Monday, June 25, 2012

Chester River Association Annual Meeting

Last Thursday, June 21st, the Chester River Association hosted their 2012 Annual Meeting, open to the public.  It was a lovely evening of 100 or so friends, members, board members and colleagues in Washington College’s Casey Academic Center.   I was very pleased to attend both as a colleague from CES and a CRA board member excited to announce our annual Riverkeeper Award recipient.   The evening started off with a warm welcome from Board President, Marcy Ramsey, who immediately recognized the efforts of CRA’s staff.  A special nod went to the work of our newest member and Executive Director, Heather Forsythe.   

CRA’s conservation planner, Paul Spies was next on the line up with a warm welcome and wit for the evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. Josh McGrath, a soil fertility specialist with UMD extension.  As some of you may know, CRA has been promoting a cutting edge precision Ag technology called “Greenseeker.”   Dr. McGrath is a resident expert in Greenseeker technology and is compiling data for CRA’s Greenseeker pilot project.   Essentially, the technology reads exactly how much nitrogen is needed for each corn plant in a farmer’s field as the farmer is applying fertilizer.   Greenseeker communicates to a variable rate fertilizer applicator which does it’s best to apply only what is needed.  There is a little disconnect between the two technologies at this point, but CRA’s pilot project may help to make application more precise.   Dr. McGrath’s point:  if farmers can optimize their fertilizer use from the start—down to the plant!—then we won’t have to spend as much money retroactively remediating our nutrient load issues from the agricultural sector i.e. riparian buffers, cover crops, grass swales, etc.  It’s a win/win/win:  farmer’s spend less, produce more food, and reduce nutrient runoff.   Keeping farms profitable and well managed is a goal for CRA, because it will help keep our water clean.  Precision agriculture is a science-based way to get there. 

For that reason, you won’t be surprised to learn that this year’s Riverkeeper Award went to our very own Chino Farms and Blue Stem Farming Operation!  Dr. Harry Sears, Evan Miles, and their team of dedicated staff have done a fantastic job exemplifying stewardship through precision farming and progressive land conservation.  As the Chester Riverkeeper, David Foster, pointed out, it might be why Foreman’s Branch—the largest creek on Chino—showed a noteworthy resurgence in this past year’s river report card while other creeks declined.   But make no mistake, Chino Farms has been employing cutting edge stewardship, research, and agriculture for many years.  CES is fortunate to have become a part of that commitment and is proud and excited that Chino and Blue Stem have received such a prestigious award!

Mike Hardesty is Assistant Director of the Chesapeake Semester at CES.

To learn more about the Chester River Association visit:

To learn more about Chino Farm’s and CRFRC visit their website at

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