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.

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.

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.
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!


Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

Photo of the Week: Burgers and Brews for the Bay

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Fall on CBF's Clagett Farm. (Don't you want to be here right now?) Photo by CBF Staff.

In just a few short weeks, for many of you, this will be the incredible backdrop to your Sunday afternoon. On October 4, we're throwing a party celebrating fall, local food, clean water, and our sustainable Clagett Farm (hence the pretty pic above). And you're all invited!

Burgers and Brews for the Bay will feature delicious food created by area chefs using fresh, local ingredients and specially paired craft-brewed beers. Top that off with live bluegrass music, hay rides, and everything you ever wanted to know about how sustainable farming leads to healthier, cleaner waters, and you've got a fantastic fall afternoon on the farm. 

Tickets are selling fast. Click here to get yours!

Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media


Burgers and Brews Flyer FINAL_Crop

Photo of the Week: Favorite Time of Day

FullSizeRenderThis was taken by the Severn River in Severna Park, Maryland. This is our favorite time to wander down to the river and watch the sun set.

—Cindy Fleet

Ensure that Cindy and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprintthe 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!

Gardening and the Bay: A Future in the Making

Lindsay Bushong, a junior at Drexel University, shares her story of encountering a love for gardening, and the role CBF played along the way.

Some of the Backyard Beds in Philadelphia, PA

In high school, I took a half day field trip with CBF. I had a blast and when they talked about the summer programs they offered, I knew I had to go. Fast forward a year and I'm two days into a week long adventure down the James River in Virginia. We did various things to learn about the Bay, digging in the detritus, not leaving any trace at our campsites, going to leadership workshops. However, what I remember most is our visit first to a large organic farm, and then to a smaller, urban garden in Richmond. I grew up in a really rural community, but had never seen an organic garden to the scale of the one we visiting in Virginia. There was a beautiful rainwater catchment system and rows upon rows of lush, gorgeous veggies. In the city, we learned about the benefits of having nature in an urban setting, how its good for both people and the environment. While I didn't realize it then, the idea of the "triple bottom line benefit" would follow me to Philadelphia.

I recently began my own social entrepreneurship project, Backyard Beds. Backyard Beds came into fruition for a number of reasons. Having moved to the city from an agricultural community, I was astounded at the lack of fresh food in my neighborhood. Through my academic studies I began to learn about food deserts and food insecurity, which really sparked my interest. My freshman year I worked on an urban farm, and this experience seemed tie together all my passions into one amazing social venture. Through professors, mentors and classmates, I soon found myself managing a small garden only a few blocks from my house at The Dornsife Center. While gardening there, I got to meet a lot of amazing people, but most importantly, I got to meet Mantua (my neighborhood) area residents. These are long-term residents. One afternoon a neighbor was asking how she could build her own raised garden beds, I immediately offered to help, and thus Backyard Beds was born from this interaction.

Harvested radishes from backyard beds

Our seed funding came from a fellowship with The Resolution Project, an amazing organization helping young people start really cool projects around the world. In the summer of 2013 we built five gardens for five families. Not only are these gardens beautiful and relaxing, but they provide practically free fresh, local produce. Something most Mantua area residents lack. The gardens also decrease stormwater runoff and the heat island effect. We hope to create a small food distribution competent to the project that helps move the food more efficiently around the neighborhood.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been pivotal in my growth and development. I would have never discovered my passion and interests without my experiences in and around the Bay. This project has brought my studies and experiences full circle, giving me the opportunity to create real, meaningful change. In high school, after I got back from I trip I knew I wanted to start a little organic garden. CBF helped me do this, leading to me earning a Certificate of Environmental Leadership. The ways in which CBF facilitate and support students are incredible, and I wish every student could take advantage of the opportunities they have to offer.

Inside CBF: Carrie Vaughn, Clagett Farm

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Clagett Farm's Vegetable Production Manager Carrie Vaughn. Photo by Hannah Holt.

If you live in an urban area, your food source may not be top of mind. However, a farm is always close by in the D.C. region, including CBF's own sustainable Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Clagett produces organic vegetables for a weekly community-supported agriculture (CSA) share as well as donates produce to local non-profits such as the Capital Area Food Bank. This takes a lot of coordination I soon discover, most of which is managed by Carrie Vaughn, the farm's vegetable production manager.

On a sunny Wednesday, I visit Clagett Farm to help with the harvest and to meet with Vaughn. Several volunteers greet me as I arrive and immediately put me to work unloading freshly picked heirloom tomatoes followed by harvesting onions and setting up baskets of vegetables for CSA pickup.

The farm schedule is somewhat predictable: Wednesdays and Saturdays are harvest days, when Clagett Farm staff direct hard-working volunteers who help pick the vegetables. The rest of the week is dedicated to managing other volunteer projects on the farm. Today being a Wednesday, Carrie determines which vegetables are appropriate for this week's share. After deciding on heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, squash, and the onions we'd just dug up, Vaughn oversees the CSA pickup and then settles in for a chat.  

"It varies a lot," says Vaughn of her typical day on the farm. "I think that's one of the nice things about the job: That it's not the same thing day after day. Sometimes I'm working on the tractor alone; sometimes I'm with a lot of people I've never met before; and sometimes I get to work with people that come back all the time, [that become] friends."

Photo by Hannah Holt.

Vaughn started her career at CBF as a volunteer fresh out of college where she had studied biology and decided she wanted to pursue a career in agricultural research. But, as we know, some things don't always go to plan in life. "I came here to learn about what it's like to be a farmer, so I could be a better researcher. I guess I just fell in love with farming and never left!"

As Vaughn and I continue to talk through the morning, there are many things, I learn, that you can do while gardening or selecting your food to help restore the Bay and its waters. Allowing native plants to flourish and grow is just one of them. "People have to let the clover live in their yard. All that diversity in their lawn is really helpful," says Vaughn. "It's naturally fertilizing."

As expected Vaughn is a tremendous advocate for supporting local agriculture: "A lot of people think that buying organic is about being healthy for the consumer, but for me the purchasing decision has a lot more to do with the health of the whole ecosystem. You want to make sure you're supporting a healthy ecosystem through the farms that are giving you food."

—Lindsey Kellogg, CBF's Communications Intern 

Click here to learn more about Clagett Farm and how you can get involved!

How Farm Bill Conservation Funding Supports Pennsylvania Farmers: Saxe Family Farm, Sullivan County, PA


Saxe Family Farm. Photo by Jennifer Johns/CBF Staff.

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.

For Mike Saxe Jr., a fourth-generation farmer, farming is more than a job: It's a way of life. The family farm, located in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, has been operating since the late 1800s. 

Together with his father, Mike Sr., they plant 150 acres of corn and 300 in hay annually, while managing another 200 acres of forest and pasture land. Twice a day, 365 days a year, they milk more than 140 cows with just one full-time employee to share the load.

It's a life he wouldn't trade for any other; but the demands are high. "If you're going to make this your life and your living, you've got to be efficient all the time," said Saxe. "The thing that's keeping people like us going is good management."

Farm Bill Helps Saxe Farm Make Improvements
That, he said, is where programs funded in large part by the federal Farm Bill come in. Funding programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, have enabled them to make on-farm improvements like the installation of a concrete barnyard and a manure storage facility. Both help to improve farm production and water quality. "The importance of those programs can't be understated," Saxe said.

Funding through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program was used to establish forested buffers along the streams that run through the property, which are tributaries to the North Branch Mehoopany Creek. These forested buffers will provide habitat for wildlife, help keep water temperatures cool, and filter pollutants before they reach the water. "Saxe Farms is a good example of how farmers can utilize these programs to not only improve their operation, but to also help the environment," said Stephanie Eisenbise, CBF's Pennsylvania Watershed Restoration Manager.

Saxe Family Farm. Photo by Jennifer Johns/CBF Staff.

"The stream can have more biodiversity with a healthy forest surrounding it," says Jen Johns, Pennsylvania Stream Buffer Specialist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "The tree root system traps nutrients that might be coming off of the fields, while also providing shade to cool the water. Both are critical to fish habitat and a healthy stream."

Saxe Farms has taken other measures, too. Roof gutters were installed on the barn to direct rainwater toward a grassy area, away from manure and a major walkway for the heifers. "None of these improvements would have been possible without the aid of agencies and groups like the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Sullivan County Conservation District, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation," Saxe said.

A past recipient of the Sullivan County Conservation District's Conservationist of the Year Award, the Saxe's see themselves as stewards of the land. "It's easy to see that they care for the countryside and recognize their role in protecting it; that's important to them, especially given that Mike Jr.'s 13-year-old son is next in line on the farm."

—Jennifer Johns
CBF Pennsylvania Stream Buffer Specialist

Ensure that people like the Saxes are able to continue doing this good work on their farms.
Tell Congress to protect conservation programs in the Farm Bill!


How Farm Bill Conservation Funding Supports Pennsylvania Farmers: Valley Grassfed, Centre County, PA

11-18-2013 11-08-13 AMThis 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.

"Our business, Valley Grassfed, would not be in existence if it weren't for the implementation of these practices providing for lush pastured paddocks." That's the way Jenne Senator, Owner and Operations Manager of Valley Grassfed described the many conservation measures that she and her husband, Bob, recently implemented on their farm near Spring Mills, Pennsylvania.

The Senators raise 37 beef cattle, producing ten head yearly for market, and pride themselves on the quality of their beef. Their cattle feed only on lush pasture and hay. "Our animals are free of growth hormones, antibiotics, and all grains," said Jenne.

Bob and Jenne are conscious about more than just their cattle. They are also quite aware of the impact that farming has on the land, and have taken many steps to ensure their farm has minimal impacts on their local stream.

When they purchased the farm in 1984, they planted 75 percent of the land in crops using tillage, and pastured just 25 percent. Today, the Senators pasture 93 percent of the land, planting crops on only four acres. They utilize 50 acres for grazing. This has dramatically reduced erosion and runoff from their farm.

Funding and assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Chesapeake Bay Foundation has allowed their dream of being able to grow and sell their own beef to become a reality.

The Senators have installed streambank fencing, a livestock crossing, and a watering system all of which control the herd's access to the stream, while providing them with a clean source of drinking water. The watering system has enabled them to create pastures that are grazed on a rotational basis. Bob and Jenne aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, and have planted more than 200 native trees and shrubs in their streamside buffer, doing the work themselves.

The Senators have also installed a grassed waterway, half an acre of pollinator habit, and have developed nutrient management and rotational grazing plans. USDA's Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative funded all of the farm improvement practices.

—Frank Rohrer
CBF Field Buffer Specialist

Ensure that people like the Senators are able to continue doing this good work on their farms. Tell Congress to protect conservation programs--that are critical to restoring the Bay--in the Farm Bill! 

Fourth Graders Work to Reduce Waste

NewAfter participating in CBF's Smith Island Education Program, our school (Chesapeake Public Charter School) realized how much of our food we might be wasting. So, we decided to start monitoring our lunch leftovers. We started small, just sorting the leftovers from 4th graders. Student volunteers, headed up by Smith Island alumna Debra Rosenstadt, began to help their peers sort their leftovers into: Recycling, Compost/Vermicompost, S.L.O.P. ("Stuff Left on Plate"), and landfill. 

Each day, these volunteers stayed in from recess to weigh the amounts of each and graph it on our class line plot (to the nearest ¼ pound). Certainly a dirty job, so look out Mike Rowe! Our S.L.O.P. Cops spread the word on how to reduce waste: saving it for later, snack share (a special bin to leave it in for others to take if wanted), etc.

As a school we have always recycled, composted, and vermi-composted (each grade has their own work bin). But, this school year, we decided to go schoolwide with the S.L.O.P. program as well. Two fourth graders each month volunteered to be S.L.O.P. Cops. They collected, consolidated, and weighed the S.L.O.P. from 331 students, grades K-8. The S.L.O.P. this year was picked up each afternoon by a local organic farmer, Brett Grosghal from Even' Star Farm. He uses the S.L.O.P. to feed his nine hogs and flock of chickens, so our waste was recycled back into food we could eat (a great lesson in where food comes from, especially bacon and eggs!). Chesapeake Public Charter School (CPCS) even has five resident chickens that take in some of our S.L.O.P., just on a smaller scale than the organic farm. CPCS chicken eggs are sold to our school families looking for a local, organic option. As Katelyn Kovach, 4th grader and CBF Smith Island alumna, puts it, "Your S.L.O.P. made my breakfast!"

Our 4th grade S.L.O.P. Cop volunteers learned other skills as well. They used Microsoft Excel to keep track of the data, researched facts about pigs, chickens, landfills, and made daily announcements to share the data and information with our school community. Included in their announcements were "SLOPPY Shout Outs" commending students or classes that did very well with reducing their S.L.O.P. that day.

During the 2012-2013 school year, Chesapeake Public Charter School prevented more than 800 pounds of unused energy in the form of food scraps from going to a landfill and instead helped recycle it into locally grown food.

April Skinner, Fourth Grade Chesapeake Public Charter School Teacher  

Teaming up with Maryland's Day to Serve

This is the second year that CBF has teamed up with Maryland's Day to Servea special initiative in partnership with various community and interfaith partners to work together to feed the hungry and heal the planet. This year, not only is CBF hosting volunteer events, it is also offering guidance to fellow Day to Serve participants. If any organization, church, or school group needs assistance developing plans, wants ideas, or is looking for a list of resources, CBF is here to help! Just shoot us an e-mail to the address below. 

Muddy river cleanup 017_smHeal the Planet 
On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, CBF will be hosting a River Cleanup at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge. As part of the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup effort, volunteers will remove trash and debris along the beach of the Choptank River—a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay and the largest river on the Delmarva Peninsula. Last year nearly 600,000 volunteers across the globe participated in the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup, resulting in 10 million pounds of trash removed! Come be a part of this great effort. 


550875_10151230473305943_680609546_nFeed the Hungry
Each year, CBF's sustainable Clagett Farm provides roughly 25,000 pounds of free and reduced-price food to lower income communities through a partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington D.C. On Sept. 28, volunteers will further this effort by harvesting organic vegetables to be donated to Capital Area Food Bank. Participants will also learn about sustainable agriculture and how farms implementing best management practices are helping to reduce harmful nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. 

We hope you'll join us! 

—Carmera Thomas, CBF's Maryland Restoration Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator

 If you'd like to participate in this year's Day to Serve in another way and need assistance developing plans, want ideas, or are looking for a list of resources, please contact me at MDRestoration@cbf.org.

The Ultimate "Senior Experience"

Boys with Michael on farmAlec Schadelbauer and Matt Slater with Clagett Farm Manager Michael Heller. Photo courtesy of Dave Slater/CBF Staff.

Learning Through Experience on CBF's Clagett Farm

At the end of every school year, the graduating seniors at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, participate in a program called "senior experience." For the last month of school, seniors get the privilege of experiencing life in the real world. Some choose to get retail jobs to earn money for college, while others decide to volunteer or do their own, unique project.

For our senior experience, we decided to do something completely different from your average retail job at American Eagle or dull desk job working at a cubicle all day. We had the opportunity to work at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. It turned out to be a memorable experience that brought our book-learning to life.

Before we actually started, Michael Heller, the farm manager, invited us and our families out to the farm to show us around and give us an idea of what we would be doing. After a quick hello, he threw all of us, even the moms, into the back of his pick-up truck and took us out to see the cows. When we arrived at the pasture, Michael greeted the cows with his signature "Hey guys!" which immediately brought roughly 50 cows gathered around him at the gate, mooing their reply. He then gave us the job of herding the cows into the next pasture (easier said than done!). Much to our parent's, and Michael's enjoyment, we quickly found out just how fast and stubborn cows can be. Within minutes, we had stepped in at least five fresh cow pies and learned that these cows weren't going anywhere that they didn't want to go.

As the day went on, Michael explained the goals of the farm and how it works. His knowledge and enthusiasm toward reducing pollution that flows into the Chesapeake Bay assured us that we had made the right decision to work on the farm.

Each day that we worked with Michael, the connection to "saving the Bay" became clearer and clearer. Although we may not have realized it from the beginning, Clagett Farm uses many techniques to preserve the environment, especially through the elimination of harmful runoff. According to Clagett Farm’s website, there are "no GMOs, no antibiotics, and no hormones" used with the purely grass-fed cows. This means far less harmful substances being carried off by rain and causing pollution to our waters.

We also were introduced to small, separate strips of land that are used to test the amount of runoff that is released from different types of land. For example, in one test, there is a strip of heavily forested land, a strip of parking lot land, a strip of contour plowing, a strip of grass, and a strip of an average farm field with no contour plowing. At the end of each short strip, there is a funnel that gathers and collects the runoff from each. This gives Michael and his staff an idea of what type of land possibly does the most damage when heavy rains come around. Although these are not the only techniques, they accurately reflect the objective of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and were without a doubt a great way to educate us about the dangers of polluted runoff.

In four short weeks of working with Michael on the farm, we were able to experience almost everything that goes into running a 285-acre farm with more than 50 cows and countless fields of fruits and vegetables. From fixing barbed wire fences to unloading hundreds of hay bales to wrestling with baby calves, we were able to get a grasp on what it takes to manage an organic farm. Although we have both taken an environmental science course in our school, it was nice to finally experience what we had learned about the entire school year in a hands-on manner. It was interesting to see the different methods that Michael uses to reduce runoff and other pollution, and how easy it is for farmers to have a great impact on the health of the Bay.

—Alec Schadelbauer and Matt Slater
We wish Alec and Matt luck next fall as they head to Virginia Tech and James Madison University, respectively. Both plan to pursue environmental studies.

Learn more about how we are working with farmers across the watershed to clean up our waters!