While today the Midwest stands as the pinnacle of production, the East Coast remains an important hub of agrarian output. While the farms may not stretch across miles of prairie, farming in the shadow of the nation’s capital is both rewarding and challenging.
National Corn Grower President Chip Bowling farms near Newburg, Md., which is tucked away near the Chesapeake Bay. For him, harvest is always the first step in preserving a family legacy into another year.
At the southern tip of Maryland, adjacent to a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll find National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling and his family, farming the land down below. Harvest is still a family affair. Their story, like the area, is steeped in American history.
“Our family came here in the early 1700s. They were established in Virginia, across the Potomac River, across from where we were standing. In the mid-1700s, my great-great-great grandfather bought some land over here,” Bowling said.
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The Bowlings developed into grain and cattle producers. But for decades, tobacco was always king. “We would still probably still be growing it if there was a good market for it and if the state of Maryland didn’t have a buy-out in the late 1900s,” Bowling said.
After the buy-out, came the environmental mandates. Soon, even cattle didn’t pencil out so close to the Bay. That’s when row crops took a front seat. Bowling's crop year is now full of corn, soybeans and double-crop wheat.
“I tease with my buddies that I start planting at the end of April and I don’t stop until July,” he said.
Those hours turned out well for him this harvest. Bowling cut one of his best corn crops ever, and Hurricane Joaquin didn’t do much damage to his location. "We were actually so dry, we needed the rain,” said Bowling.
While weather is out of his control, traveling more than half of the year and living so close to an urban environment can also be challenging for the Maryland farmer.
“When we move the combine, sometimes I can have 40 or 50 cars behind me," he said. "If it’s a holiday weekend, we don’t move equipment."
But Bowling isn’t just an industry leader and farmer. He’s an active sportsman and advocate for the bay he's loved since he was a child.
“I have spent so many days down here as a kid, walking around barefoot in shorts, swimming, crabbing and fishing," Bowling said. "This river means as much to me as (it does to) any environmentalist in this country. That’s for sure."
For him, it's a balance of two passions of farming for maximum yields while protecting the water he enjoys.
But he sees every harvest as a celebration. It’s a reminder of why farmers do the job year after year.“It’s a good feeling to know that you’re doing the same thing that your ancestors did,” said Bowling.
How long has your family been farming? Let us know in the comments.