“Other than my family, there is nothing I treasure more than my farm.”
A lot has changed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 325 years, but corn is still a staple crop, and the Councell family still farms in Talbot County.
“I am the tenth generation,” says Chip Councell, who operates a diversified family farming operation with his wife, Jo Ann, and his two children, Melissa and Jason.
“My grandchildren are the twelfth generation. I want their grandchildren to enjoy even greater opportunities 100 years from now. Sustainability means passing the farm along in better shape, both financially and environmentally, than I received it.”
The first of the family in the New World, Dennis Councell, arrived in 1690. At that time, European settlement hugged the coast, pirates sailed Chesapeake Bay, and the future site of Washington, D.C. was the frontier. Today the region is densely populated. Washington and Baltimore are 60 miles away. Urbanization creates new challenges.
“We work hard to reduce our environmental footprint,” says Councell. “We have installed grass lined waterways and rock outlets to filter nutrients and prevent erosion.
We grow cover crops. We have built ponds for waterfowl and we manage 1,000 acres of forest for habitat and timber. And thanks to modern precision farming and seed technology, we have greatly reduced chemical use, fuel use, and soil loss.”
300 years ago, tobacco was the export crop. Councell’s father raised hogs and grain. Today the farm continues to evolve, producing field corn, sweet corn, soybeans, wheat, watermelons, cantaloupes, and squash.
With major cities nearby, the Councells also operate an agritourism business, a retail produce market, and a pumpkin patch for children. With a twelfth generation of young Councells waiting in the wings, sustainability is a family heritage and a way of life.