Paul and Emma face obstacles every bit
as challenging as any farmer, builder, or
county government. They had no experience farming. He worked as a staffer in
Congress. She worked as a physician assistant (and still does in between farm chores).
They had to squirrel away their savings and
take out loans.
Also, they decided to raise cows on pasture
and grow vegetables without pesticides.
Sustainable farming can increase short-term
costs and labor in some cases, but it pays off
in the long run in increased profits and in a
cleaner farm stream.
To reach their goal the Sorensons invested
in the soil, using farm practices that enrich
rather than deplete dirt for the long term.
They also innovated, creating mobile chick-
Save a Farm, Save the Bay
Paul Sorenson points to a farm field of
redish-brown grass. Before Paul and his wife
Emma bought their farm in Carroll County
five years ago, the field was rented out to a
farmer who grew corn. The red “poverty
grass” now growing is a sign that the soil
has been depleted of minerals and nutrients
during those earlier years.
Paul then happily points to another
field. It is lush with green grass, replenished by chicken waste distributed using
Paul’s mobile poultry pens.
Slowly, Paul and Emma are restoring Gravel
Springs Farm in Union Bridge. Their story
can inspire and educate us. Reviving a
depleted farm is very much like restoring a
degraded Bay. The key to success is old-fashioned farm values: resourcefulness, smart
investments, and neighborly cooperation.
We hear criticism from some quarters
about the Bay restoration effort, especially
about the cost. Counties and towns are
concerned the price tag is too high for
reducing pollution from urban and suburban runoff and from septic systems.
Farmers and builders also worry about their
In the next few months, elected and agency
officials will vote on key pieces of Maryland’s
Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Cost
will be at the center of most of those votes—
and political will.
Some county governments will decide
whether to roll back funding for reducing
polluted runoff. Several bills have been pre-filed for the upcoming legislative session
that would free the 10 jurisdictions in
Maryland that have the worst runoff problems from adequately funding their clean-up
efforts. And state officials also will establish
final regulations to reduce pollution from
farms and new construction.
The details of those votes and rules will
determine Maryland’s rate of progress for
restoring the Bay.
Rich soil and clean water
come from the same place:
en pens to distribute manure in appropriate amounts through the fields. And
they worked with CBF and government
grant agencies to plant pollution-buffering
trees along the farm stream running near
Resourcefulness, smart investments, and
neighborly cooperation: These same strategies can also help local governments make
the Bay’s restoration affordable. They already
are paying off, for instance, in Prince
George’s County where officials believe they
can cut their original cost estimates for
reducing urban polluted runoff by 40 percent using an innovative, public-private
partnership seeded with funds from a modest fee to mitigate polluted runoff.
If Paul and Emma can restore Gravel Springs
Farm, counties and local governments can
restore their local creeks, rivers, and the
Chesapeake Bay. Elected officials just need
some old-fashioned, can-do attitude.
uFor more information about what’s happening
in Maryland, visit cbf.org/maryland.
Sustainable farming is paying off for Paula and Emma Sorenson on their farm in Union Bridge,
Carroll County, Maryland.