and the Horsts have similar plans. Perdue hopes to add more such farms in Cecil County, and Bartenfelder said there is a reason for the expansion northward.
“They are looking at northern Kent, Cecil and Pennsylvania for their move to organic,” he said. “They want to separate the organic.”
His comments on the farm echoed many of the themes in his Agricultural Day speech, during which he said that people in Cecil County are “fortunate” because of all the farms and agriculture in the county. He also told the crowd about his trip to Cuba as part of the Maryland delegation in February, noting that he saw lots of new opportunities for local farmers to export to the island nation.
“It’s time to capitalize on that,” he said, adding that Cubans, by and large, struggle to feed themselves. “It made me realize how for- tunate all of us are here to have what we have.”
At the same time, Bartenfelder recalled the moment during the trip when he realized the lack of food safety in Cuba. After eating a slice of ham at one meal, the following day he saw pigs being butchered in the open at a market, with no evidence of hygiene or refrigeration.
“When I went to breakfast, I skipped the ham and had eggs and fruit,” he said.
But while Bartenfelder said people should feel fortunate to live in a county with so many farms, some county residents may not feel so lucky. Opponents of the Horsts’ chicken farm proposal met earlier this month to discuss ways to block the project.
Led by Brian Frymiare who lives in the Fieldcrest subdivision off England Creamery Road, neighbors of the Horsts fear environmental damage, lost property values and a loss of enjoyment of their property. On Saturday, they held a road protest carrying signs with such messages as “Farms Yes, Factories No” and “No chicken factories.”
But according to Charles Hayes, district manager of the Cecil Soil Conservation District, this is a family farm, not a factory farm because the Horsts would do all the growing work on site themselves, and none of the processing is done at the farm.
“These are growing houses,” he said. “It’s very apparent this is a family farm.”
Neighbors also claim that chicken farms are being run out of Caroline County and have left behind damaged residential wells. They point to the number of houses drinking bottled water because of nitrate levels.
Dr. Leland Spencer, health officer for the Caroline County Health Department, confirmed the use of bottled water and the nitrate levels, but said both issues could be fixed easily.
“The reason they have nitrates in their water is they have a shallow well,” he said Monday. “We do have a lot of shallow wells that don’t meet the current requirements.”
Spencer said the deeper wells not only tap into a lower aquifer but also that the layers of soil that any fertilizer has to travel through to return to the water table clean the water naturally.
“Fertilizer doesn’t penetrate that deep into the water table,” he said.
Spencer also said that chicken houses are still in Caroline County. As far as his office is concerned, Spencer said, chicken farmers there are not being run out of the county.
Colby Ferguson, with the Maryland Farm Bureau, said that in Cecil County alone some 620,000 chickens are purchased in grocery stores annually, pointing to the increased demand for poultry products.
A prepared statement issued Sunday by the Cecil County Farm Bureau urged neighbors of all farms to understand that the farmers share their concerns about air, land and water quality.
“We urge our non-farming neighbors — those who have been here a lifetime and those who are new to the community — to understand that farm families are also working to meet water and air quality goals,” the statement reads. “Farmers are doing more, spending more and achieving more to clean up the Chesapeake Bay than any other sector. In fact we are doing more than our fair share since urban areas have been slow to make the necessary changes.”
Protestors opposed to the chicken farm on England Creamery Road in Zion rallied along the road near the farm Saturday morning.