From the Ground Up: Celebrating a 20-year Partnership Between CBF's Clagett Farm and the Capital Area Food Bank

Boys in field
Photo courtesy of the Capital Area Food Bank.

 Summertime scene: Kids riding a hay wagon arrive at a farm field and spread out excitedly to pick sweet corn, okra, and tomatoes, under the careful supervision of Carrie Vaughn, Clagett Farm’s Vegetable Production Manager. She shows them how to pick the produce respectfully.  They bring their prizes back to the wagon in bins and head to the farm’s washing station to clean them for transport to D.C.’s Capital Area Food Bank.  

It’s no accident that most of these young people come from food-challenged families that receive produce through the Food Bank and its partner agencies. This scene is just one snapshot of From the Ground Up—a 20-year collaboration between the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Clagett Farm and the Capital Area Food Bank that blends Bay-friendly, sustainable agriculture with social justice through environmental/nutrition education and enhanced availability of fresh produce for people living at or near-poverty levels in the Washington region. 

The base “operating system” for From the Ground Up is Clagett Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which customers buy shares of the harvest beforehand and collect whatever is in season weekly, from salad greens in early May through winter squash in November. Regular customers pay a rate that covers enough program expenses to allow the farm to donate 40-50 percent of its annual production (around 35,000 pounds) to low-income people through the Food Bank. 

Food Grant - Second Genesis Stocking Fridge
Photo courtesy of the Capital Area Food Bank.

Participants can pick up their shares either at an appointed place and time within the District or at the farm, which is only 14 miles east of the U.S. Capitol Building. In addition, the CSA offers Reduced-Price Shares and Workshares to low-income families, and an extensive group of volunteer weeders and pickers helps to keep the program’s operating costs low. The result is that people of all income levels in the Washington, D.C. region can receive top-quality vegetables and fruits from this local farm, while helping to support an extraordinarily effective and efficient food bank that speaks to the needs of people around our Nation’s Capital.

For its Fresh Produce Grant program, the Capital Area Food Bank carefully selects recipient member agencies food pantries, clinics, after-school programs, soup kitchens, and shelters  with the organizational strength and the facilities to maintain the quality and efficiently distribute a broad range of produce to their clients. For 2012, there are nine participating agencies in the District, Suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia. 

But the Fresh Produce Grants themselves are only the first step in the Food Bank’s approach to battling hunger.  Another vital element for recipient member agencies is education. Remember those kids on the hay wagon?  They are there because, as written on the Capital Area Food Bank's website: "...the Food Bank —and CBF —understands that food alone will not end hunger. The food bank couples food distribution with education and training in order to maximize the impact of that food.

Washing sweet potatoes
Photo courtesy of the Capital Area Food Bank.

The Capital Area Food Bank works with our partner agencies as well as low-income individuals directly to gain the skills and resources they need to be more self-reliant. The food bank offers a wide variety of educational programs. Some of these programs are in the form of classes and demonstrations, while others are structured as train-the-trainer in order to support community organizations and capitalize on the strong leaders in our local community."

The best testimony of the value of From the Ground Up, though, comes from those who receive the Fresh Produce Grants. This note from a lady in the District gives it eloquently: “I am submitting this letter to express my appreciation for the fruits and vegetables that I had the fortune to receive for the last six months. I cannot tell you the impact this has had on my life and health. I am a senior citizen on a fixed income, and I would not be able to afford the quality of produce I have received. I want to thank you very much and sincerely hope that the program can continue.”

 John Page Williams

Get Ready for Summertime Picnics!

Clagett2_BlogSummer vegetables at CBF's Clagett Farm. Photo by CBF Staff.

Nothing screams summer like crab cakes, grilled veggies, and rockfish tacos…yum! And no one cooks them better than Chef Emeril Lagasse. A few years ago, in an effort to promote healthy, eco-friendly cooking, Emeril came out to CBF’s Clagett Farm to learn about Vegetable Production Manager Carrie Vaughn’s organic, fertilizer-free way of planting veggies. While there, Emeril talked with Farm Manager Michael Heller as well about his methods of raising healthy, grass-fed cattle. The chef’s entourage even went rockfishing with CBF’s Senior Naturalist John Page Williams and learned about the challenges facing this important and tasty fish!

To get you in the mood for summer this Memorial Day Weekend, check out some of our favorite recipes courtesy of Emeril, our Facebook fans, and local food epicurean Rita Calvert. You’ll see these recipes use healthy, local foods, which not only prove to be good for the environment, but they taste great, too!

—Emmy Nicklin

Check out our complete listing of fresh and local recipes as well as more of Emeril’s “Taste of the Bay” recipes.  

Photo of the Week: A Day on the Farm

ClagettCollagePhotos and photo collage by Christine Wysocki/CBF Staff.

Just last Thursday, CBF's Communications Department spent a day on Clagett Farm where we learned how important agricultural practices are to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. After Farm Manager Michael Heller took us on a tour via tractor and taught us about the importance of soil quality and how to preserve it as well as showcasing his beautiful grass-fed cattle, Carrie Vaughn, Vegetable Production Manager, put us to work planting sunflowers and tending to various vegetables. We completed the day with a satisfying picking of the farm's strawberries...yum! Clagett's ultimate goal is to use farming methods that are truly sustainable—both economically and environmentally—that prove to be a very good thing not only for the farm, but also for our waters and the Bay. 

—Emmy Nicklin

Check out more of our photos from the farm on Facebook!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Simple Solutions for Complex Challenges

Two weeks ago, a group of dedicated Virginia Tech students chose to spend their spring break learning about and restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Below is an excerpt from their experience on a farm in the early part of their Alternative Spring Break adventure with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

VTSpringBreak1CBF’s stream restoration biologist, Rob Schnabel, explains how cover cropping can fix excess nitrogen. Photo by Johnny Haworth. 

Some perceive the image of the Chesapeake Bay as a sun-tanned waterman hauling oysters and blue crabs into his boat as the sun peaks over the horizon. However, the Chesapeake Bay community extends beyond this common image. In fact, the community extends beyond the realm of saltwater and infiltrates into the areas of small freshwater streams. Many of which run through agricultural lands.

As new agricultural land is highly limited in availability, farms have increased intensive margins to meet growing food demand. Such efforts include increased fertilizers, pesticides, and technology. Streams that run through farms have been overloaded with excess nitrogen and phosphorous in recent decades. This excess produces abnormally large algal blooms, which ecosystems cannot compensate for. Once the blooms die, bacteria decompose them, using up a large percentage of dissolved oxygen. Thus, these nutrients are virtually “choking” the bay.

In order to understand these challenges, and how Best Management Practices (BMPs) offer solutions, students went to Frederick, MD to learn from CBF’s stream restoration biologist, Rob Schnabel. CBF helps organize farmers and educates them on BMP options available to them, such as the establishment of riparian buffer zones. Rob works to establish such practices with local farmers.

Rob had the students remove tree shelters from various red maples, tulip poplars, and river birches. The trees bioengineer a riparian buffer zone by absorbing and filtering excess nutrients from the farm as they pass into the local stream. Rob then gave a guided tour along the farm’s stream to discuss other BMPs and stream dynamics. Other practices include cover crops of nitrogen-fixing clover, rotational grazing, and well-structured fencing from streams.

Historically the Chesapeake Bay was assisted by extensive wetlands to filter such nutrients as they came from all over the watershed. Tragically, Maryland has lost more than 75 percent of wetlands, 90 percent of bay grasses, and 50 percent of forest buffers. Efforts to reestablish such natural filters are a necessity to bay quality.

Establishment of natural buffer zones, cover crops, nutrient management plans, and other pollution controls offer cost-effective methods to meet TMDL requirements. However, not enough producers have knowledge of such methods, or deter from them due to conflicting values. Organizations such as CBF play a key role in successfully working with producers of differing values so they may understand the economic, ecological, and social value of protecting water quality.

John Haworth, Virginia Tech Student

To read more about Virginia Tech's Alternative Spring Break with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, visit their website!

VT_AltSpringBreak7The 2012 Virginia Tech Alternative Spring Break participants on day three of their experience with CBF. Photo by Johnny Haworth.


Notes from the Education Field, Part Two: Fall on Clagett Farm

ClagettCowsPhoto by Melissa Simmons/CBF Staff.

The air has turned cooler and the sound of geese resonates high above the clear skies. Students from across Maryland are back in school and their teachers are bringing them to CBF’s Clagett Farm for a first-hand, organic agriculture experience. While here, these students are also learning what they can do to improve the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay whether it be planting stream buffers and fencing off cattle or deciding to eat only grass-fed beef.

Clagett Farm has seen many fall seasons. Formerly a working tobacco farm, the Clagett family passed nearly 300 acres to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in 1981 to run as an educational working farm. Since then, Clagett has grown over the years to offer a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program with its vegetable production, grass-fed beef, and native tree nursery, as well as educational programs. From pulling weeds, to moving cattle, to collecting chicken eggs for our CSA program, students who participate in CBF’s Clagett Farm Education Program have the opportunity to engage in real-life, hands-on farm work.

On a recent sunny, fall day, I find myself working with a group of Baltimore high schoolers. After loading into a hay wagon, I inform them that we will begin the day with a very important task: moving the cattle. On our hay ride over to the cattle, our farm manager, Michael Heller, speaks to the students about why we raise our beef on grass, and why he considers himself a grass farmer.

Raising beef on grass is better for the farmer, the consumer, the cow, and the Bay he tells us. The farmer can charge a higher price for grass-fed beef (not to mention that he/she experiences less back problems than working on concrete, which is often found in non-grass-fed situations). The consumer enjoys beef that is less fatty and higher in healthy omega fatty acidsfound in grass-fed beef. The cow enjoys a fresh patch of clovers and freshly sprouted grass every two days instead of being locked into a confined situation. And finally, the Bay wins because the cow manure is absorbed in the roots of the grass rather than running off a concrete lot and adding to water pollution.

The students begin to see why grass-fed beef could be better for the Bay, but still need more convincing. Once we arrive at the cattle, we divide the students in two groups: One to arrange the electric fence, and others to herd the cattle. The students are fascinated once they see the cattle—they ask about the breed of the cows, their weight, and how they taste. The cows know they are about to see greener pastures and trot towards the open gate. Once the cattle have made it into the new pasture, all goes quiet.  

This moment of silence with the backdrop of bright green rolling pasture is the perfect opportunity to connect students with where their food actually comes from. We ask questions: Why is it important to buy locally? and How does this farming operation effect the Chesapeake? At last the students start to get it. Through these hands-on moments on the farm, students begin to see agriculture’s impact on the watershed and make connections between where their food comes from and how it effects the health of the Bay.

—Phillip McKnight, Clagett Farm Educator

Learn more about Clagett Farm, its CSA, and its Education Program. Read the First Part of the Notes from the Education Field series.

PhillipEducator Phillip McKnight in teaching action. Photo courtesy of Melissa Simmons/CBF Staff.

Tiki Turkey Winning Recipes

On the Road with Chesapeake Local BountyDebbie Buchannan's Carrot Cake

We were as stuffed as that big ol’ turkey after Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Tiki Turkey Local Potluck. Here are the winning recipes with some visuals to go along:


Favorite Dish with Local Ingredients
Marcy Damon's Vegetarian Lasagna
Her dish received votes under best Local Dish, as well as best side dish, but it was a close call -- she only beat Woody’s Holly Beach Farm Goose Stew by one vote. 


Best Side Dish
Allyson Ladley's Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  Allyson’s dish also received votes under the best dish with local ingredients. 


Best Dessert
Debbie Buchannan's Carrot Cake 
Debbie’s cake was not only fantastic but also decorated wonderfully. (She used carrots in her cake but we suggest the very seasonal local pumkin or squash). She won by a landslide but the runner up was Rob Schnabel’s roasted pears & goat cheese – which also received votes under the best dish with local ingredients and was created on Emeril Green’s "A Local Thanksgiving"


Vegetarian Lasagna

Butternut, Spinach and Hazelnut Lasagne

(modification of Gourmet Dec. 2001 recipe)

Serves 6.


For squash filling

1 large onion, chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

1 lb. fresh spinach

1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel, and coarsely chopped

For sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

5 cups milk

1 bay leaf (not California)

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

For assembling lasagne

1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)

12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (1/2 lb)


Make filling:

Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.


Chop spinach into pieces, steam in saucepan or frying pan until wilted. Place in colander and gently press spinach with paper towels to remove excess moisture. (Spinach does not have to be completely dry.)


Make sauce while squash cooks:

Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)


Assemble lasagne:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Place all spinach in single layer. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.


Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagne in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Cooks' note: · Filling and sauce can be made 1 day ahead and kept separately, covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature before assembling.


Pumpkin or Butternut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 1 three layer cake


2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups sugar

1 cup oil

4 eggs

2 cups pumpkin or cooked and mashed butternut squash

1 cup chopped toasted nuts or chocolate chips (optional)


1/2-1 cup butter

8 ounces cream cheese

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking pans.

In a medium bowl, combine first 5 ingredients- mix well. Combine the next 4 ingredients and beat into the bowl with the dry ingredients. If using stir in nuts or chocolate chips.

Bake 350* about 45 min.

Icing: Mix butter, cream cheese, vanilla and confectioners sugar. Beat well.

Ice when cake has cooled completely.


Rita Calvert

"On the Road with Chesapeake Local Bounty"

      ... a multi-media mix of abundance

Butternut Bounty for Thanksgiving (and some special news)


Before I tell my farm visit tale, I want to let you know Homestead Gardens is holding a Farmers Market Holiday Outpost every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Food products—not crafts or greenery—are being sold from local producers. I'll have the luscious Chape Creamery and Chery Glen cheeses plus Chesapeake Fields delectable snack, which is also extremely healthy (but you can keep that a secret.) Bonaparte Breads is also there with irresistable almond croissants, breads and soups. Around the very cool miniature train display is seating and often there is live music. It's quite a festive destination in itself. Come and hang out!


While scouting and exploring for a future farm tour, I had the pleasure of experiencing some of the beautiful winter produce from the largest organic farm in Maryland—One Straw Farm. Lovingly tended by Drew and Joan Norman since 1985, One Straw Farm supplies families, restaurants and wholesalers with the finest certified-organic produce. Joan has also initiated the Faith-Based Initiative with her CSA. She now services eight churches in the Baltimore region. Joan presented me an entire case of my favorite squash which led to every conceivable recipe I could create and test!


DSCN1233So let’s get back to cooking winter squash—specifically butternut along—with an outstanding recipe inspiration for the holidays. Originally conceived by Bon Appetit magazine, I wanted to tweak the style to represent more of the Chesapeake Region’s bounty.  We’ll be consuming it for Tiki Turkey Day, the annual Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s staff Thanksgiving meal. This year the “Best Dish Competition” will feature recipes made with as much local product as possible. Let’s see if my favorite recipe gets the prize. 

And yes, we’ll publish all of the winning recipes.

PLUS: I ‘ll be posting another Butternut (or pumpkin or even sweet potato) recipe I created as soon as I test it one more time!

Butternut Squash Gratin With Local Goat Cheese And Pecans 

8 to 10 servings

Squash is often sold already peeled and seeded, making this recipe even easier.

3 1/2 pounds butternut squash (about 2 medium), peeled, seeded, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes (8 cups)

2 tablespoons olive oil

coarse kosher salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided

3 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)

1 1/ teaspoons chopped fresh sage

5-ounces soft fresh goat cheese ( about 2/3 cup)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 cup pecans coarsely chopped

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks and chopped sage; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until tender but not brown, about 15 minutes. Coat 11x7-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Spread half of leek mixture over bottom of prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of squash and half of cheese. Repeat layering with leeks, squash, and cheese. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour cream mixed with curry powder evenly over gratin. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Bake uncovered until gratin is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if previously chilled).

TO GO: This gratin is a good choice for transporting because it travels well. Either complete the dish at home (wrap it tightly to keep warm) or wait until you get to your destination to add the cream and nuts and then bake.


Have some fabulous beta carotene!




Posted by Rita Calvert. Rita is a chef, educator, and writer and a founding member of Buy Fresh Buy Local Chesapeake Region. Visit her website On the Road With Chesapeake Local Bounty.

On the Road With Chesapeake Local Bounty

A Very Clever Local Lunch Menu

Crab_soup_2Melon Salad
Maryland Farm Salad with Crab Louise Dressing
Untraditional Maryland Vegetable  Crab Soup
Sweet Zucchini Bread

We got plenty of crab for this Locally Grown Lunch as not only was it the base for the soup but also graced the salad dressing along with chopped hard boiled egg. It was very ingenious to add the crab to the Crab Louie dressing. You can make the soup at home and use a recipe loaded with seasonal vegetables like corn, baby potatoes and summer squash.

Maryland Vegetable Crab Soup
Makes 1 gallon

3 pounds fresh crab claws
2 quarts water
2 bay leaves
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups diced celery
3 cups halved baby potatoes
4 cups combinations of corn and diced summer squash
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon marjoram
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 pound special or claw crab meat

In a large, heavy bottomed kettle, combine crab claws water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to make broth. Add  tomatoes, celery, potatoes, vegetables cook approximately 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes at a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Leftover soup should be kept in refrigerator not more than five days. Makes about 1 gallon.

Posted by Rita Calvert. Rita is a chef, educator, and writer and a founding member of Buy Fresh Buy Local Chesapeake Region. Visit her website On the Road With Chesapeake Local Bounty.

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On the Road With Chesapeake Local Bounty

As the Wednesday Local Lunch at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation continues during the high harvest, meals have become overloaded with goodness thanks to the participation of Clagett Farm. CBF's farm supplies 75-80% of the produce for this especially popular event. We always hear a clamoring for recipes which can be tough since our caterers, as like most chefs ... cook without them. Claire Owens likes to travel to Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro herself to pick up the share of produce. This means she doesn't know until arrival what the lunch menu may be.

So I'll publish the all-time favorites as close to our chef's rendition as possible. Keep in mind that the freshest cooking can be impromptu and I hope you'll experiment and use the recipes (and menu) as a lose template.

Dsc01231Local Lunch Menu by Claire Owens

Clagett Corn Chowder w/ Bacon
Classic Greek Salad with Local Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, Red Onion, Feta and Black Olives Served on Saffron Cous Cous
Fresh Baked Local Bread
Local Peaches, Plums and Nectarines with Balsamic Vinegar

Recipe:  Clagett Corn Chowder w/ Bacon
Serves 4

4 slices bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cube
4 cups broth made from corn cobs and husks
2 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 dried bay leaf
3 cups fresh corn cut from kernel
1 cup heavy cream

In a large heavy pot, brown bacon slowly until crisp-7-10 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towel. Add the onion to pot and cook until soft. Increase the heat to medium and add potatoes, corn broth, water, s & p and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then decrease heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the fresh corn, heavy cream and reserved bacon keeping a bit of bacon to sprinkle on top.

WRNR Radio's Michael Buckley Interviews Local Farmers Each Week Dscn2284

As Michael Buckley finished his Sunday Morning Brunch radio show in downtown Annapolis he happened upon the Annapolis FreshFarm Market. There on the water at City Dock were colorful tents tended by friendly farmers who doused Mr. Buckley with locally grown goodies. The idea was born to have one farmer from market appear every Sunday morn for a chat during Michael's radio show, 103.1 FM (7:00am-10:00am).

Chef-turned-farmer, Wes Lanham founder of The Bread Ovens @ Quail Creek Farm, talked to us this past Sunday, August 24, about turning the outbuilding of a formerly grand farm into a baker's dream facility.

Posted by Rita Calvert. Rita is a chef, educator, and writer and a founding member of Buy Fresh Buy Local Chesapeake Region. Visit her website On the Road With Chesapeake Local Bounty.