In a 1787 letter to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit.” Jefferson insisted that agriculture could contribute most to our growing society’s wealth and happiness. And while there’s no denying agriculture’s role in our social and economic systems, the wisest of those who undertake it also consider farming’s impact on our ecosystems.
Agriculture remains a top source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and the waters that feed it. Its ecological impact has a direct relation to our potential for wealth and happiness in the Chesapeake region: A recent report calculated that for every dollar spent helping farmers adopt practices that improve water quality in the Bay and its tributaries, the Bay region would see $1.75 in higher sales for our local businesses and earnings for our families. These same practices, in turn, help farms become more efficient, productive, and healthy.
How do we maximize our wise pursuit? By advocating for conservation programs that establish on-the-ground projects to limit polluted runoff and by implementing regenerative farming practices that improve water and air quality, enhance ecosystem biodiversity, produce nutrient-dense food, and store carbon to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Practicing What We Preach
At CBF, we’ve seen firsthand the benefits that come with adopting the principles of regenerative agriculture. In Upper Marlboro, Maryland, staff at CBF’s 283-acre working farm, known as Clagett Farm, harvest vegetables, plant flowers, nurture native trees, and care for livestock throughout the year. Using regenerative practices to improve soil health and increase food and water quality, the farm sells out of more than 300 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares each spring and donates more than 20,000 pounds of fresh produce to community food banks and pantries. Its meat sales provide 6,000 pounds of responsibly raised beef and lamb to hundreds of local customers and counting.
About 15 miles northeast of CBF’s Clagett Farm is Mise En Place Farm, another no-till regenerative farm where owner J.J. Minetola credits his experience as a chef for his deep understanding of the quality of vegetables that chefs and foodies demand. The farm focuses on soil biology as an important part of the growing process to produce beautiful and healthy vegetables like microgreens, herbs, and heirloom tomatoes. Hungry locals get to enjoy the work of Mise En Place Farm on the weekends at the Anne Arundel County Farmers’ Market in Annapolis, where J.J. and his team serve up gourmet tacos featuring their own farm specialties and ingredients from other local farms with sustainable practices.
But the farmer’s market isn’t the only place to try J.J.’s tasty tacos. He’ll be joining other local chefs, restaurants, and breweries October 14 for CBF’s upcoming Food & Farm Fest. Formerly known as Burgers & Brews for the Bay, Food & Farm Fest at CBF’s Clagett Farm celebrates everything that regenerative farming offers. The expanded event dreams up exciting ways to showcase how everything on the farm is connected—from the bugs to the cows to our health—and its new name better describes what you will see (and taste!) when you come to our beloved farm for this family-friendly afternoon.
While you and your family will be able to enjoy all-inclusive food and drink, hayrides, and live music, it’s experiencing the farm first-hand and meeting the people connected to it that we hope you will remember most. The wealth and happiness of farming is found in the staff and volunteers who care for the animals and harvest the vegetables, the chefs using quality ingredients to create delightful dishes for you to enjoy, and the other families who come to join in the fun and learn about how they can save the Bay by supporting regenerative agriculture in their communities.
So on what I hope is a cool Saturday afternoon in October, you can find me with my young family at Food & Farm Fest eating tacos, painting pumpkins, and sipping a crisp IPA to celebrate the benefits that come from local farms with wise pursuits. I hope you’ll join us.