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Save the water

April 01, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A Chesapeake Bay Foundation program intended to improve water quality was launched Friday at a farm east of Hagerstown where 250 trees and 50 shrubs are being planted.

Foundation officials say they hope Mennonite farmers in the county will participate in the Maryland Farm Stewardship Program.

Under the program, the Foundation pays the full cost of fencing and plantings adjacent to streams and wetlands of waterways. The program fences cattle out of waterways and wetlands on agricultural land and helps landowners create wooded stream buffers or widen existing buffers.

The fencing helps maintain stream banks and reduce pollution from animal waste.

One of the reasons the program is starting in Washington County is because of its Mennonite population, Jenn Aiosa, a Foundation senior scientist, said Friday.

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At least 60 percent of farmland in Washington County is owned by Mennonites, who refuse for religious reasons to participate in government conservation incentive programs, said Rob Schnabel, a restoration scientist.

But Mennonite farmers have embraced a similar Foundation program in Pennsylvania, Aiosa said. The 351 Pennsylvania projects comprise 225 miles of streams and 2,300 acres, she said.

The Rev. Maurice Martin, pastor of the Hagerstown Mennonite Fellowship, said he thinks local farmers will cooperate with the bay program on their land but will refuse to let the Foundation pay for the work.

If the program is successful in Washington County, it may be expanded statewide, Aiosa said.

The program was kicked off at the Papa Farm on Black Rock Road.

Black Rock Creek flows through the 200-acre farm and into Beaver Creek, which feeds into Antietam Creek.

On Friday, employees of contractor Ecological Restoration and Management Inc. of Baltimore County, Md., began planting trees and shrubs along the creek on farm property while Global Landscaping of Hagerstown employees did other landscaping work.

The Foundation is paying Ecological Restoration for its work. Global Landscaping was donating its time, Schnabel said.

The cost to the foundation for the Papa farm project is about $4,000, he said.

Volunteers from Friends of Beaver Creek, Antietam Fly Anglers, the Federation of Fly Fishers and Trout Unlimited, along with area high school students, will help finish the planting today.

Robert Elliott, farm manager, said the farm decided to participate in the Foundation's program partially to help get the word out about what the organization is offering farmers.

Farm owner Rose Papa has been named Conservationist of the Year by the Washington County Soil Conservation District. The farm has fenced its beef cattle out of the creek and built bridges for the cattle to cross the creek without entering the water, among other changes.

The work, done over a two-year period ending last summer, was partially funded through a government program, Elliott said. The work was finished last summer.

The Foundation is working with the Soil Conservation District to identify farmers who may be interested in participating in the program, Aiosa said.

Interested parties can also call Schnabel at 1-410-268-8833.

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