ROCK HALL - An open house at Harborview Farms was about more than giving people the opportunity to see its new solar array, but also to learn how a very large farm has successfully incorporated environmental conservation efforts into its operations.
A crowd much larger than anticipated by Trey Hill – one of the partners at the farm near Rock Hall – attended the Dec. 6 open house, sponsored in part by DuPont. A large equipment shed was temporarily converted into an auditorium, with a variety of industry displays and representatives, food and a stage for the speakers, including Hill, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance and the head of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Maryland office.
Also in attendance were representatives for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st. Representing Harris, Dick Sossi presented Hill with a congressional citation.
“I want to recognize the Hill family for all that they've done,” said Hance.
He said the farm received $50,000 for the Maryland Energy Administration to get the 200-kilowatt solar field off the ground.
Hance said the Hill family has taken many steps on the farm to help the environment and the latest, the solar panels, will aid in cutting down Harborview's dependency on fossil fuels and foreign oil. He said the family also is on its way to obtaining special certification for its efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
“The Hills certainly could use the excuse that 'We're too big to do that.' And they haven't done that. They've been very proactive and up front about it,” he said.
Hill said holding an open house was suggested to him during the panels' installation, and the large turnout proved to be much more than he expected. He said the farm works with a lot of different groups, but there are not a lot of people fully aware of that goes on with it.
“I think we pictured more like 20 people coming and just hanging out. But I figured why not showcase what we're doing here, showcase everything about ag. Whether it's from the guys that make the equipment to the environmental side, we work with a lot of different folks and it would be a neat opportunity to kind of share what we're doing,” Hill said.
He said farming processes have changed over the last four decades, and now, Harborview takes a more holistic approach to farming, growing good food and protecting the environment. He said the vision is to create a sustainable food supply on environmentally sound and vibrant farms.
“Our commitment is both to industry as well as the environment. We aren't just doing it by saying it. We're walking the walk,” Hill said.
Hill listed some of the new technology that has been incorporated into the farm, such as self-steering tractors and equipment that can check crop growth and other pieces that determine where best to plant. All of it was available for the public to check out at the open house.
He also spoke about the use of practices like switchgrass, cover crop and buffer planting to help reduce nutrient runoff and the need to ensure government assistance continues to be available to farmers for adopting them.
Alison Prost, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Maryland executive director, thanked the Hills for hosting the open house and showing how farming, the economy and the environment can all work together. She said it is the farming community that has reduced nutrient and sediment pollution by 50 percent.
“At the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we often say a well-managed farm is the best land use that we can have in the bay watershed, and I think that we're all here on a property that exemplifies that,” she said.
Prost said the open house shows that the value of farmers and environmental organizations working together and advocating together for government funding to help the industry in bay cleanup efforts.
“We want to keep farming profitable. We want to keep farming in Maryland,” she said.
Hill said his family's recent purchase of the organic Colchester Farm will complement the Harborview operation. He said such small organic operations assist with educating people on agriculture and healthy eating.
“I think that we can work together. I think that we can both be in the same agricultural society together and coexist. I don't view them as my primary competition,” Hill said.
He said he wants what the public wants – cleaner waterways and a good, healthy food supply.
Representatives from DuPont were on hand at the open house, with Regional Business Director John Chrosniak as one of the speakers. The solar panels – manufactured by Motech Industries Inc. and designed and installed by Smuckers Energy LLC – incorporate DuPont materials providing long-lasting protection from the elements.
“Renewable energy is a fast growing part of the global energy mix, and solar power in particular is more affordable today than ever before,” said David B. Miller, president of DuPont Electronics & Communications, in a statement. “Solar power, together with sustainable farming practices – such as the use of specialized seed, advanced crop protection, nutrient and pest management, utilization of cover crops, and the implementation of sustainable planting and harvesting methods – provides great potential to boost crop yields and energy savings for farmers. This installation demonstrates the active commitment DuPont has to sustainable energy, sustainable agriculture and collaboration with the farming community on innovative solutions to feed and power the world.”