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.
Ever since George and Ruth Coyner fenced their cows out of the streams on their farm in 2005, they've seen great benefits for their herd. What's more, there has been a marked improvement in the stream's water quality.
"I'll bet I could drink the water leaving our farm," Coyner exclaimed.
The Coyners own and operate a commercial cow/calf operation in the headwaters of Porterfield Run, a tributary of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. They also raise soybeans, corn, barley, and hay.
"Years ago, I remember a vet telling us there were herd health advantages for our cows if we fenced them out of the streams," Coyner said. "The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was available and we decided to enroll. The program reimbursed us more than 100 percent of the costs, and they pay us rent every year for the land we fenced away from the cows."
"Since we fenced the cows out of the stream, we no longer have calves falling down in the stream at birth and dying. We no longer have old cows mired up to their bellies in the muck. They now drink clean water and there is no more mortality because of the stream," Coyner continued.
They fenced half a mile of stream, developed alternative watering stations, and built a stream crossing for the cows. The program required them to set a fence 35 feet from the top of the bank on each side of the stream.
"One of my neighbors told me I was giving up good pasture by fencing the cows out," Coyner said. "But I told him I can get the cows into the barn so much easier now, they drink clean water, and I don't have any deaths because of the steep banks or muck."
The Coyners are proud stewards of their land, implementing not only streamside buffers but also rotational grazing, grassed waterways, cover crops, and strip cropping.
"We are happy with the program and plan to re-enroll when our contract comes up for renewal in a couple of years," he added.
Whitescarver lives in Swoope, Va. For more information, visit his website.
Miles 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."
Farmer 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.
Adjusting 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
On 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.
Whitescarver lives in Swoope, Va. For more information, visit his website.
In 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.
Paulk 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, kale, 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.
The 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
Our featured farmer this month manages a unique operation in Worcester County, Maryland. Carole Morison, co-owner of Birds Eye View Farm in Pocomoke City has spent years speaking out against the big chicken companies who dominate the food industry and the landscape. Morison is best known however for her role in Food, Inc. a documentary where she exposed the conditions of the chickens and the poultry industry after welcoming camera crews inside her poultry houses while under contract with Perdue. Although it took her three years of chicken free houses, she decided to get back into the industry in a far less conventional way.
It all started after marrying her husband Frank in 1986. The couple bought two chicken houses and began to grow birds under contract for Perdue. Not long into their production she began to challenge the conventional agriculture system explaining that Perdue dictated everything from equipment upgrades, to feed additives, to flock size.
In 2006, the directors of Food, Inc. approached Morison, and despite knowing she would lose her contract—a great source of fear for any contract grower—she agreed to participate in the film, believing that consumers deserved to know the truth.
The Morisons received the Perdue Grower of the Year award in 2007, having outperformed every other grower. But just three weeks later, Perdue ended the Morisons contract due to failure to comply with full enclosure of their chicken houses, a costly upgrade that the Morisons knew would create financial problems as well as additional health problems for the chickens. Their chicken houses were emptied in 2008 by the time the eye-opening documentary Food, Inc. first aired.
Soon the film took off, and Morison traveled across the country and around the world talking about her work and why she was so vocal against the chicken industry. In her time spent traveling, Morison connected with farmers and people who shared successes of their alternative farming operations. And so she was inspired to join the chicken world once more.
After transitioning away from a traditional contracted poultry farm, Birds Eye View Farm is now home to a 600-hen, free-range, pastured egg operation where the Morisons are able to control every aspect of their process as they deem fit.
The houses that used to hold 54,000 birds now serve as a shelter and laying area for the 600 hens. Even when the full flock is inside at night, the birds have more than six times the space the meat birds had during the previous years. Birds Eye View Farm was the first on the Delmarva Peninsula to be certified as Animal Welfare Approved, the highest third-party certification standards in the country.
One of the greatest difference in her work is that she now enjoys it—the chickens are happier as well! They like to follow her on walks and enjoy special treats, especially watermelons. The flock is made up of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, and Delawares, all of which are traditional heritage breeds. Each chicken has access to more than 14 acres of pasture and typically lays an egg every other day. The Morisons strive to produce healthier hens and more nutritious eggs.
"First I would tell people to, know your food, know your farmer," says Morison. "I think you will be much more satisfied. Second, make an effort to keep your money in the community and local region. And third develop the local food system by having choices for farmers and choices for consumers."
Today people visit Birds Eye View Farm to watch happy chickens roam and pick through lush green fields. The locals pick up their eggs from the farm while others in Maryland can pick up a dozen from Whole Foods Markets. The success of Birds Eye View Farm is almost as remarkable as the stretch of Morison's advocacy efforts. "I'm not saying that our model is the only way, but I do know that the market is wide open." Morison says she struggles to meet the demand of consumers who want to buy a product that they know is good for their own health, the environment, and their community.
"I started to retire . . . [but it just didn't] happen, so I guess I'm not ready to give up yet." There are some who tell her to consider slowing down, but a woman with this much passion and a genuine drive to connect people to their food is going to be one tough egg to crack.
—Kellie Rogers; Photos courtesy of Carole Morison
Tucked away in Kent County's Kennedyville is a land where cows graze on clover, and creeks flow freely. This charming piece of land, known as St. Brigid's Farm, is home to 200 grass-fed beef and dairy cows. The farm is named after St. Brigid, the patron saint of dairymaids and scholars who was renowned for her compassion and often featured with cows at her feet. Partners in the farm have remained steadfast in practices that not only protect the health of the cows but the consumers that rely on responsible stewardship of the land.
Judy Gifford was raised on a dairy farm, which eventually led her to earning a degree in Animal Science from the University of Connecticut. After 16 years in the public sector, she returned to her roots by establishing a 69-head Jersey dairy operation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with partner Dr. Robert Fry.
Robert graduated from the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1977. After years of working with cows, he became interested in Managed Intensive Grazing, also known as rotational grazing as a healthier alternative to grain-fed production. After meeting in 1991 and beginning St. Brigid's in 1996, the partnership between Bob and Judy continues to strengthen.
The 62-acre farm established in permanent pasture provides relief to the Chesapeake Bay in comparison to many conventional agricultural practices. Despite the benefits of the sustainable farm, Judy explains that small-scale operations are "a dying breed." A host of unique challenges come when considering small-scale farming, such as marketing: "[you] have to be flexible and look at ways to maximize your resources."
But Judy explains that St. Brigid's success is grounded in the three legs they believe make a sustainable farm. "We believe that a farm needs to be economically viable, which we achieve through producing high-quality Jersey milk and grass-fed beef, [be] ecologically sound, and promote community involvement." The rotational grazing practices of St. Brigid's produces healthy cows and meets the pollution limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay region.
Judy and Robert's dedication to local foods and their community is evident in their annual event Field to Fork. The proceeds from the event are donated to a different organization every year. This past year's benefitted a group that does not feed people but rather rescues them in times of trouble—the Kennedyville Volunteer Fire Department. During the dinner, farmers and consumers sit side-by-side in the green pasture enjoying a four-course meal grown from Maryland soil.
In addition to their commitment to their community, St. Brigid's Farm is a partner of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local Chesapeake Chapter, which promotes local and sustainable foods by connecting consumers to producers, and which CBF coordinates. St. Brigid's is also a partner in the Maryland Grazers Network—a mentorship program that pairs experienced producers with farmers who want to learn new grazing skills. Sustainable practices, like rotational grazing, have allowed St. Brigid's to develop a healthier product for the consumer. In stark contrast to the confined animal operations that line the Eastern Shore, Judy and Robert demonstrate just one success story of the great things that can happen when science and the land come together in harmony.
Maryland farmers like Bob and Judy are doing their part to clean up pollution to their local waterways. So why is it that big poultry companies take little responsibility for the harmful waste their chickens produce?! This week, Maryland legislators are considering the Poultry Management Litter Act, which requires big chicken companies to take responsibility. This legislation would ensure cleaner, healthier waters for us all, and it would protect Maryland farmers and taxpayers from costs that should be borne by the large poultry companies. Click here to learn more and to send a message to your legislator.
The opportunity to purchase a farm gave Maryland native Will Morrow a final push into a mid-life career change. From a residential landscape design firm in D.C. to the hills of Frederick County, Morrow credits his interest in eating well in the city to spurring him into organic- and pasture-based farming.
Despite the weeds and abandoned structures, Morrow invested in a 30-acre farm property in the Valley and dedicated himself to restoring the land to its previous splendor. Upon purchasing the land in 2003, Morrow established Whitmore Farm as a way of honoring the successful pioneer years of Benjamin Whitmore and his family. The property, which lies within the Monocacy Watershed, is bordered by Toms Creek and now serves as a Certified Organic Production.
Morrow notes that a large part of the farm's success—both environmentally and economically—is approaching the business with a consumer perspective: "We were the people shopping at farmers' markets in the city. We were the people seeking out and eating at restaurants that sourced locally. So, as a producer, I was familiar with the venues I wanted to sell at. I was also comfortable navigating the tight urban landscape for deliveries. And, I knew my buyer well. I was selling to myself."
Morrow works to emphasize sustainable agricultural practices while he raises acres of crops and livestock. The farm specializes in both Heritage and American breed pasture-raised livestock for lamb, pork, and poultry for eggs. Morrow's philosophy toward animals is not only evident in the pasture-raised system but through his Livestock Guardian Dogs, a team made up of five rescued Great Pyrenees and a central Asian Shepherd.
In addition to his pastoral operations, Morrow is always looking for new ways to improve the sustainable production of the farm. He remains steadfast in his philosophy that ". . . part of our farm's mission is to use sustainable ag practices that respect the land and provide healthy food to our customers."
The small but mighty farm raises grass-fed and finished lamb, pastured pork, and pastured eggs. In addition to the livestock and poultry productions, Whitmore Farm is also home to a sustainable and certified organic produce operation. Morrow grows an assortment of tomatoes, peas, arugula, beets, carrots, and flavorful figs to distribute to restaurants and sell at farmers' markets.
What's more, Morrow is a huge advocate for clean water. During an interview with the Baltimore Sun in November, he stated that the American Farm Bureau Federation was "on the wrong side of history" when it and its allies petitioned the Supreme Court to review their challenge to Chesapeake clean-up efforts.
"As I get older, I tend to focus more on the long view," says Morrow. "Society, culture, and values are not static. They evolve over time . . . people farming today farm differently than their parents did and different still from the way their grandparents did. To think that we have reached the apogee in farming and that our current agricultural system is beyond reproach is naive and arrogant. The Farm Bureau is ignoring the science and values that most of the farmers I know hold dear. The status quo is not acceptable. The sooner they accept that, the sooner we can focus on the solutions."
A staunch believer in the power of education, Morrow has hosted numerous field days and informative trips for teachers as well as served as president of the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) Board. "Education is key for the next generation of farmers," he says. Appropriately, CASA's mission is to provide education, networking, and advocacy to help build a sustainable Chesapeake foodshed—something Morrow does every day on his farm in Frederick County.
—Text by Kellie Rogers; Photos courtesy of Will Morrow
Among the many dreams Bob and Maggie Cahalan have for their southern York County farm, protecting the water that runs through it is one of their most important.
With the help of CBF in Pennsylvania and restoration specialist Ashley Spotts, the Cahalans and their partners planted more than 300 native trees and shrubs on three acres, as buffers to trap and filter pollutants that would otherwise flow into Ebaugh and Shaw streams. The cool, babbling waters converge into Deer Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River, and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay.
CBF is emphasizing clean water efforts in York County through its "Clean Water Counts: York" program, which organizes and mobilizes residents to urge leaders in Harrisburg to show greater commitment to improving water quality, and focuses on the need to clean up York County's 350 miles of impaired creeks, streams, and rivers.
The Cahalans live in Greenbelt, Maryland, and with partners Eugenia Kalnay and Jorge Rivas, bought the 37-acre farm in Stewartstown, just north of the Mason-Dixon Line, in 2011. It is no longer a working farm, in that there currently are no crops or livestock to tend.
The forested and streamside buffers on Many Streams Farm are unique in the diversity of plants chosen. Various oaks and hickories, persimmon, paw paw, honey locust, and several types of berry-producing shrubs are among the 40 species.
With guidance from CBF, Many Streams Farm benefited from the Commonwealth's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which makes annual rental payments for land taken out of pasture or production and based on soil type.
"The CREP plan has everything they need to know, including tree and shrub numbers, maintenance requirements, contractor lists, tree lists, and reimbursement costs for the program," CBF's Ashley Spotts says.
"CREP had value beyond monetary value, because it had certain procedures that were developed and outlined," Bob Cahalan says. "We had to plant to a certain date and get 70 percent to survive."
The Cahalans intend to practice permaculture amid the farm's rolling hills, streams, and wetlands. They see permaculture as the harmonious integration of landscape and people, providing food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable and ethical way.
"Experimenting with restorative and re-generative soil building agriculture that does not depend on annual plantings for food sources is a major goal," Maggie Cahalan says. "We hope to foster increased use of perennial and tree crops as food sources for humans and animals. We think it is especially appropriate for the sloped land of this piedmont hill farm."
The Cahalans would like to produce half of their personal food on Many Streams Farm. They have plans for spiral orchards of varieties of apples and cherries; a medicine wheel garden of ginger, berries, witch hazel and other medicinal plants; a farm museum; and a greenhouse. They are installing 30 solar panels to generate energy for farm needs and even have a project to harvest acorns and make bread.
They also see the property as a place for environmental education, a nursery for heirloom and edible native plants, and an opportune place for senior citizens to contribute and integrate.
The Cahalans' interest in clean water and the Chesapeake Bay extends beyond their York County Farm.
They are very active in the non-profit CHEARS (CHesapeake Education, Arts, and Research Society), dedicated to the health of all who share the Chesapeake watershed environment. It is a vehicle for volunteer work to help the health of the Bay. The goal of the non-profit is to foster rural-urban linkages for the good of the Chesapeake watershed in urban, suburban, and rural areas in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
The Cahalans are also very much committed to Chestory (The Center for the Chesapeake Story), with roots in southern Maryland and the work of the late Tom Wisner. It is a group of artists, scientists, citizen activists, educators, poets, writers, and waterfolk who believe that art, song, and story can be the thread that binds people with the deep spiritual Chesapeake experience.
The Cahalans' passion for the Bay grew out of their reading CBF's State of the Bay report in 2005. "One of our first activities was to write an article for the little town we lived in, in Greenbelt," Maggie Cahalan says. "It was to summarize materials from the Foundation, and it galvanized us. I think the work of the Foundation in educating people is really important."
— B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator