! Read on for all that we've accomplished in Baltimore just in the last month . . . 

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Planting 111,000 water-filtering oysters in Baltimore Harbor sure does get us excited! Photo courtesy of Terry Cummings/CBF Staff.

The water was a thick mahogany brown as we loaded 20,000 juvenile oysters onto CBF's workboat the Snow Goose for a trip to the Fort Carroll oyster sanctuary reef, their soon-to-be permanent home 18 feet below on the Patapsco River bottom just below the Key Bridge. 

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Planting oysters in Baltimore Harbor. Photo courtesy of Terry Cummings/CBF Staff.

The trip was one of six to the reef to plant the oysters, which were grown from tiny baby spat to quarter-sized juveniles in cages hung from docks around Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Two years ago, CBF and the Waterfront Partnership established the Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership to bring more notoriety to this most critical bivalve, which is at historic lows, and engage Baltimoreans in raising them. Last year we planted about 80,000 oysters at Fort Carroll. In 2016, 150 oyster gardeners raised 111,000 oysters in 10 locations from Canton to Locust Point. When they grow to adults in two years, those oysters will filter more than 5,500,000 gallons of water a day, helping to improve water quality while creating acres of valuable fish habitat.

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Turning a vacant lot into a community garden in West Baltimore. Photo by Jay Fleming.

Ten days later, across town, 45 volunteers helped plant 3,000 coneflowers, black-eyed-susans, white aster, and goldenrod on a renovated vacant lot. CBF and 11 partner organizations replaced 10,000 square feet of concrete and asphalt with tons of new topsoil, almost two dozen trees, 50 native shrubs and the 3,000 perennials to help reduce polluted runoff by 242,000 gallons a year. This planting culminated the 18-month project and set the stage for more restoration work by engendering the Westside Collaborative, a partnership to improve neighborhoods and the green infrastructure in West Baltimore.

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Passionate paddlers at the Baltimore Floatilla. Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

Downstream from the lot the following weekend, a host of paddlers gathered at Canton Waterfront Park for the 2.5-mile paddle to the Science Center in the Inner Harbor as part of the Waterfront Partnership's  first-ever Baltimore Floatilla. Another 100 paddlers from Tide Point joined the Canton group on its way to meet the infamous Mr. Trash Wheel and start the rally for clean water. Roughly 250 paddlers converged around the solar-powered, floating trash collector (which, by the way, scooped up 238.8 tons of trash last year). Under a bright blue Baltimore sky, participants in the Floatilla shouted "Fix the Pipes," demanding Baltimore City fix its century-old broken and leaky sewage and stormwater systems. To date, millions of dollars have been spent and millions more will be spent within the decade to ensure the cleanliness and safety of the harbor.

CBF recognizes and thanks the hundreds of volunteers and many partner organizations involved in our Baltimore restoration efforts. And we encourage everyone in Baltimore's neighborhoods to help in the restoration of the city and its waters. Together we will restore, plant, and paddle for healthy, clean, and sustainable communities and waterways.

—Terry Cummings, Director of CBF's Baltimore Initiative

Check out more photos and video of the Baltimore Floatilla!