If there's one thing that pulls together the agricultural community on the Chesapeake Bay, it's having the livelihood of one of its own being threatened by outsiders. That's why close to 1,000 people turned out at Eastern Shore Maryland fund-raising events on Feb. 17 and 18.
Alan and Kristin Hudson of Berlin, Md., have a small poultry and beef farm and are being sued by New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance. The Waterkeeper Alliance alleges that air from the chicken house's fans and manure from the worker's feet are polluting tributaries leading to the Chesapeake Bay. However, Maryland Department of the Environment and Maryland Department of Agriculture officials confirm the farm is not violating state environmental regulations.
Legal expenses for the family now exceed $300,000. They're faced with difficult choices and are uncertain whether they'll be able to continue farming. Meanwhile, the Waterkeeper Alliance is being represented by the University of Maryland School of Law's Environmental Law Clinic at no charge.
On Feb. 17, about 250 people attended Somerset County Farm Bureau's Bull and Oyster Roast, raising more than $7,500. The next evening, the county farm bureaus of Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's, Talbot, and Caroline counties hosted a barbeque and benefit auction to raise $106,000.
More than 750 people people from around the Chesapeake Bay jammed the fundraiser held at the Queen Anne's County 4-H Park. "Donations to help this family came from across the country," reports Jenny Rhodes. "It's our hope that the Hudson's will be able to continue to farm." The fear, she adds, is that the mounting legal bills threaten to force a settlement or even bankruptcy while they wait to make their arguments in court.
Agribusinesses and individuals from throughout the Bay region and beyond donated hundreds of items for the auction. Items ranged from tons of food, gift certificates, art pieces, to chain saws, to feed seed and fertilizer, up to rental of a full-sized tractor.
Proceeds from both events are being donated to Maryland Farm Bureau's Maryland Family Farmers Legal Defense Fund. The case is scheduled for trial in U.S. District Court of Northern Maryland on April 16 in Baltimore.
Another fund-raising dinner featuring a live auction and music is set for Saturday, March 24 at the East New Market Fire Department in East New Market, Md. It'll be sponsored by the Dorchester County Farmers and Friends in partnership with SaveFarmFamilies.org. The latter was created to call attention to the threat that the lawsuit and groups like the Waterkeeper Alliance pose to every family farm in America.
To learn more about the case, visit www.SaveFarmFamilies.org .