Big News for Agribusinesses on the Eastern Shore

The Upper Shore Regional Council has been hard at work to provide quality opportunities for the community at large. One of their initiatives, shoreVines, has blossomed into a Chesapeake Wine Country which has caused quite a bit of excitement. The Chesapeake Wine Country will increase tourism on the local shore by highlighting the existing local agribusinesses while showcasing the beauty of the Eastern Shore. Those traveling the trail will visit local wineries and vineyards, stopping off for rest at local bed and breakfasts. This wine trail is a part of a larger trail that spans 4 states: New Jersey Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, creating the Vintage Atlantic Wine Region. This will encourage interstate tourism and promotion for the Chesapeake Wine Trail, directly affecting the local agribusinesses. The Chesapeake Wine Country has been out and about, seen at Downrigging Festival in Chestertown, the Waterfowl Festival in Easton in the form of a tasting tent filled with local wines, and most recently at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Conference in Easton. This is just the beginning for Chesapeake Wine Country. It not only highlights the existing agriculture on the eastern shore, but it is bringing to the forefront the quality wines that are being made in the region. Watch the following video to hear more about this initiative and Eastern Shore wines!

Business Funding

Working with those involved in the Harvest Directory is always an interesting experience. Some people have decades of business experience when they start out, some just wanted a change of pace and ran with an old idea and no business experience at all. Whether you started with a carefully thought out business plan or just some borrowed money and hopes, the goal is always to do just a little bit more. A little bit more planning, a bit more earning, a bit more organizing to achieve all your hopes for your business.

CaptureRegardless of how you may have started out, sometimes you have a particular project you want to tackle but lack the immediate funds to make it happen. Coming from Jean Fabi, Queen Anne’s County Business and Economic Development Liaison, we present a possible loan opportunity to tackle that new project.

Need funding for a small business venture?  SCORE Chapter 670 is offering a nano-loan program for residents of Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties.  Here’s a summary of the program:

  •   Loans for operating capital can be uncollateralized for up to $2,500
  •   Business must be for-profit
  •   Loans for educational purposes (certification in selected fields) will have to be co-signed
  •   Recipients, except for educational needs, have to agree to  develop a business plan
  •   Any equipment obtained with loan monies must have receipts and be maintained in good working order
  •   Form 641 will have to be completed and periodic meetings held with a SCORE mentor
  •   Loan applications will be approved by a Loan Application Committee
  •   Term of loan would be tied to amount borrowed at an interest rate equal to the prime rate or up 6.5%
  •   One year for loans up to $500
  •   Two years for loans up to $1,000
  •   Three years for higher amounts
  •   Monthly payments would be made electronically from recipient’s checking account
  •   No penalty for pre-payment
  •   Non-payment would result in reclamation of property over a pre-determined value purchased with loan monies

For more information, contact SCORE Chapter 670, at 410.810.2969.  

Do you know the Upper Shore Harvest Directory (USHD)?

One of the first posts we did was about why you should eat local food. Since then we’ve posted about a few local businesses that we’ve reached out to, but I just realized we never explained who we are or what we’re doing here. For that matter we never explained why we care about what you eat or where you buy it from. So in this post, our first of the New Year, I’m going to break it down for you.

We are the Washington College GIS lab. Washington College is a small liberal arts college located in the small town of Chestertown, Maryland. GIS_Black-3Because we are a part of the Washington College community, our lab has over 60 student employees working during the semester, with just 15 full-time staff to manage them and our ongoing projects. Our lab primarily provides cartographic services and analysis, but we also work on grants and contracts slightly on the fringe of the mapping world. By taking on complex projects slightly outside of our core area of expertise, we are forced to grow as an organization and learn new skills we can then put towards new projects.

The Upper Shore Harvest Directory project is a result of a grant from MAERDAF (the Maryland Agricultural Education & Rural Development Assistance Fund),USRC which came to us through a partnership with the Upper Shore Regional Council (USRC). The USRC is a regional planning and development agency for Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. It exists to foster development of the region by coordinating plans and projects to the benefit of the people in the Upper Shore Region.

The Upper Shore Harvest Directory was built on the idea that Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties are home to over 1200 farms. These farms encompass over 350,000 acres and strive year round to provide quality produce and products to all their customers. Despite these numbers and the quality of the product, most people simply don’t know where to go to buy fresh food and goods that isn’t the local supermarket or shop. That’s where we come in.


We built an online Harvest Directory that has addresses, contact information, and a long list of who is selling what. We created a print brochure that is available in Visitors’ Centers, Chambers of Commerce, and local hotels and businesses. We have a few other ways planned to get the Harvest Directory to the people who want it, and here’s why: Buying fresh, locally sourced products is healthier for you, it helps support your local economy, and it allows you to look at the person who grew the food you put on your plate.

The people in our directory do not hide behind a corporate name. They do not hide where the products you are buying come from, how it was transported to you, and what the nutritional value is. These businesses are run by your neighbors. Their business interest is growing a product good enough that you’ll want to buy it, and then keep coming back to them for more.

Redman Farms-VegetablesSo to sum it up, the GIS lab works with the USRC on a grant from MAERDAF to add to and maintain the USHD so you can put a face on the person who handles and grows the food you eat. And we do it because we are your neighbors too.


Christmas Planning with Fox Tree Farms

Here in Chestertown, the Christmas season is upon us. The few leaves fighting the winter’s chill dot otherwise bare trees, and the sight of decorations coming up around houses means one thing: the holiday season is approaching! For many of us, no holiday season would be complete without a Christmas tree.

As part of her work with the Upper Shore Harvest Directory, Jackie Petito visited Fox Tree Farms for an interview with owner Larry Engle, who let her in on a few of his secrets for growing large, beautiful Christmas trees. It seems Mr. Engle’s biggest trick is attention to detail:

“I go around all my trees and tie the leaders up straight [with bamboo sticks] so that just about all my trees will have a nice straight leader to put the angel or the star on…That’s what I like to do, so I spend a lot of time fine-tuning mine.”

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Mr. Engle also carefully plans out how he grows his trees. “Whenever we sell a tree I will plant a seedling right next to it rather than having a thousand trees all eight foot high. You see I have all different sizes mixed. It helps in many ways…it gives you room to work around them. People in my fields can see the tree; they can walk around the tree.”

Mr. Engle also let us in on some tips for selecting and maintaining a Christmas tree: “These are white pine…they hold their needles fairly well. Its needles, you can see, are about two and a half, three inches long, so depending on your taste for decorations you may not be able to display a lot of ornaments quite as well as on a longer needle tree. But it is a popular tree, a lot of customers just like to put a garland on them and a few decorations. You can hang bulbs on it, but these limbs aren’t as stiff and heavy as a Scotch pine, so you can’t put real heavy ornaments on it.” He also tells us how to care for our tree once we’ve selected the perfect one: “If you bring it home with you and you’re not going to put it up for a week or two, put it in the shade in a place that’s not windy, and put water to it. It will draw water for a couple of weeks.”

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Fox Tree Farms offers a fun experience for people of all ages. Customers can choose to cut their own tree (although they must provide their own saw), or ask for the Fox Tree Farms staff to do the cutting. There are also carts available, which Fox Tree Farm staff will use to drive trees to customers’ cars. The friendly staff will also help customers tie their trees to their cars. As Christmas approaches and we look to decorating our house, Larry Engle looks at his rows of trees and knows that he has something for every family who stops by.

If you’re interested, contact him at 410-758-1819 or email: Fox Tree Farms is open: weekends in December from 9 am to 4:30 pm at 313 Fox Meadow Road, Queen Anne, MD 21657.

Visiting Breezy Run Farm

Check out our interview with Vicky Meyer of Breezy Run Farm, located in Church Hill, Maryland.


Vicky Meyer and her husband bought Breezy Run farm in 1999.  When Mr. Meyer’s was retiring from his pharmacy, they started looking for an investment.  They always liked the outdoors and farms, and their daughter rode horses.  Vicky managed the community stable in Annapolis so Breezy Run Farm seemed like a match.  The Meyers weren’t originally searching the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but the convenience from Annapolis and the friendliness of the neighbors is what made them stay.  “I needed some hay and I heard there was a cow farmer down the road that had some.  When I showed up with my old van, he started laughing at me.  When I asked what was wrong he said “You see that old truck there? You need something you come and you get it and just let me know.  I thought ‘gee that’s amazing,’ but I have found that kind of warmth with many people over here and I just, I love the people dearly,” Vicky shares.

Boarding is not all that goes on at Breezy Run Farms, breeding has become common there as well.  Vicky being a nurse by trade and through helping some veterinarians, shots and foaling out has come naturally and vastly.  Breezy Run Farms has even boarded and raised young foals.  They also host a handful of horse shows, clinics, and lessons.  They also host Interscholastic Equestrian Association middle school and high school for the area.  In addition to everything horses, the also produce hay, straw, and soybeans.  Their most recent endeavor is their vineyard; they hope to have some grapes within the next year to start making wine.


“You just never know what is going to happen,” Vicky said.  About a year and a half ago she got an email from the World Trade Center wanting to bring a delegation from Iraq.  Vicky being retired Navy from Desert Storm, found the visit from the Iraqis to really come full circle.  “I just learned so much from them, the woman spoke fluent English, and I really enjoyed the visit.”  The Iraqis coming to Breezy Run Farm was by chance, much like the Meyers finding the farm in the first place.  You just never know what is going to happen.

Breezy Run Farms is also involved in the Maryland Horse Council, along with other organizations.  Too see what is currently going on at Breezy Run Farms, check out their website and click their on “Events and Lessons” page! 

This interview was conducted by Emily Scherer, an intern with Washington College’s Geographic Information Systems lab, on behalf of the Upper Shore Regional Council.

Cafetin Coffee

As rewarding as it is to eat local, it can be difficult to find local sources of some of your favorite foods and drinks.  Finding local coffee in Maryland is not an easy task. What’s a locavore caffeine addict to do?!

Although coffee beans do not grow locally, the Upper Shore Region is not without coffee roasters.  We were very excited to get to know Cafetin Coffee. This small company in Chestertown is run by Tim O’Brien, an award-winning coffee grower. He started growing green coffee in 2004 and has been roasting his own coffee since 2012.

We met Tim at Evergrain Bread Company, one of the places where his coveted beans are available for purchase.  We sat at one of their inviting tables and listened as he told us his amazing life story and how he eventually became a coffee roaster in Chestertown.

It all started in Costa Rica in 2003, when Tim, a Peace Corps alum, was working in international development. His experience gave him firsthand knowledge of how the low coffee prices negatively affected the local people, and he was inspired to do something about it. That’s how Cafetin, which is a name for a small coffee break, started.

Tim didn’t have to wait long for success: his coffee was named the 5th best coffee in the nation in 2009. After working as a producer, exporter, importer, green coffee buyer and roaster, Tim clearly knows what it takes to produce a great cup of coffee.

Of course, after hearing the fascinating story behind Tim’s coffee, we had to try a cup ourselves. We can certainly agree with the International “Cup of Excellence” Jury: that coffee definitely deserves its title!

As wonderful as Cafetin Coffee is, it is hard to believe that they’re just getting started. This is a business worth following, as Tim plans to expand Cafetin’s offerings in the near future. Look for his delicious, ethically sourced, and locally roasted coffee at Evergrain Bread Company, the Chestertown Farmers’ Market, or online at

Why eat locally grown food?

When most people think of buying food, they picture a trip to the supermarket. There’s a seemingly endless selection of foods to choose from, and the average person doesn’t put much thought into where that food originated. It’s there and available for purchase, and that’s all that matters, right?

Not exactly. When you buy food at the grocery store, you have no knowledge of how it was produced and handled, what chemicals were used to grow it, or what additives may be present in it. Scary, right? Eating local gives you much more control over what you put into your body- you can help harvest the tomatoes for your spaghetti sauce, meet the chickens that lay the eggs for your omelet, and speak directly to the farmer about how he or she grows your strawberries.

Here are some reasons to eat local!

It’s better, fresher, and healthier.

While farmers that sell to grocery stores have to account for the fact that their produce will have a long wait between harvest and purchase, farmers that sell locally don’t have to make that consideration. Local farmers harvest their crops at their peak quality of freshness, nutrition and taste. That means that locally grown vegetables and fruits have longer to ripen and don’t have to stand up to the rigors of shipping.  They are often picked within 24 hours of your purchase and are not exposed to as many harmful pesticides and herbicides as mass products. The extra time to ripen also allows them to collect more nutrients from the soil and pass that extra nutrition along to you and your family.

Want to experience the full taste and nutrition of fruits and vegetables which were allowed to ripen until the last possible minute? Eat local!

From field to fork, an average dinner travels 1,500 miles.

As we mentioned before, most of the food in a supermarket has been stored for days or weeks. As well as decreasing the flavor and nutritional value, the distance between farmer and consumer also increases the food’s susceptibility to harmful contamination. Think about it: when you have no idea where your food came from, you have no idea what happened to it on the way to the store. Yikes!

Transporting all that food also uses a lot of fuel. We all know that burning fuel pollutes the environment and depletes our limited natural resources, so why not try to reduce our fuel consumption whenever possible? Buying your produce from a farmer down the road instead of one halfway across the country can save more fuel than you might think?

Want to help reduce your carbon footprint and decrease your chances of eating contaminated food? Eat local!

It helps strengthen your local economy.

Did you know that most farmers only receive about 20% of the final purchase price of their food? The other 80 percent goes to marketing, distribution, and packaging: all things that are necessary to run a large store, but not for a farmers’ market. When you buy local food, you help farmers make a living without resorting to using questionable farming practices and harmful chemicals. Additionally, your dollars stay in the community, which helps support the local economy.

Want to support our local farmers and business? Eat local!