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.

Choptank Odyssey: Book Signing with Tom Horton and Dave Harp

Enjoy this free event on Thursday, October 27th at Easton’s Eastern Shore Conservation Center as both author Tom Horton and photographer Dave Harp will sign books from their latest release, Choptank Odyssey: Celebrating a Great Chesapeake River. Doors will open at 4pm with the event running from 4:30pm to 6pm. The event is hosted by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and Adkins Arboretum.

choptank-odysseyAttendees should expect thoughtful conversation and stories about the how their project came to fruition. This book of more than 150 vibrant photographs and seven essays depicts the natural and human history, science, and culture of the Delmarva Peninsula’s largest river – the Choptank.

From its beginnings at upstream springs and farm ditches, to its broad estuary below Cambridge, Choptank Odyssey explores the river’s inhabitants and the impacts of human activity on the natural environment. Generations of waterman and farmers, oystermen and oyster shuckers, crabbers and crab pickers, commercial fisherman, and a “turkler” are just a few of the folks you’ll become acquainted with when exploring this latest release from Horton and Harp.

“Horton knows people like Harp knows lenses. He can tease out a character and tell a story that smacks of Bay brine and crab sweat, just as his colleague cocks his camera in such a way as to capture—just so—the essence of a Bay moment.”—Chesapeake Bay Magazine

Refreshments and drinks will be available for sale.Attendance is free, but attendees are asked to register at www.eslc.org/events.

Bummer: Chesterfield (Carter Farm) still Lacks Development Partner

For the last several months, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) has worked to advance community conversation around the eventual development of Chesterfield (Carter Farm), in Centreville, Maryland. ESLC views Chesterfield as a once in a lifetime opportunity for Centreville to redesign its own front porch on the beautiful Corsica River.

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ESLC held formal and informal meetings with Centreville residents and town representatives, allowing a transparent and public process that established guiding considerations for development. Coupled with community input, planning and design industry professionals generated innovative ideas and refined development parameters, carving out the following design considerations: (1) Access for public open space and recreation, including integration into the town trail system; (2) Preservation of the Carter farmhouse; (3) Agricultural components, including robust community gardens and other scalable uses; (4) Commercial such as a destination inn, market and/or farm to table restaurant; and (5) Housing – a mix of types, sizes and price points.

The resulting vision celebrates a mix of commercial, residential, and abundant community uses. ESLC’s vision leverages off public access connections, including the Carter Farmhouse and a new destination farm to table inn as amenities, which would further connect communities to the land and retains the farm’s agricultural heritage though community gardens. The vision integrates with the trail system around Town, opens access to the Corsica River, and invites Town residents and visitors onto the property as a hub of commercial and community activities with a balance of housing to add to a core of downtown energy.

The organization’s contract on Chesterfield ended on Wednesday, September 21st at 5pm, as the conservation group was unsuccessful in recruiting a development or financial partner to advance the project. Also without success, ESLC approached the current owner with a proposal for a partnership that would have pushed the development towards the community vision with ESLC fundraising to offset costs of added community amenities.

While the nonprofit group’s contract has lapsed, ESLC remains committed to Centreville. According to ESLC Center for Towns Director Katie Parks, the priority is “to support the outcomes of the community conversation and determine how they may be applied to the property now, or be set in place for when the property is developed in the future.” ESLC will share the conceptual visual with the town and public, including a narrative outlining their process, lessons learned, and recommendations.

The outpouring of support and ideas from the community was inspiring to ESLC and yielded a vision rooted in community, which prioritizes public access to the land and water. And while turning that vision into reality at Chesterfield is elusive today, Centreville can still grow by choice on this farm and others. The organization is deeply grateful to the communities and leadership of Centreville for their partnership in reimagining this gem.

One Year Later: Taking Stock of the Eastern Shore Conservation Center

The big bet was that there would be enough environmentally-oriented organizations on the Mid-Shore to fill the restored McCord building in the historic district of Easton. The group that took that bet was the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and it was an expensive one to make, with a total budget of close to $6 million for the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. One year later, almost every office space is now occupied with some of the best conservation organizations in the state, including the ESLC, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, and other green groups and consultants.

But the more significant bet was whether these folks, once they were under the same roof, would talk to each other more, as well as find projects to collaborate on that brought the full force of their joint resources together. While the success on this wager is still not as clear as the ESCC occupancy bet, after one year it seems things are beginning to pay off on this front as well.

A few weeks ago, the Spy eavesdropped on several conversations with Michael Buckley, the host of the popular radio program Voices of the Chesapeake, and a few of new tenants of the ESCC about their new home and neighbors.

This video is approximately four minutes in length

Corsica River Day Brings Fall Festival to the Riverfront

Corsica River Day Photo 3

Kayaking. Credit — Cheryl Huyck, Corsica River Conservancy

The Corsica River Conservancy will host a new community festival, Corsica River Day, to bring family fun, food vendors and live music to the riverfront Sunday, Sept. 18. The FREE event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at Corsica River Yacht Club, located at 589 Conquest Road, off Spaniard Neck Road in Centreville, providing a waterfront setting to celebrate the Corsica River. Family activities at the festival will include free kayaking and canoeing on the Corsica River, fishing derby, pony rides, petting zoo, face painting, pumpkin art and educational activities. It’s the Pits and the Commerce Street Creamery will offer barbecue, burgers, ice cream and sweet treats for sale. Musical entertainment will be provided by bluegrass band Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass. The first 100 families attending the event can take home a free native tree.

After a decade of holding a fall festival at Bloomfield Farm to promote watershed awareness, the Corsica River Conservancy (CRC) this year moved the event to the waterfront to showcase the beauty and recreational opportunities of the Corsica River. “We’re excited about the new partnership with the Corsica River Yacht Club that made this event possible and helps us introduce more people to what the river has to offer,” said CRC President Steve Miller. The goal of Corsica River Day is to foster understanding about what can be done to improve the health of the river while bringing the community together for an enjoyable fall festival, he said. The event is part of the educational outreach by CRC, a volunteer organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the Corsica River and its watershed. Sponsors include CRC, Corsica River Yacht Club, Queen Anne’s County Parks and Public Landings and the Town of Centreville.

For more than a decade, CRC has conducted independent water quality testing to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in assessing the health of the Corsica River and success of ongoing restoration efforts. CRC recently teamed up with the Chester River Association to expand the water monitoring program. CRC volunteers initiate and participate in projects to improving water quality and river habitats, including oyster restoration, tree planting, constructing rain gardens and advocating for responsible development.

For more information about Corsica River Day, contact Queen Anne’s County Office of Tourism at 410-604-2100 or visit http://www.corsicariverconservancy.org/.

ESLC 17th Annual Planning Conference Request for Proposals

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s 17th Annual Planning Conference, “Food Fight! Healthy? Sustainable? Realistic?” will be held November 10th at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, Stevensville MD.

food fight

This conference will take a fresh look at one of the most basic human needs- food!

We welcome proposals for speakers who want to engage attendees in highly interactive sessions to evaluate how we are planning for a better, more equitable, food system built upon Eastern Shore agriculture. As the Eastern Shore’s #1 land use and our region’s biggest economic driver, agriculture continues to play a pivotal role in how the region prospers.

Who benefits from the current food system? Can Shore agricultural or behavioral shifts improve human, societal, and environmental health? What changes to our food system are realistic?

Topic areas may include:
– How we define “local” foods
– The reality of GMOs
– Crop diversity on the Eastern Shore
– Food deserts, injustice in the food system
– CAFOs and how the industry meets consumer demands
– The environmental impact of large scale agriculture vs. small scale
– Value-added agriculture and artisanal foods
– Aquaculture, urban agriculture and other innovative practices
– History of Eastern Shore agriculture
– Organic and sustainable farming
– Soil health
– Ability to feed the growing global population
– Mechanized labor vs. manual labor in food production

Ideal proposals will be short, but provocative – setting aside time for vigorous audience participation and interaction. More can be found on the event registration page: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ 17th-annual-planning- conference-tickets-27078772337
If you are interested in submitting a sketch proposal for the 17th annual conference please submit your application no later than Friday, September 16, 2016 to Rachel Roman at rroman@eslc.org.

Where History and Preservation Meet: ESLC to Hold Party to Preserve at the Hermitage

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) will hold their annual Party to Preserve event at the Hermitage – one of the most interesting properties on the Eastern Shore – on Saturday, October 8th from 4 – 7 pm. Tickets for the event are $125 per person and available for purchase on the organization’s website at www.eslc.org.

The Hermitage is a nearly 1,000 acre historic property located on the banks of the Chester River in Queen Anne’s County and owned by former ESLC Board President Ben Tilghman and his wife, Paige. The Hermitage sits as the centerpiece of the preserved estate; a working farm where family and agriculture have been the way of life for more than 350 years. The estate has been belonged to a member of the Tilghman family since the 17th century, beginning with Dr. Richard Tilghman, a surgeon in the British Navy, who was patented the land in 1659 by Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore.

Guests of Party to Preserve will be treated to a farm-to-table, local culinary experience, including an oyster bar featuring sustainably farmed oysters. Live music by quartet Fiddle Oaks will provide the musical backdrop to this conservation-themed event.

For the second straight year, rather than including a silent auction or similarly fashioned fundraising component, ESLC will offer up a dozen new, educational workshops with topics that fit within the organization’s primary focal areas of Land, Towns, and People on the Eastern Shore. Similar to TED Talks in nature, Shore Talks were introduced at 2015’s Party to Preserve event and gave purchasers the ability to learn (often hands-on) more about topics ranging from oyster aquaculture to songbird banding.

Shore Talks sessions will be available for purchase to the public (whether attending the event or not) online, beginning in September at www.eslc.org.

Local businesses and individuals interested in event sponsorship opportunities are asked to contact ESLC Outreach Coordinator Carin Starr at 410.690.4603, ext. 171, or cstarr@eslc.org.

So, come sip a cocktail on the porch, dine on the freshest, local foods, and stroll the grounds rich with history while reminiscing with friends as you Party to Preserve with ESLC!

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy 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.