Farming on the Eastern Shore, Past, Present, Future

Posted on November 18, 2010

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Map of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware, with the Pocomoke River Watershed highlighted. Photo from Wikimedia.org.

The 2010 election season stirred much talk and animosity about farming on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, particularly the future of the poultry industry in light of environmental regulation. Here on the Lower Shore, there is much tension between farming and environmentalism. However, many argue that the two need not be competitive, but should be compatible. Agriculture and environmentalism are not mutually exclusive.

In other words, there’s no reason why we can’t have a thriving, profitable agricultural economy AND a vibrant, clean environment.

Marc Steiner’s radio show this week featured two great interviews with Eastern Shore farmers, plus a commentary by Maryland environmentalist Tom Horton. You can hear a podcast of the interviews at the Steiner Show Web site.

Salisbury-area farmer Ted Wycall talked in detail about his small-scale family farm, producing organic vegetables and poultry for the local market. His experience with vegetables and livestock gives great hope for the future. Check out Mr. Wycall’s Greenbranch Farm here.

Dorchester County farmer Steele Phillips reflects on his 50 years of farming experience, emphasizing the leadership of farmers in soil conservation.

Most thought-provoking to me was Marc Steiner’s comment that the Delmarva Peninsula is one of the largest contiguous areas of rural farmland on the East Coast between Boston and Norfolk.

But ironically, most of the fruits and vegetables in our supermarkets come from California, or Mexico, or who knows where. Mr. Wycall stressed the advantages of growing and consuming our own food locally, and then finding markets for the surplus on Maryland’s Western Shore and in nearby states. During the interview, Mr. Wycall reveals the “secret” to success in the organic farming business on the Eastern Shore.

The podcast includes a riveting commentary on “radical environmentalism” by Maryland environmental writer Tom Horton. He argues persuasively that environmentalism can be viewed as both “fundamental” and “radical.”

I hope that everyone who has an interest in the economic future of the Eastern Shore will listen to the podcast.

— John Hayden

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