Good Deal: Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and DNR Preserve 460 Acres on the Bohemia

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), is preserving 460 acres in Cecil County for the future development of a new state park. The Board of Public Works unanimously approved the acquisition this morning.

The new water-access site, located near Chesapeake City, will eventually be called Bohemia River State Park and will complement existing Maryland Park Service properties in the area – Elk Neck, Fair Hill, and Sassafras. This is a big win for land conservation on the Eastern Shore, and more specifically, Cecil County.

“Over the course of the past 27 years, ESLC has been involved with literally thousands of Eastern Shore farms. OBX Farms is truly one of the most beautiful we’ve ever assisted in preserving!” said ESLC Executive Director Rob Etgen. “This purchase will keep the land open, free from future development, and most exciting of all, available to the public for generations to come. ESLC is incredibly proud to play a role in this important legacy.”

The acquisition of OBX Farms was fully funded by Program Open Space, which preserves natural areas for public recreation, and watershed and wildlife protection across Maryland.

In addition to existing agricultural land that will most likely continue being farmed, approximately 14,000 feet of riverfront property will now be available to the public for kayakers, standup paddle-boarders, canoers, and other activities. The property’s rich network of riparian forests and tidal and non-tidal wetlands will provide for habitat restoration and water quality benefits.

Once the acquisition is complete (projected Fall 2017), the department will develop an interim public access plan for the property, which will enable visitors to enjoy passive, nature-based activities until a master plan can be developed. Public access to the new park should begin during the spring or summer of 2018. The public will have numerous opportunities to comment on the master plan as it is being drafted.

For more information, please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165.

‘Envision the Choptank’ Offers Free BMP Workshop for Talbot County Residents

Live in the town of Easton, St. Michaels, or McDaniel and interested in the health of the Chesapeake Bay? If you answered “YES”, then the Envision the Choptank initiative has an opportunity for you!

Come to the Eastern Shore Conservation Center (114 South Washington St., Easton) on May 17 or May 22 from 5:30-7:30pm for an informational workshop and walking tour to learn how to reduce flooding and control runoff in your own backyard. Refreshments will be provided as residents learn a little bit about some best management techniques for your home.

Those in attendance will also go on a short walking tour to see techniques first hand and speak with homeowners who are already helping to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Everyone who attends will get a free soil test and recommendations for lawn care. A rain barrel will also be raffled off each night.

Please RSVP by e-mail to Nicole Barth (nbarth@eslc.org) or by phone to Michelle Funches 410-690-4603 ext. 169 by May 15!

Envision the Choptank is a collaborative initiative that engages communities, nonprofits, and government agencies in developing joint solutions to improve the health and productivity of native oysters and support a fishable, swimmable Choptank.

Ecosystem Long Form: Author John Englander on Rising Sea Levels at the Chesapeake Bay

As John Englander, noted oceanographer and author of High Tide on Main Street and more recently, Rising Seas and Shifting Shorelines, recently noted in his keynote address sponsored by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy last Saturday morning, one sometimes needs to say something seven times to make sure your audience gets your most important point. In John’s case, it is undoubtedly the under-reported consequences of rising sea levels on rural communities.

As part of the ESLC’s ongoing conversation about the impact of climate change on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the author was invited to give a summary of the research and increasingly grim data has been collected in recent years that points to the Chesapeake experiencing from three to six feet in sea levels over the next one hundred years as opposed to the one to two feet forecast currently being used by local and state government and other policy organizations as they anticipate this severe environmental event.

The Spy was at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center for John’s remarks and present them in their entirety.

This video is approximately twenty-nine minutes in length. For more information on ESLC please go here 

 

 

ESLC Climate Change/Sea Level Rise Half-Day Conference Set for April 1

The Eastern Shore is the third most susceptible region to the effects of sea level rise in the country. The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), a progressive, environmentally-focused nonprofit organization headquartered in Easton, will host the half-day conference, Unsinkable Eastern Shore II: Rural America Responds to Climate Change, on Saturday, April 1st from 9am to 1pm. The event will be held at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center – the former McCord laundry facility which ESLC rehabilitated and has since occupied with several other conservation groups since 2015.

The event is $20 to attend and includes breakfast, two panel discussions, and presentations by two keynote speakers. Also included with admission is a copy of speaker John Englander’s book High Tide on Main Street, which Politico Magazine called “one of the 50 most important books to read in 2016.” Attendees may register online at eslc.org/events, but are encouraged to do so soon, as seating is limited.

The conference will be hosted by ESLC’s Coastal Resilience Manager, Brian Ambrette, who has been working with town and county government on the Mid and Upper Shore for more than two years, helping to bring awareness about the effects of climate change – most notably, sea level rise – as well as working to help implement sound planning in the form of mitigation strategies and town/county comprehensive plans.

“I hope our audience will learn how their communities and their neighbors are embracing change as an opportunity to innovate and make the systems we rely on stronger and greener”, notes Ambrette. “I am excited about the new ideas that our keynote speakers will inject into the conversation.”

While the conference panels boast a mix of knowledgeable educators and emergency management professionals, the inclusion of oceanographer, author, and consultant John Englander is perhaps the most impressive addition to the conference. As a leading expert on sea level rise, Englander’s broad marine science background coupled with explorations to Greenland and Antarctica has allowed him to see the big picture of sea level rise and its societal impacts. He has served as chief executive officer for such noteworthy organizations as The International SeaKeepers and The Cousteau Society. Interestingly enough, legendary Captain Jacques Cousteau tapped John to succeed him as CEO.

Please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165 for more information.

Senator Ben Cardin Set to Visit ESLC Cambridge Project March 10

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) will be visiting Cambridge, Maryland on Friday, March 10, 2017 to join join representatives from the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), Baltimore’s Cross Street Partners, and Preservation Maryland for a tour and media availability regarding The Packing House – a historic tax credit rehabilitation project.

In addition to addressing the media and answering questions immediately following the tour, Senator Cardin will spotlight his new legislation to improve the federal historic tax credit program, which will benefit rural communities and small towns across Maryland.

A partnership between ESLC, Cross Street Partners, and the City of Cambridge, The Packing House (ThePackingHouseCambridge.com) is an urban revitalization project that seeks to repurpose the historic, 60,000 square-foot Phillips Cannery building in Cambridge into an active, mixed-use plan for office and food-related innovation.

This structure is the last standing piece of the storied Phillips Packing Company empire, which employed thousands in Cambridge and served as the largest supplier of rations to American troops in World War II.

The project was recently awarded a $3M historic tax credit for revitalization of a structure located within an underserved community. Plans include an array of food-related uses that acknowledge and support local hunger and nutrition needs, building off of the Eastern Shore’s agricultural resources and a growing local food economy of growers, makers, distributors, retailers, and restaurants.

The ambitious vision to renovate and repurpose the former Phillips ‘Factory F’ is key to the continued revitalization of Cambridge, including Cannery Park – the adjacent 6.6 acres of land which includes the Cambridge Creek headwater area that will begin a stream restoration process this coming spring.

The event is free and open to interested members of the public, friends of ESLC, and the media. For members of the media planning to attend the grand opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center immediately afterwards, a bus will be held at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge so that they will be able to attend both events. Please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165 for more information.

LOCATION: Phillips Packing Plant, 411 Dorchester Avenue, Cambridge, MD 21613
AGENDA: Arrive at Packing House 11:15am; Tour the building; Press availability 11:40am; Depart Packing House at 12:00pm.

Phillips Packing Company in Cambridge Selected to Receive Historic Preservation Tax Credit Award

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) announced today that the Phillips Cannery ‘Factory F’ received a $3M (of $9M available) Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit award reservation for fiscal year 2017 from the Maryland Department of Planning. The project is amongst only eight projects selected statewide based on the urgency of the need for rehabilitation and the strategic location of the project. The rehabilitation of the Phillips Cannery will not only help Cambridge revive one of Maryland’s precious resources, but also assist in sustaining vitality in the community. The tax credit program is regarded as one of the most effective tools for revitalizing historic communities.

A joint venture between ESLC and Baltimore’s Cross Street Partners, the project is moving forward in an effort to repurpose Factory F as a hub for creative food production, retail and small business, and entrepreneurial initiatives that build off of the Eastern Shore’s famed farming resources and growing local food economy. More specifically, the “Food and Farming Exchange” would include a microbrewery, kitchen incubator and market, shared-use office innovation hub, oyster bar, and event space available for rent to the community.

But the financial piece of the puzzle isn’t complete just yet. With a price tag of $18.5M, the new Phillips building still faces stiff headwinds in raising additional funding and securing tenants who will bring the renovated building to life. With an incredible commitment from town/county/state/federal government, along with the support of the food and farming communities of Cambridge and the Eastern Shore, ESLC believes that a rehabilitated Phillips Factory F would provide enormous upsides for everyone involved.

In an effort to combat sprawl on Maryland’s scenic Eastern Shore, ESLC founded its Center for Towns Program in 2011. Director Katie Parks leads the organization’s offer of technical support with projects involving the planned conversion of empty lots, underused or rundown buildings, and other available space within a town’s already existing infrastructure as an alternative to overdevelopment of rural areas.

The 60,000 sq ft historic Factory F building is significant due to its association with events that shaped the history of Cambridge. Originally built in 1920 as a furniture factory, the building later became part of the Phillips Packing Company empire which employed thousands in Cambridge, purchasing upwards of 1 million dollars in product from Delmarva farmers annually. The building, while neglected and vacant since the 1960’s, was the only structure spared from demolition and features an open floor plan, soaring ceilings, and the opportunity to retain many historic architectural features that will impart the space with an authentic, Eastern Shore manufacturing aesthetic.

ESLC Plans a New Life for the Phillips Cannery in Cambridge

When the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy made good on their promise to convert the McCord dry-cleaning plant in Easton into a new center for environmental organizations, it not only gave that town a first-class facility which brought in dozens of well-paid professionals to improve its downtown economic viability, it also created a model and how to take an abandoned building and repurpose it.

It is with these new skills that the organization has now begun work on the long neglected Phillips Cannery building in Cambridge in the hope of turning it 60,000 square feet facility into a hub for creative food production, retail and small business or entrepreneurial initiatives that build off of the Eastern Shore’s famed farming resources and growing local food economy.

Originally constructed in 1920 as a furniture factory, the building later became part of the Phillips Packing Company empire, which employed nearly 10,000 people at its peak in 1937 and purchasing over $1 million in products from Delmarva farmers annually. The plan calls for an open floor plan, soaring ceilings, and the opportunity to retain many historic architectural features in keeping with its authentic Eastern Shore manufacturing past. It will also be the future site of Cannery Park, a new “central park” that will incorporate active and passive spaces for recreation for Cambridge.

The Spy sat down with the Phillips project manager, Katie Parks last week at Bullitt House to talk about the project and its potential for Cambridge and the surrounding area.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about ESLC  or the Phillips project, please contact Katie at 443.695.1349 or kparks@eslc.org

ESLC “Food Fight” Transcript: Woodberry Kitchen’s Spike Gjerde

Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy hosted an all-day seminar cleverly entitled “Food Fight” to discuss issues related to our food supply in the Chesapeake Bay region. One of the more interesting people that the ESLC brought in that day was the renowned chef and owner of Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen, Spike Gjerde. Gjerde is a greatly respected foodie in the mid-Atlantic region, and the Spy was interested in his thoughts about the local state of food, sustainability, and hopes for the future is what and how we eat.  While the Spy recorded Spike’s comments that day, the acoustics in the room and the placement of the loudspeakers produced unacceptable audio quality and we therefore made a decision to transcribe his remarks instead.  They are presented here, lightly edited (with some omissions due to the poor audio quality/inaudibility).

I had made a commitment to purchase from local growers. And the only thing that ever separated me and what we did at Woodberry is that I stuck with it. And the only thing that allowed me to stick with it is I came over time to understand why it was important. That’s it.

Farm to table came along … and became a trend and everybody put a pitchfork up in the corner of their restaurant … but we were first. … Over time, talking to writers, reading what I could read, talking to folks… I started to understand why this was important. And I started to ask a little more from the food I was serving our guests.

Spike Gjerde at ESLC Food Fight

Spike Gjerde at ESLC Food Fight

As chefs, for a long time, for years and years, we talked about how delicious food is. And among ourselves we talked about how cheap it needs to be. That was the sum total of our conversation about our food as chefs. And I was one of those guys for a long time. It took me a long time to understand that I could do it and why it was important.

Chefs are forever going to talk about making delicious food, how to make it delicious. I’m a chef and I can’t get away from that. I love serving delicious food to our guests. The other thing was how cheap could it be, how many pennies could we shave off what we were paying, and we would always talk about food cost. It’s an obsession and it’s how you’re able to make money and I get that.

But, I started to ask different questions about our food. After asking “is it delicious?” and “can we make the economic thing work?” I started asking “is it nutritious?” It’s astonishing to me that chefs don’t have much of a sense or care about how nutritious the food is they are feeding their guests. This started to mean a lot to me. The best example about that is we are moving our baking entirely to locally grown whole grains. That’s something taking us so far outside the norm of restaurants and the baking in this country but I can’t imagine doing it any other way. There are so many good reasons to do that, but health when it comes to grains, whole grains are the way to go. So, we’re trying to make our food healthier.

I think the most important question, what I truly started demanding of the food we served our guests, had to do with something that was entirely economic. I started understanding the role Woodberry is playing within our food system as an economic role. I’ve only come recently to understand that I stopped thinking like a chef, and started thinking about how much value can we return to others.

What I felt we needed to demand of our food is that farmers need good pay. If something we were putting on the table wasn’t paying farmers, it wasn’t good enough for us. And that is the definition of what good food is that I never heard before. And I never heard it in the context of a restaurant, or from a chef. That’s what took Woodberry from being a farm to table restaurant that could have ended up like any farm to table restaurant to what it is today.

In 2014 we returned 2.5 million dollars to our local agricultural alone. In 2015 we hit a couple speed bumps and returned 2.1 million to local agriculture. This isn’t total spending. This is the amount that went back to farmers. We measure it and talk about it because it’s important. Without these dollars, the small-scale farmers, the ones that grow produce, grains, all the meat and poultry, eggs, all the dairy, all the cheese, the salt, all of it, if those purchases are not returning value to growers, I won’t serve it. And that became our definition of what good food is.

One of the frustrations for me as I’ve talked about food with people about what they eat, people can’t speak or think clearly about food. (Spike Gjerde says to the audience: “you’re not them”). But, they’re out there. It’s hard to sit there and say to them: there’s nothing about that chicken sandwich you bought for lunch that’s good – not the bread, not the chicken itself, not the way it was cooked, not the way it got there, none of that. And, I think we’re making some amazing headway around these issues. I’m almost ready to close the circle and start thinking like a chef again. I don’t think I can do it unless I feel clear that everything we’re doing is returning value to growers. And ultimately we want to make meaningful, measureable change in our food system with the dollars we return to our agricultural economy.

I want to see small scale farmers that think about the things we’re thinking about in terms of our environment, our society, work, health. I want to see those guys stick around, get paid for what they do, get rewarded for what they do. …

We started out as one restaurant, we are going to add four… One of the things I’m proudest of is our coffee shops, which have soup, salads, cereal, it’s the same food we serve at Woodberry. Every last thing is from a little farm. …

We’re doing this in Baltimore. And I hope that someday, people can look to us to see how local food can happen, what it can mean to a community of eaters and farmers and growers that supply them, that people can look at Baltimore and say: it already happened there. …

I changed the menu to say: “We source from local farms.” Period! And I put in big letters, I just had to do it, I was fired up. That’s what our menu says now. I should have said it a long time ago, because the message needs to get out there. We’ve got to talk about this and push really, really hard if this is going to happen.

I’ve been told over and over again that what I do is not realistic for most people. I’ve heard it so often I almost started to believe it. … But, it’s happening in Baltimore. It may not be realistic, but it’s happening. And, we are going to go from 2.5 to past 3 million as we do things like this (picks up large can of tomatoes).

I got some tomatoes canned this year. … I would get these beautiful tomatoes and take them to universities and places and they looked at me like I brought uranium into their kitchens. They were like literally: “get that out of here.” They said they needed it canned, and at a certain price point, so we did it. … So, we got Maryland grown tomatoes in these cans with a lot of information, there’s too little transparency in our food system. So, farm of origin, harvest date, yield off of acres… and we paid our farmers five times the going rate of commodity tomatoes. And got em’ in a can. So now I’m a part-time chef, part-time tomato salesman!

I am here to tell you that amazing things can happen when you decide why it’s important. That’s one of the things that’s been lacking. For me, it’s the environment, it’s social, it’s cultural, it’s about soil and soil fertility, it’s about biodiversity, there’s a million good reasons to be doing this. I can’t choose just one. …

We love what we have here. Had I foreseen what we wanted to do… I couldn’t have picked a better place [than the Chesapeake Bay region] to try to do this with food. To work with great people in the restaurant and on the farms around us, in a region that has the Chesapeake for fish and shellfish, that has incredible farmland and growers that work the land. There’s no limit. I would love for us to be able to show the world what’s possible here. … Thank you guys for your attention.

For more information about the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy please go here. For Woodberry Kitchen, please click here.

New Conservation Easement Announced in Caroline County

Jim Saathoff, owner of Me & Jimmy, Inc., has recently granted a conservation easement on a 40 acre parcel in Caroline County to the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) and Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The easement preserves a small horse farm along a stretch of the Choptank River with important riparian wetlands and forest.

For Saathoff, this property was his last that hadn’t already been permanently preserved with a conservation easement. “Now all of my properties are in preservation and will continue to be used as they should be, for farming and natural resources, not development,” said Saathoff.

Saathoff’s other properties are all preserved with easements, including his late wife Sue’s family farm, The Good Luck Farm, located in Dorchester County. A conservation easement protects the forest habitat for the once federally listed endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel, as well as hundreds of acres of productive agricultural land.

Saathoff is a life-long farmer and proponent of farmland preservation. His commitment to farmland preservation will ensure future generations have access to the land and the life that has made him what he is today. ESLC is honored to have been a partner in the preservation of this latest piece and look forward to our continued relationship ensuring that they all remain available forever for farming, future generations, and the plants and animals that call them home.

For information about conservation easements and permanently protecting land on the Eastern Shore, please contact ESLC Land Conservation Program Assistant Michelle Funches at 410.690.4603, ext. 169.

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit land conservation organization committed to preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore and the lands and waters that connect them. More at www.eslc.org.

Award-Winning Chef Spike Gjerde to Headline “Food Fight!” Planning Conference

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) has released the agenda for its 17th Annual Planning Conference,“Food Fight! Healthy? Sustainable? Realistic?”. The all-day affair, to be held on Thursday, November 10th at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville, MD, boasts an impressive list of national and regional speakers. Attendees should expect to be engaged in interactive sessions with the goal of helping to discover what an optimal food system based on Eastern Shore agriculture would look like in the future.

food-fight-master_cropWoodberry Kitchen’s Spike Gjerde, Baltimore’s first winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef(Mid-Atlantic), was recently confirmed as a speaker at the conference. Gjerde’s presentation, entitled “From My Perspective – My Take on Healthy, Local, and Sustainable”, will provide an informed view of what a celebrated chef in a major metropolitan restaurant goes through on a daily basis in order to prepare and serve healthy, locally-sourced food.

International speaker Dr. Solomon H. Katz, Director of the Krogman Growth Center & professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania will speak at the conference, presenting “A Biocultural Perspective on Food, Food Waste, and Beyond.” Other speakers include American University Professor T. Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Scientist Beth McGee, FRESHFARM Co-Founder Ann Yonkers, and many more.

Home to some of the region’s richest soil, the Shore produces a substantial portion of Maryland’s wheat, soybeans, and corn, as well as poultry. Whether you operate a farm, food-related business, or simply do the food shopping for your family and would like to know more about where it comes from, this conference will leave attendees better informed to make decisions that can positively affect our region’s overall health and sustainability.

One issue that will be examined during “Food Fight!” is that of food waste. Whether in the production, distribution, consumption, or waste management aspects of its lifespan, the millions of pounds of wasted food our system produces has deservedly become a hot topic.

“It’s shocking to learn that a region with so much agriculture has such severe food access issues,” says ESLC Program Assistant and conference organizer Rachel Roman. “Approximately 40% of the food that is produced goes to waste before it even reaches the grocery store. Dr. Katz will talk extensively about this problem as it often goes unnoticed in our daily lives.”

Interested attendees can register online at eslc.org/events. Act quickly, as early bird pricing has recently been extended until Saturday, October 15th ($45 instead of $55). Students are encouraged to attend the conference with a discounted ticket price of $25.

ESLC has included free admission to a screening of the food-based documentary “In Defense of Food” (based on the book by Michael Pollan) with each conference ticket, which will be held the evening prior to “Food Fight!” at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton, MD.Tickets to the film screening may be purchased separately for $10.

For more information about the conference, please contact ESLC’s Program Assistant Rachel Roman at 410.690.4603 (x156) or rroman@eslc.org.

About Eastern Shore Land Conservancy
ESLC is a private, nonprofit land conservation organization committed to preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore and the lands and waters that connect them.Our vision for 2050 is an Eastern Shore where towns are vibrant and well defined; farms, forests, and fisheries are thriving and scenic; historic, natural, and riverine landscapes are maintained. www.eslc.org.