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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: August 2012

Aug
24
2012

Bay groups receive $2.5 million to improve water quality trading infrastructure

Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed might soon have an easier time putting pollution credits on the market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $2.5 million to five Bay organizations to improve the infrastructure behind water quality trading markets, which allow buyers to purchase "pollution credits" for reductions or cuts in pollution that landowners have made on their properties. 

From better determining demand for credit to improving outreach to hundreds of eligible farmers, the planned improvements aim to benefit both the land and those who work it. A farmer who uses conservation practices to reduce his runoff of nutrients or sediment, for instance, can produce on-farm energy savings and water quality credits while improving the environmental health of his land. 

Watershed recipients of Conservation Innovation Grants program funding include the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Borough of Chambersburg, Pa. 

The Conservation Innovation Grants program is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This year, an additional $23.5 million has been awarded to more than 50 recipients across the nation for innovative and conservation-minded agricultural practices, from improving soil health to increasing on-farm pollinator habitat. 



Aug
22
2012

Watershed Wednesday: ECO (Engaged Community Offshoots) City Farms

Drivers honk at each other, passing by layers of parking lots and shopping centers; armies of workers wait for a bus; food carts occupy every corner; and pedestrians tow their children through the cement jungle, ignoring crosswalk signals and jumping in front of cars without the slightest bit of fear.

Tucked away in this impervious kingdom called Prince George’s County is a place of natural beauty, where worms dig through compost, chickens play tag and honeybees busily buzz. Here at ECO City Farms, every inch of ground is precious; a blanket of veggies and fruits is shadowed by rows of hanging pots. The completely solar and geo-thermal powered farm located in Edmonston, Md., raises chickens and ducks, keeps bees and grows enough crops for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation--all on one acre of land. 

Volunteers work in a hoop house on Eco City Farms.
Image courtesy Eco City Farms/Flickr

Also known as Engaged Community Offshoots, ECO City Farms manages land and grows food in ways that benefit the Chesapeake Bay watershed: with no chemical fertilizers, and no petro-based or non-organic treatments, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.

Impressive, but perhaps impossible? ECO City relies on natural processes to deter insects. Did you know planting marigolds next to your tomato plants will keep insects away? These simple but natural technologies define ECO City’s farming methods and ensure that the chemicals typically used in gardening operations do not end up in our food or the nearby Anacostia River and Chesapeake Bay.

ECO City implements farming methods that are healthy for the Bay watershed and its residents, but it also understands the importance of educating and engaging the local community.

The organization's tagline is "creating a just and sustainable world," a mission statement that trumps the money-making agendas of any commercial big-box farm. ECO City understands its role to exceed the agricultural industry and remains committed to connecting community members to their food.

ECO City educates and empowers local residents, giving them the tools and knowledge they need to kickstart their own urban agriculture operation. Dedicated to keeping food in the hands of the people, ECO City is not your average farm.

Image courtesy Eco City Farms/Flickr

What's new at ECO City:

Located in the residential neighborhood of Edmonston, Md., a Washington, D.C., suburb, the farm hosts volunteer Saturday work days and tours of the farm.

The New Urban/Immigrant Farmer Training program teaches interested adults the tenants of urban farming over the course of a year, and a new DIY (Do It Yourself) Green Building Series covers how to capture and reuse rain water, how to build a hoop house, how to create a green roof and more!

A new commercial kitchen will allow the farm to offer educational cooking courses and to turn produce into products (basil becomes pesto sauce, tomatoes and peppers become salsa!)

Two chickens run through Eco City Farms.

Image courtesy ECO City Farms/Flickr

Here are some ECO City methods that you may be able to take home:

  • Put worms in your compost! Red wiggler worms consume their body weight in organic matter every single day. Their waste (called castings) acts as a natural fertilizer. Learn how to make your own worm bin, whether you live in an apartment or a farm!
  • After your worms create compost, make compost tea! This liquid can be used to prevent pests and disease on plants.
  • Build a hoop house. It may sound daunting to build a whole new “house” on your property, but ECO City has four on one acre! Hoop houses don’t cost as much as greenhouses, and plants are still sheltered from the cold and other extreme weather. Sign up for ECO City’s hoop house building class this fall.
  • Consider bees. Keeping honeybees in urban environments is gaining popularity in Europe as well as Bay cities like Baltimore. Even if you can’t keep honeybees, remember that bees of all kinds are important pollinators and will help your plants reproduce. Learn how to plant for pollinators.

 

Volunteers and staff harvest veggies growing inside of a hoop house.

Image courtesy ECO City Farms/Flickr

Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Aug
14
2012

Tributary Tuesday: Raystown Lake (Huntingdon County, Pa.)

About 100 miles west of Harrisburg Raystown Lake is nestled in the mountains of south central Pennsylvania. This time of year, the 8,000 acre lake is draped in greenery and is bustling with swimmers, boaters and fishermen. At dusk, lightening bugs illuminate the water and bats descend to the lake’s surface, looking for dinner.


A colorful sunset over Raystown Lake
Image courtesy shjohns2/Flickr

The lake is created by the Raystown Dam on the Juniata River, a river that starts in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains and flows east into the Susquehanna River. The Juniata was dammed in 1973 to control flooding on the Juniata and Susquehanna. The result is the largest lake in Pennsylvania. With 12 public access sites, campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, hunting, fishing, boat launches and even scuba diving, there is no reason why this lake shouldn’t be explored by all!

Just east of the lake, hiking trails cut through a scenic mountain gorge at Trough (pronounced “troff”) Creek State Park. Be prepared to brave steep and rocky areas, and keep an eye out for waterfalls!


Two people in a tube get pulled by a boat on Raystown Lake.
Image courtesy Levy4u/Flickr


More from Raystown Lake:

  • Park hop! There’s an abundance of state parks in the Raystown Lake area. Depending on which direction you are coming from, some of these places may be on your way home!
  • Visit a place where cars roll uphill and water flows the wrong way. No one knows why Gravity Hill defies the laws of gravity, but you may have your own theory once you visit!
Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Aug
09
2012

Intersex fish widespread in Potomac River basin

The prevalence of intersex fish in the Potomac River basin has raised concerns about river health.

Intersex conditions, the presence of both male and female characteristics in an animal that should exhibit the characteristics of just one sex in its lifetime, occur when chemicals like pesticides, pharmaceuticals or personal care products enter the water and disturb the hormonal systems of fish and other species. Because the hormonal systems of fish are similar to those of humans, anomalies found in fish are an indication these chemicals may also pose a risk to people.

Image courtesy August Rode/Flickr.

According to a report released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), intersex conditions in male smallmouth bass are widespread in the Potomac River basin: 50 to 75 percent of male smallmouth bass collected in the South Branch Potomac River exhibited signs of feminization, as did 100 percent of those collected at sites in the Shenandoah.

In the case of male smallmouth bass, the "intersex condition" reveals itself in the presence of immature eggs in the testes and of a certain protein--vitellogenin, normally found only in egg-laying females--in the circulating blood. Both conditions indicate exposure to chemical contaminants, and can result in reduced reproductive success or, in the case of a shorter-lived species like the fathead minnow, population collapse.

Intersex conditions have been linked to sewage flow from wastewater treatment plants and to runoff from farmland and animal feeding operations.

A popular sport fish, the smallmouth bass experienced spring kills in the Potomac and James rivers. A number of smallmouth bass collected during this survey were also observed with skin lesions, leading researchers to believe the fish may be a sensitive indicator of watershed health.

The USGS and Chesapeake Bay Program partners will use these findings to better identify chemical contaminants and their sources, planning to develop toxic contaminant reduction outcomes by 2013.

Learn more about the hormonal disruption of fish in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.



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