Nearly 30 audio interviews were conducted as a part of the Let’s Be Shore project. These voices reflect a variety of personal perspectives on how water quality affects the lives of Eastern Shore residents. The Maryland Humanities Council would like to thank all interviewees for participating and sharing their stories and opinions.
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All audio interviews were transcribed and passed on to a six-person selection committee of Eastern Shore residents. With the goal of presenting a broad spectrum of ideas and perspectives, the selection committee chose eight people from the audio interviews to provide balanced viewpoints for the video portraits.
Please take time to read and reflect on the ideas and opinions shared in the quotes below. Click ‘Share and Discuss’ to leave your response or share any particular quote. Your comments may be included in a future dialogue event.
- Which quotes can you relate to?
- What do you disagree with?
- How would you respond to the speakers?
World Champion Muskrat Skinner
Hooper’s Island/Golden Hill, MD
“I have been on the water from Hooper’s Island to Golden Hill my entire life crabbing with my father, crabbing with my husband and my son and I just hope that it is here for the future. My son just loves it so much that I don’t know what he would do if he could not go out on the Bay.”
Share and Discuss.
DANIEL FIREHAWK ABBOTT
“Oh the water is everything to the culture here. And the degradation of the water has resulted in a dramatic change in the lifestyle of the people because it has destroyed the harvest and the people relied upon their harvest for their livelihood. And of course pollution is the primary culprit there. It has everything to do with overpopulation and industrialization. The environment has steadily degraded because people have not taken into consideration the balance that is necessary to life. And native people have been attempting to bring about that awareness for centuries to educate newcomers that had a different approach to living on the land and water.” Share and Discuss.
10th grader at North Dorchester High School; Envirothon member
“The water quality that we talk about at school is what the water looks like when it comes out of the drinking fountain. They are looking at what they are exposed to and not what the whole Bay is. They are just looking at what they encounter. A lot of the kids, they don’t understand most of this stuff because they haven’t been exposed to it. People not being conscious of how what they do affects the water and affects the environment. I am pretty sure that most of the kids at my school are educated on most of this stuff but I think it’s all about the mentality of how people view what they’re doing and if they want to do it rather than if they should do it.” Share and Discuss.
Executive Director, Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Inc.
“I think right now for a variety of reasons, there is more anxiety and more polarization between the farming/agricultural community, particularly the poultry industry, and the environmental community and I think the more things get polarized, the less willing people are to sit down and try to find common ground on how to solve these problems. I suggest that both the farming community and the environmental community need to take a deep breath and back off a little on the threats and try to figure out a way that they can sit down and talk.” Share and Discuss.
President, JM Clayton Seafood Company
“We have got a vested interest in keeping the water good. You know we’re stewards of the Bay, you know we have to be good environmentalists to protect ourselves, protect our heritage, protect our next generation. Crabbing is certainly a tradition and this is the oldest crab company as far as we know anywhere, certainly in the country and probably in the world. So I would think we would be quite missed. You know it’s all in the middle somewhere and I think we are doing it here. Our main objective is to keep this place going, keep our customers happy and keep our people employed. Keep a way of life going on.” Share and Discuss.
Bison Farmer; Vice President, Dorchester Farm Bureau
“My life is here in a rural area. Working with the soil and growing something and producing something is very rewarding. Over the past several years the agricultural community has been hit pretty hard with new regulations. It’s felt that we are already very well regulated with the nutrient management plans and the pesticide license that you have to have and nutrient application license that you have reporting all of your nutrient inputs back to the Maryland Department of Agriculture every year. And we are reporting all of our nutrient planning to the USDA office every year. We just thought enough is enough at this point. Regulations take time. Most of it, well all of it, requires some type of record keeping and they have to be detailed, written records that can be verified and that all takes time. And while you are doing records, entering data, you are not actually doing what needs to be done to farm or earn a dollar.” Share and Discuss.
Professor, Horn Point Laboratory
“The scientific understanding of the basic problem, too many people and too much fertilizer, is very clear. We know how nitrogen and phosphorus get into the Bay and into the groundwater, streams and rivers. The harder part is finding equitable social and economic ways of dealing with these fluxes and how to change the way we behave on the land so that the nitrogen and phosphorus doesn’t go into the Bay. All of that requires small to major shifts in human behavior in how we all function and how we all operate.” Share and Discuss.
Director, Tourism Dorchester County
“I mean there’s always concern about the balance between growing an economy and preserving what is unique. I think tourism plays an important role, and Heritage Tourism specifically, in determining a very viable way that we can grow an economy in a sustainable way. But tourism, while it can work wonders, is part of an overall economic development strategy and I think we need to be really careful about how we’re investing our money and what we’re trying to encourage to come here.” Share and Discuss.
Fair Hill Farms Inc – Holsteins, Hay, Straw, Organic Grains
“Whether you’re in agriculture or not in agriculture, people put a value on open space and I think one of the goals we need to constantly work towards is when our urban, suburban neighbors are driving down the road, and they look out across open fields that look so beautiful…this is an open space that is not a state park. It’s somebody’s business.”
Share and Discuss.
Meadow Farm Joint Venture
“Development is driven by human need and people are not keen on seeing it happen, unless it’s a store or restaurant being built that they really like or unless they are looking for a new spot to live or perhaps their children are. Development is necessary for us all and if you look at the zoning codes and especially since the economic downturn – the big slow down in development, I don’t see it as a huge threat at all to the area, but I see it as necessary.”
Share and Discuss.
Organic Farmer, Calliope Farms
“For the future for my kids, I would like to see a revitalization of the main street. I would like to see more small independent businesses, more locally owned businesses. I am a fan of small diverse farms. I think you can actually feed a lot of people that way and it contributes to the balance of nature when you have all these different things going on in smaller areas. Monocultures are dangerous. And I would love to see a river that we could jump into on a hot summer day. That would be a big dream of mine.” Share and Discuss.
LUKE AND ALISON HOWARD
Organic Farmers, Homestead Farms
Luke: “For me organic farming is a passion because economically it provides a stronger financial base for family farmers. More of the food dollar goes back to family farmers when consumers buy organic food and that provides a great opportunity not just for Alison and me but for Delmarva. When farmers look for other options for agriculture, organic agriculture can be one of those options and it could possibly improve their profitability and the longevity of their family farm.”
Alison: “I think the problem with the Bay is the lack of an overall stewardship ethic as it relates to land and water. And if there is a general lack of stewardship ethic, the same thing is going to happen, more finger pointing, but in general if different segments of the population are relying on other segments to fix it then that is a continuation of the lack of stewardship ethic. So I think its an apathetic view on how each individual house, each individual parking lot, each individual – what we do everyday affects water quality. I firmly believe that people do not wake up in the morning thinking, ’Today’s the day! I’m just gonna mess up the Bay!’ But I also think that we as a population are very apathetic to how our daily activities affect the Bay.” Share and Discuss.
Partner of Hutchison Brothers farming enterprise
“The culture of agriculture is what is keeping the Shore rural, the open fields and the vistas that agriculture provides. As far as the water quality, certainly we have some run off when you get these huge rains. Sometimes there is not much that you can do to stop some of your soil erosion. We spend sometimes tens of thousands of dollars putting in various waterways and abatement structures to try to control run off from some of the large storms. But we can’t stop fertilizing. You cannot grow crops without nitrogen. They need phosphorous, but especially nitrogen. We try to be very efficient with the use of our fertilizer. $10 worth of fertilizer is not very much, and if you are going to put $10 worth on your lawn that is not very much fertilizer. But if I spend an extra $10 of fertilizer on every acre, for me that is $35,000. So it does not make economic sense for me to put on more than I need.” Share and Discuss.
President, Coastal Association of Realtors
“You know out here we have a very diverse market. We’ve got everything from farms to commercial properties to primary residences to summer homes and beach houses and rental properties. As real estate professionals, our biggest job is protecting private property rights. We feel that is our duty. So a lot of what is decided as far as land use will ultimately affect the value of the property that somebody owns. If you have a family farm and the family has mortgaged that farm based upon its value, say it was a million dollars. And the reason it is a million dollars is, not only because it’s a farm, but it also could be sub-dividable into say, twenty homes. And if the county or the state were to come in and change the zoning regulations and down zone the property and say, well now because of new water quality or septic regulations, you can only build ten homes on this property. The bank might say well, we’re going to call in that note because the property’s no longer worth a million dollars, it’s now worth $500,000 because you can only build half as many homes as you could have before. So for that farming family, they had been building this nest egg thinking all along that they had this very valuable asset and then all of a sudden some regulation change has now cut that value in half.” Share and Discuss.
Choptank Riverkeeper, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy
“We are not going to succeed in cleaning up the Bay unless farming on the Eastern Shore continues to be profitable and we figure out together how to reduce the pollution load coming from agriculture. And that is the challenge that we have before us, it is not an either/or. If we lose agriculture then we are going to see massive development, sprawl, urbanization and the permanent destruction of resources, whereas if we maintain this rural character or develop methods to reduce pollution loads while keeping farming profitable, then we really have a chance to make a difference. So I think if we fail to act now, we may never restore the Chesapeake and to me that is unacceptable.”
Share and Discuss.
Director of Operations, River Run Development Associates
“I think there’s an industry that’s not being touched because it’s an industry that everybody likes: the recreational boating industry. My own opinion is that it should be targeted when they talk about sediments and the Bay being cloudy or dirty or dead zones. When you drive in the summertime over the bridge into Ocean City, and you look over both sides and you see 50 people on jet skis and 50 in boats and common sense would say when you got a propeller in the water and its stirring water up there’s sediment being stirred up and the water’s going to get cloudy. And they are saying right now that the sediment is all coming from farms and that kills the sea grasses. Something’s gotta be going on with all the boats driving around stirring up the bottom and there’s oil and gasoline going into the water.”
Share and Discuss.
Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy
“The water is a public resource. It’s not for the wealthy waterfront homeowners only, or those with the big yachts that can enjoy it. But we all own it. Every resident of Maryland has access to and owns part of that as state property. And that’s a great, amazing thing in this country, to have that. The problem with that is everybody owns it. So therefore nobody, no one person, no sole entity is capable of…is taking care of it. So we all have to take care of it. We all have to look at ourselves and what we do and how that affects water quality going forward, because we all have to take ownership of that and take care of our little piece of that and if we all take care of our little pieces then we’re going to see a dramatic change in water quality.” Share and Discuss.
“It all comes back to the population in the Bay watershed. I can remember my relatives when I was very little sitting around our dining room table and they were saying, ’When that Bay Bridge opens,’ – this was prior to 1952 – ’when that bridge opens, it’s going to change everything on the Shore.’ They were right, it did.” Share and Discuss.
General Manager, The Choptank Oyster Company
“I have had this conversation with people before. They talk about water quality, they talk about pollution and what I have found is, it’s kind of relative to the person. What is pollution? What is water quality? It’s something in the water that should not be there. To some people it’s bacteria, to other people it’s chemicals. What pollutant would affect an oyster? Is it fertilizer runoff? Well if you’re an oyster, the answer is no. If you are an oyster you need to eat, you need to reproduce. And eating is algae and algae grows because there is too much nutrients in the water. People look down at the water and go, ’Look it’s green!’ or ’I can’t see more than 3 feet down!’ Well, to my oysters that is a smorgasbord! Now, if I am somebody who is concerned with underwater Bay grasses, over nitrification is a problem because now you got all this algae in the water, the sunlight is not getting down to those plants. So now your Bay grasses aren’t growing. So it’s a problem.” Share and Discuss.
District Manager, Dorchester Soil Conservation District
“The problem with the Chesapeake Bay is people and I don’t think anybody wants to talk about population control. With the modern world that we have today and the technology that we have, there is a way to mitigate for our increase in population. No matter what people say, our cars are getting cleaner, our industry is getting cleaner, our waste streams are getting cleaner. We are re-using more. And I think that is going to continue and we need to make sure we do that in all segments not just agriculture, and not just waste water.” Share and Discuss.
Waterman; Teacher; President, Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth
“In my mind, the Bay is what gives Maryland its identity as a state. Not just the Bay as a physical body, but the romance and the cultural heritage of the watermen’s lifestyle in the old water communities is really what makes Maryland unique. If we can’t maintain those things, and the battle is still being lost, we’re going to be a more impoverished state than we are now–not just financially speaking. One of the things that watermen say to the other when we’re remembering the good old days is that we’ll never see it like that again, which is not an optimistic thing, but it’s basically the way we feel – in terms of both the resource and the cultural heritage of the Shore.” Share and Discuss.
Poultry Farmer; Queen Anne’s County agriculture and
natural resources agent
“I think the culture of the Eastern Shore has certainly changed a lot. When I grew up here everybody that I went to school with, their dad was a farmer or some way connected in farming. Last year I did a program at our elementary school. They were 5th graders. I taught 100 children that day and there were only four that could tell me that they knew a farmer. So that was pretty eye opening for me. Queen Anne’s County is the largest producer of corn, wheat and soy beans in the whole state of Maryland and if there’s only four kids out of 100 in a rural area like this… that I think is rural. I challenged each one of them to go out and meet a farmer. They all talked about living in developments and there were fields on the edge of their properties and I challenged them to find out what was growing…corn, wheat or soy beans. In Queen Anne’s County, 60% of the people here leave the county to go across the bridge to work. But then we have the core – the people that stay here to work. I still believe in my heart that we are a rural community because of the people that live here. I think that people move here because of amenities here in our community.” Share and Discuss.
Former Programs Manager, Nanticoke Watershed Alliance
“For me the first step, no matter how old you are or young you are, is getting out in to the resource so that you can experience it for yourself. Because if you do not see it, and experience it, and “discover it,” so to speak, then you’re not going to love it – and if you don’t love it then you’re not going to be a good steward of it. So for me, it’s getting people out, providing access and providing opportunities to learn more and appreciate these resources.” Share and Discuss.
Environmental Health Specialist; Project Manager, Earth Data Inc.
“One of the most important aspects of this endeavor to improve the environmental health and condition of our Chesapeake Bay is that a huge lack of understanding exists regarding how nutrients and chemicals commonly utilized in conventional agriculture make their way into our Chesapeake Bay’s waters and tributaries. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of these nutrients, pesticides and chemicals actually migrate into our surface waters (rivers, streams, creeks, etc.) not by surface run-off as most people tend to think, but actually by infiltrating [down] through the soil into our shallow groundwater aquifers and then ultimately traveling into our surface water bodies. Environmental and land use regulations and their enforcement thereof, especially those pertaining to waste water disposal and agriculture, must be strengthened and advanced in order to allow for the practical use of all best available technologies. Those two things, improving on agricultural and waste-water disposal regulations and practices, along with public education to improve peoples understanding of our precious groundwater resources will have significant and positive impacts on water quality and Chesapeake Bay health.” Share and Discuss.
Executive Director, Greater Salisbury Committee
“So, what would happen if the chicken industry left? You’ve been down to Salisbury University. You know where the Perdue School of Business is? That was funded by Perdue money. That wouldn’t be there if Perdue wasn’t around. You can go around these buildings downtown, they are there because of the poultry industry. It just infuses the Eastern Shore. Let’s just say in Annapolis, every government agency and person working with a government agency, pulled out and left. They’d be better off than the Eastern Shore losing poultry. That’s really how significant that is.” Share and Discuss.
Organic beef and vegetable farmer, Greenbranch Farm
“Alternative farming is essentially growing things without relying on big companies to supply you with all of your inputs. It’s entrepreneurial farming. I’m a big believer in creating a local food system where instead of ’let’s grow all the chicken for the entire world right here on Delmarva’…instead of doing that, why don’t farmers on Delmarva grow the things that the people on Delmarva are going to eat. Let’s grow all of our own fruits and vegetables. Let’s grow all of our own livestock and feed our own population, whatever we can provide for them that they’re going to consume. Let’s do that first and then, once we’ve got that figured out, then let’s maybe start to export some food.” Share and Discuss.