Sustainable Agriculture, Land Preservation Named Integral Steps on Path Toward Restoring the Chesapeake Bay
On the state seal of Maryland lie a farmer and a fisherman. But for decades, the rift between those who work the earth and those who work to save the Chesapeake Bay has widened. In an effort to find common ground between these two communities, the Accokeek Foundation invited members of both fields to a conference titled Common Ground: Growing Agriculture, Restoring the Bay.
The December event, held at the National Wildlife Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland, produced a lively discussion about environmental protection, land preservation, and farm viability. In addressing the almost 80 guests in attendance, speakers found common ground in discussing the land itself: sustainable agriculture and land preservation were presented as integral steps on the path toward restoring the bay.
The conference was attended by several distinguished guests from the agricultural and environmental fields, including Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Earl “Buddy” Hance. The event was presented by the Accokeek Foundation’s Center for Agricultural and Environmental Stewardship, which holds programs and events such as this one to build on the Foundation’s decades-long history as a leader and teacher in land preservation and sustainable agriculture.
Co-sponsoring the conference was the Chesapeake Bay Trust, an independent, non-profit grant making organization that promotes public awareness of and participation in the restoration and protection of the bay watershed. “The Trust supports projects that both strengthen the economic sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay farming community and advance conservation measures that improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and local rivers and streams,” says Chesapeake Bay Trust Executive Director Allen Hance. “We applaud the Accokeek Foundation for its efforts to find a common ground around the future of farming and the environment in the bay region.”
As Maryland and other states work to set limits on watershed pollution, it has become essential for farmers to join conservationists in seeking out environmental solutions. Although agricultural runoff is cited as a leading source of nutrient pollution, well-managed farmland can produce a sustainable food source, preserve community character, and benefit the environment. Indeed, noted several speakers, viable farms and clean water are not mutually exclusive.
But even in a state in which farmers are leaders in land management, conservation, and preservation, farmland loss is a pressing environmental threat.
Christine Bergmark, executive director of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Commission, has seen hundreds of thousands of acres of Southern Maryland farmland disappear in the last decade. She and her husband, Brett Grohsgal, own a 104-acre organic farm, and envision a future in which farmland preservation is a public priority and farmers have the tools that are needed to become sustainable—and profitable.
To be sure, sustainable agriculture and profitable agriculture go hand in hand. Said Jill Auburn, senior advisor of sustainability with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in her keynote address, sustainable living is an integral method of meeting the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.
Conference speaker Lorette Picciano expanded upon this sentiment. Said the executive director of the Rural Coalition, “One of the keys to sustainability is, in fact, community. It’s the system of relationships, the system of knowledge that we all share.”
Fostering this sense of community upon common ground is one of the Accokeek Foundation’s key strategies for addressing the challenges facing both agriculture and the environment. The Foundation has for decades worked to bring farmers into the realm of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation, propelled by a need to steward the natural world and support those who work the land.
Accokeek Foundation President Wilton Corkern notes: “In this region that prizes local food, pastoral landscapes, and a wholesome environment, we have an obligation to ensure that farmers have the tools needed to adopt sustainable practices and find success. This presents an opportunity for farmers to work with new environmental regulations and reclaim their rightful role as exemplary stewards of the land.”
For more information about the conference and the Accokeek Foundation, please visit www.accokeek.org or contact Matt Mulder at 301-283-2113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Accokeek Foundation is an educational non-profit and one of the nation’s oldest land trusts. The Foundation stewards 200 acres of Piscataway Park on the shore of the Potomac River in Accokeek, Maryland. The site’s National Colonial Farm is a living history museum that works to preserve heirloom crops and heritage breed animals. The Foundation’s Center for Agricultural and Environmental Stewardship and Ecosystem Farm emphasize the future of agriculture as we instruct farmers in sustainability. The park’s grounds and trails are open to the public year ‘round.