The Best Part

A Day Seeding Four Million Oysters into the Little Choptank River

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Crossing the Bay to plant four million oysters (weighing almost 30 tons) in the Little Choptank River!

"There's just something about being on the water . . . you're in a different world." Native Marylander and CBF oyster restoration volunteer Jim Ridgell is standing on the bow of the Patricia Campbell, our oyster restoration vessel, when he says this, staring out at the flat, endless Bay stretched out before us. We're on our way back in after spending the first sunny day in a string of wet weather planting oysters in the Little Choptank River off the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Ridgell
Jim Ridgell, a native Marylander who week after week for the past 10 years has been coming out to our Oyster Restoration Center to volunteer with us.

As a CBF oyster volunteer for close to 10 years, this is hardly Ridgell's first trip. In fact, for roughly a decade now, Ridgell has been coming out to our Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Maryland, to clean shell, load up oysters, or whatever else needs doing. "It's not about the oysters so much," says Ridgell. "It's about helping the Bay—something that's given me so much in my life. It's about giving back to something you love."

And give back he does. On this trip alone, we planted four million oysters (or 27 tons!) onto a 1.9-acre reef we're helping to build with partners as part of a network of reefs in the Little Choptank Sanctuary. By summer's end, we hope to plant roughly 25 million baby oysters across the

Planting
Oysters are moved on a conveyer belt to the bow of the boat where they are spread across the water below.

sanctuary, which will mean incredible things for the Bay. In addition to providing critical habitat for critters like fish and crabs, oyster reefs do much for water quality, with one adult oyster able to filter and clean up to 50 gallons of water a day

Restoring the Bay is intrinsically tied to restoring its native oyster population, and so in 1997, CBF started its oyster restoration program. "The realization by the 1990s that oysters were so critical to the Bay ecosystem and that their numbers were down 99 percent inspired the effort," says CBF's Director of Fisheries and founder of its oyster restoration program Bill Goldsborough. As oyster restoration in the Bay started to take shape in the ’90s, different conservation groups and agencies assumed different roles with CBF focusing on public outreach and engagement through oyster gardening, education, and other programs. "Involving citizens in the work is essential. You're forging a constituency for restoration," says Goldsborough.    

Spreader
At the end of the conveyer belt, the oysters go through a spreader that evenly distributes them across the water.

Later, in 2002, the addition of the 60-foot Patricia Campbell vessel "changed our game completely," says Karl Willey, manager of CBF's Maryland Oyster Restoration Program. With her unique way of planting millions of oysters in less than an hour via a conveyer belt, which connects to a spreader at the bow of the boat that evenly distributes the oysters across a reef, the Patricia Campbell is "one of a kind," says Willey. "There's no other boat quite like it." Now with 250 volunteer oyster gardeners and the Patricia Campbell, we're planting between 26 and 30 million oysters in Maryland waters a year.

Karl
"Patricia Campbell" Captain and Maryland Oyster Restoration Manager Karl Willey at the end of a satisfying day on the water.

There are no words between us as we motor back in at day's end. Silently soaking up the rare appearance of the sun and lulled into a satisfied tired with muddied hands by our side and the comforting hum of the Patricia Campbell's diesel engines. Four million oysters in the water has a way of making you feel utterly and completely gratified. But then again, there's just something about being on the water.

—Text and Photos by Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 

Click here to learn more and to watch a video of the Little Choptank oyster planting.

And sign up to become an oyster volunteer like Jim Ridgell!

 


Photo of the Week: Truly an Awesome Experience

IMG_1204In late May, I met a friend of mine and we decided to go sit on the beach . . . As soon as we saw the water we were in shock. For the past three years I have lived on the Chesapeake Bay right near Breezy Point Marina, and I had never seen so many horseshoe crabs. Even neighbors who have spent 50+ years in the neighborhood had never seen anything like it. There were clumps of two to five horseshoe crabs mating. It was truly an awesome experience.

The Chesapeake Bay is important to me for many reasons. The Bay provides food for families, careers for others, and a great place to live. My boyfriend has been mapping out stormwater sites all over the state of Maryland and that has helped clean up the water. I love being able to go out on a boat and catch a healthy dinner. I love being able to bring friends to my house and let them experience life on the Bay. I absolutely love living on the Chesapeake Bay. 

—Breanne Smith 

Ensure that Breanne 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!

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Farmer Spotlight: Sassafras Creek Farm

Dave and Jen in high tunnel 2015In honor of Military Appreciation Month, our latest Farmer Spotlight story features military couple David and Jennifer Paulk who went from serving our country to now serving our community. The former suburbanites never imagined that their small traveling backyard garden would one day inspire them to begin their own farming operation, Sassafras Creek Farm, in St. Mary's County, Maryland.

After serving in the United States Navy for 26 years, David began considering second careers as a veteran. In 2011, he applied for the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) Beginner Farmer Training Program where he apprenticed once a week at Calvert's Gift Farm in Baltimore County. Through his apprenticeship, he was able to learn the ins and outs of a small, organic farm.

20141016_104246Paulk explains that his military career allowed him time to get to know himself. By having real life experiences " . . . veterans are well suited to farming as they are used to maintaining structure, a skill required of any successful business owner who needs to develop a business plan and marketing strategies." Financial resources, coupled with that military background, allowed David to purchase an 80-acre property in St. Mary's County.

The property, Sassafras Creek Farm, consists of 46 tillable acres with the remaining 34 acres in forest cover. Forty of the 46 acres are in constant cover crop, which are " . . . key to building what is the essence of an organic farmers' healthy soil." Two seasonal high tunnels allow the Paulks to extend their growing season, and they plan to put up a third one in the next two weeks. The couple installed a 13 kW solar panel that generates more than enough power to run the greenhouse, walk-in coolers, lighting, and more. They grow spinach, lettuce, spring mix, beets, 20160515_160553_resizedkale, turnips, and carrots in the high tunnel, which extends the season and allows them to generate revenue year round.

While David runs the day to day operations on the farm, Jennifer (also certified a Maryland Master Gardener) manages the books, organic certification, and helps on the farm despite having a full-time career as an Environmental Scientist for the Department of the Navy. David explains that growing organic is in line with their beliefs and how they want to produce their own food. The USDA Organic Certification requires a third party inspection, adds certainty to their business model, and reassures their customers that the practices they are using are best for their own health as well as the health of the land and water around them.

David's advice to someone who is considering farming is clear: " . . . don't jump off the deep end into it. I had basic skills and financial resources. Starting a farm takes a small capital something that many fresh out of college do not have." Additionally he encourages all future farmers to go work on a farm or two and see first hand every aspect that goes into farming.

The Paulks show that the dream of having one's own farm is attainable. David recommends that anyone considering an occupation in farming work on a farm whether by volunteering or as a part of an apprenticeship program. Six years after graduating from the Future Harvest CASA program, he now serves as a mentor to new beginner farmers.

The organic produce from Sassafras Creek Farm is sold through a number of venues: California Farmers Market; Chesapeake's Bounty in North Beach; MOMS organic market in Waldorf; a natural food store in Leonardtown; and on the plates of guests at farm-to-table restaurant Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore City.

We are grateful for people like David and Jennifer who not only serve their country, but now serve their community through sustainable, responsible agricultural practices.

—Kellie Rogers

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


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Summertime Fishing

Locklear Story 0416 II Sam Loustanua"How will I know when a fish bites?" "Young Sam" asked his grandfather, Sam Locklear. Both Sams and younger brother, Nate, were fishing the Severn River with me last summer. It's always a treat to have enthusiastic ten- and seven-year-old anglers aboard, especially when a trip starts like this one. The words were hardly out in the air before two chunky white perch climbed onto the teasers on Young Sam's line, nearly taking the rod out of his hands. 

We were fishing a 12-14-foot-deep restoration oyster reef near the U.S. Naval Academy. This particular reef, an underwater point jutting out into the channel, is an example of where oysters thrive. The reef is elevated in the water column where currents bring the oysters food, carry away waste, and attract other critters—like worms, barnacles, grass shrimp, and mud crabs—that in turn attract predators like white perch and rockfish. We could see the perch on my skiff's fishfinder. The Severn has more successful restoration reefs like this one—they form the happy side of this story. 

The other side isn't as pretty. With supper on ice, the Sams, Nate, and I went upriver to a 25-foot-deep reef that showed hard bottom but no fish. It's a survey site for an upcoming restoration project, so we got out an electronic temperature/salinity/oxygen meter and lowered its sensor's ten-meter cable to get a profile of the water column. As usual for summer here—and in too many other parts of the Chesapeake system—the dissolved oxygen measured below two milligrams per liter from the bottom up to about 15 feet. That's a lethal level for perch and rockfish and stressful even for crabs. In fact, on the bottom that day, the level was below 0.5 mg/l—low enough to kill worms. No wonder the fishfinder screen was blank below 15 feet. That's what a "dead zone" looks like. This is the ugly side of the story. It illustrates why we concentrate oyster restoration in shallower water. 

As Memorial Day approaches, we've got dead zones on our minds. But why do dead zones form each summer? From human-caused nitrogen pollution. Take a look at this excellent graphic from YSI, Inc. (the maker of my oxygen meter). It concentrates on the Gulf of Mexico, but the global map shows hypoxia ("the environmental phenomenon where the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water column decreases to a level that can no longer support living aquatic organisms") all over the Earth, including the Chesapeake.

What can we do about it? We have a plan called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, and it's slowly turning the bad stuff around while we celebrate successes like these new oyster reefs. Want to make sure that Young Sam, Nate, and thousands of other youngsters have a healthy Bay to grow up around? Click here to find out how you can help.

John Page Williams, CBF's Senior Naturalist

 


Photo of the Week: The Bay as My Home Port

Sunset_tilgman_island-5924[These are] two images from a sailing trip to Tilghman Island last summer. One is right at Knapps Narrows and the other is from the inn just north of the narrows . . . they show just a taste of the beauty that the Bay has to offer.

The Bay is a big part of my world. I live part time on my sailboat in Tracys Landing, Maryland. It is my home. I rejoice at oyster season, dream of Rockfish Bites with buffalo sauce, [admire] sunsets on the wetlands behind my marina, and love to sail from port to port tasting the many flavors of the towns along the Bay. So many parts of my life revolve around the Bay, from my brother the oyster farmer in the South River, to the many dockbars that I love to haunt, to the adventure of sailing her beautiful waters.

I am a pro photographer, and I have hundreds of thousands of images from my travels, but I always keep coming to the Bay as my home port.

—Mark Schwenk 

Ensure that Mark and future generations continue to sail and 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!

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Photo of the Week: Nothing More Relaxing

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I took this early one November day at Conowingo Dam. The bird in the tree is an adult bald eagle.

I have been boating on and off the Bay for close to 50 years. There is nothing more relaxing than being on the water. I had an aunt and uncle who lived on Kent Island, and as a kid, I would try and go down as much as I could. To this day I still boat on the Bay with my wife and two labs at Middle River.

—Jeff Wetzel

Ensure that Jeff, his wife, his two labs, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like this 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!


This Week in the Watershed

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Sea level rise is a significant threat to many coastal communities, including Annapolis, MD. Photo by Amy McGovern.

Amidst a deluge of rainy days like we are currently experiencing, local flooding often ensues. Swamped roads, public health concerns, and damaged infrastructure, are just a sampling of the issues caused by flooding. While flooding can often be perceived as only a nuisance, sea level rise is exacerbating fears, particularly among coastal communities. This presents many challenges for waterfront properties, especially considering computer models suggest waters are going to rise higher before they recede.

Annapolis is one community wrestling with sea level rise in hopes to preserve its historic downtown. A recent event gathered scientists, city officials, and residents to discuss threats, opportunities, and solutions in preserving Annapolis' waterfront. While the complexity and multifaceted nature of the issue leaves no silver-bullet solution, Annapolis is well ahead of many coastal communities by actively planning for the inevitable future, especially when contrasted with coastal communities who would rather bury their head in the sand.

Clearly, sea level rise, like the larger issue of climate change it originates from, is an issue that must not only be approached from a mindset of mitigation but also adaptation. While rising waters might be an unavoidable reality for the foreseeable future, focusing on science-based solutions while considering the economic, cultural, and social consequences is a great step. This is true not only in combating sea level rise but also in the fight to Save the Bay, championed by the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

This Week in the Watershed: Rising Waters, Keystone Tree Awards, and Prosecuting Polluters

  • We love this editorial drawing the connection between improved air quality in Maryland and a healthier Bay. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • A declining number of prosecutions against polluters has environmentalists concerned in Maryland. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Progress has been made in cleaning up the Bay and its local rivers and streams, but recently released data by the EPA reveal that states will very likely miss the 2017 interim cleanup targets. (Bay Journal)
  • A study released this week found that water quality is deteriorating in Calvert County, MD tidal creeks. (The Calvert Recorder—MD)
  • U.S. Senator Ben Cardin hosted a discussion on water quality, focusing not only on legislative victories but the importance of science in crafting sound policy. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Oyster restoration efforts in Virginia Beach have not exactly gone according to plan. (The Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • Planting forested buffers is one of the best clean water practices, and CBF's Pennsylvania office was recognized with both the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence and the Arbor Day Foundation's "Good Steward" Award for its tree planting efforts. (Lancaster Farming—PA and CBF Press Release)
  • While oyster farming has thrived in Virginia, it has been held back by bureaucratic red tape in Maryland. Efforts were made this week to change that. (Bay Journal)
  • Population growth throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed is an issue that cannot be ignored. (Bay Journal)
  • Sea level rise presents several obstacles for waterfront communities, including downtown Annapolis, MD. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

May 6

  • Shady Side, MD: Break a sweat and help Save the Bay— join CBF in cleaning the "homes" of the next generation of Chesapeake Bay oysters! Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells by shaking off the dirt and debris so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This "shell shaking" event is a bit of a workout but a fun, hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with bad backs or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking. RSVP to Dan Johannes at DJohannes@cbf.org. Click here for more information!

May 7

  • Norfolk, VA: Volunteer with CBF at the 5th annual EcoFest Festival held along the shore of the Lafayette River. Produced by the Lafayette Environmental Outreach, the event combines educational engagement and ecological stewardship. Tanner Council, CBF Grassroots Coordinator, is looking for 5 to 6 volunteers to assist with a variety of activities. Shifts are available from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., 1 p.m.-4 p.m., or all day. Please contact Tanner to volunteer and indicate what times work for you at TCouncil@cbf.org or 757-632-3807.

May 12 and 19

  • Annapolis, MD: Join CBF for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack the Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the oyster stocks to Save the Bay. Click here to register! (Note: these are the only two dates that have not been sold out!)

May 14

  • Baltimore, MD: For nearly two years, CBF has been working on renovating a vacant lot in West Baltimore into a green space. Join us as we put on the finishing touches and celebrate! The morning will include final planting of perennials followed by an opening ceremony. Everyone is welcome to join the fun and help finish the planting, be inspired by our community leaders, and eat some hotdogs, potato salad, strawberries, and watermelon. Click here to register!

May 15

  • Norfolk, VA: The Blue Planet Forum is an annual, free environmental lecture series held in Hampton Roads. Its mission is to educate and engage the public on important environmental issues affecting Hampton Roads and the nation. In the next installment of this very popular series, the audience will be treated to presentations by an expert panel on the topic: Water, Water Everywhere: exploring how water inspires and influences us. The event is free, but space is limited, so registration is strongly encouraged. Click here to register!

May 16

  • Baltimore, MD: Cruise the Inner Harbor aboard CBF's 46-foot workboat the Snow Goose as we explore the complex and fascinating relationship between the urban environment and the Bay's natural ecosystem. CBF staff will demonstrate the importance of this port as an economic lifeline for the state of Maryland and help participants appreciate the life cycles and needs of the thousands of birds, fish, crabs, oysters, and other organisms which share these waters. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Runners, Take Your Mark!

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Photo courtesy of Swim Bike Run Photography.


This November, 25,000 people from across the country will participate in an historic event—the third annual Across the Bay 10K Chesapeake Bay Bridge Run!

Scheduled for November 6, the run begins on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and finishes with a post-race celebration on Kent Island. Most of the course—4.35 miles—will be on the bridge itself overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. The dual-span bridge doesn't allow pedestrian traffic at any other time of the year, so this is a unique opportunity—and the view is amazing!

You can be part of the fun and support CBF! As an official charity partner we have a supply of charity bibs available for $150. This purchase guarantees entry into the race and provides a donation towards CBF's work to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay. Click here to purchase your charity bib today!

For more information about the event, visit the official race website at bridgerace.com.

Thanks for your support–we hope to see you there!

—Melanie McCarty
CBF 's Donor Communications Manager

 


Photo of the Week: This Is What It's All About

IMG_5169[I took this] on Smith Island on Wednesday, April 20. Myself and another William H. Farquhar Middle School teacher took a group of our students on one of CBF's overnight education experiences

I chose [this photo] because this is what the trip is all about. Students were able to take a moment to not just enjoy the gorgeous sunset that night, but also be able to do it while enjoying the Bay itself. The students loved every moment of this experience and this was just one of their many highlights.

—Matthew Green

Ensure that Matthew, his students, 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!

 


Farmer Spotlight: Gravel Springs Farms

AThe story of Gravel Springs Farms is of a driven young couple—Paul and Emma Sorenson—who wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. 

When Paul and Emma met it was clear that they shared a passion for the outdoors, an appreciation for the land, and a strong desire to help others. With more than a half million acres of farmland in Maryland owned by people over the age of 69, the Sorensons are among a minority of young farmers. But the future of farming is dependent on these younger generations.

In 2013, the Sorensons dove into the agricultural field by purchasing Emma's family's 150-acre farm. Today they own and operate 10 acres of vegetable production while one additional acre flourishes in cut flowers. The couple had never thought of farming as a career option but their desire to connect people to the land led them down the road.

Paul explains that while they "didn't know how to farm, Future Harvest CASA (Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture) allowed us to learn from each other, we jumped in head first, attending field days and programs." The programs and field days Paul attended were offered at the Beginning Farmer Training Program, which allows members to maintain a job and/or start their own farm enterprise while completing the program. Participants learn through hands-on field work as well as workshops and conferences about building and growing a successful farm. The program teaches beginner farmers about the basics of crop production, business management, and marketing. As new farmers, the resources offered by Future Harvest CASA were an integral part of the farm's success. 

The Sorensons have an eye towards becoming sustainable, and while they are not 100 percent self-sufficient, they are as sustainable as they can be as a growing operation. They create their own compost and are constantly doing things to mitigate the impact of their farm on the environment. In the fall of 2014, less than a year after purchasing the farm, they connected with CBF's Watershed Restoration Scientist Rob Schnabel to create a 2,026-tree, 10-acre forest buffer on their land. With the help of more than 100 volunteers, the Sorensons were able to plant four acres of trees that fall and an additional six acres the following spring.

In addition to expanding their flower and vegetable operations, the Sorensons hope to one day expand  their operation by converting the conventional crop fields to permanent pasture for 100 percent grass-fed animal production. Paul is a member of the CBF's Maryland Grazers Network, a grazing mentorship program. Although he has only been farming for a few years, he actively encourages others to recognize that there are outlets other than farmers' markets to sell produce. "Not everyone can market," he says explaining that most farmers markets are saturated. Instead he encourages farmers new and old to look into outlets like selling wholesale or to institutions, as well as having aspects of customer interaction such as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). They have done some institutional and restaurant sales and they are in the process of setting up sweet potatoe sales to the local school system. Frederick County Public Schools are looking to source things like sweet potatoes and squash from Gravel Springs which will be available when school is in session. By providing fresh local produce to area schools, Paul hopes to serve as an example to other farmers who can tap into an expanding market while continuing to educate the public of all ages on the benefits of local foods.

"Local sustainably produced food is important. We have found that we and our CSA members have a better experience knowing where their food comes from . . . customers trust what I tell them and so I do what I say I am doing."

Gravel Springs Farms offers small and large produce shares that go for 21 weeks. In addition to produce, one can also purchase grass-based and pasture-raised meats from a partner farm. Once one purchases a meat or produce share, Gravel Springs offers add-ons such as apples, peaches, eggs, and cut flowers. Be sure to sign up today—May 1 is the last day to register!

—Kellie Rogers; Photo courtesy of Paul Sorenson