Chesapeake Farms: A world away from civilization, a world of wildlife Protected area of Kent has area for research, haven for animals, birds

September 12, 1997|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

CHESTERTOWN -- Two young bald eagles watched from the branches of dead trees yesterday as a sudden shower swept a pond on DuPont's Chesapeake Farms property on Millstone Point.

The rain, or the approach of humans, stirred a great blue heron from its hiding place in weeds at the water's edge. George Fahrman, 44, who has worked on the 3,300-acre preserve for more than 20 years, rolled his van to a stop.

"This is the middle of nowhere," he said. "On foot, it is probably a mile in any direction before you find civilization." DuPont's announcement yesterday that it is donating the development rights to conservation groups will ensure that civilization gets no closer.

Somewhere just beyond the rain-speckled pond, a shrill cry rose up from the brush and weeds. Maybe a hawk, Fahrman said, or a rabbit attacked by one. Otter, beaver, muskrat, opossum, raccoons and deer make homes elsewhere on this land. So do egrets, quail, wood ducks and pintails.

People, however, are scarce. "There's people three miles down the road in Rock Hall that don't know what we do on this place," Fahrman said. "It's amazing more people don't take an interest in it."

Long a wildlife management project and hunting preserve for employees and guests of the Remington Arms Co., a DuPont subsidiary, Chesapeake Farms today is used by DuPont as a conference center and research station for independent scientists and DuPont's Agricultural Products division.

On a few hundred acres of the property, DuPont, in cooperation with state and federal agencies and university scientists, is studying ways in which farmers can remain successful while reducing erosion and cutting the amount of fertilizer they use.

Researchers in the 5-year-old project can precisely measure the productivity of the land they till and monitor the content of the water that flows from these fields toward the Chesapeake Bay. They are testing ways to control runoff with a variety of tilling methods, plantings and buffer zones at the edges of the modest fields of corn, soybean and wheat.

But the vast majority of the land is devoted to wildlife management. Fahrman's battered vehicle rocked and rolled along a grassy strip between corn fields. A fawn darted away and disappeared into the stalks. Some corn is planted to draw the property's 900 deer away from more productive fields, which are protected by electrified wire.

Other cornfields are left standing in the fall to attract geese. Millet is planted in wet, low-lying fields that are flooded in the fall. The man-made ponds become a magnet for ducks.

The property is still used by DuPont as a hunting preserve for its employees and guests, and for a handful of Chesapeake Farms neighbors.

There are more than 20 ponds on the property, Fahrman figures. They help to catch runoff from the fields and keep sediment out of the bay. But they also have become a haven for wildlife.

As his truck approached one small pond, an osprey rose from a nest out in the middle of the water. A blue heron at the water's edge lifted into the air and a gaggle of perhaps 30 geese left the shore for the safety of the water.

"This pond has bass in it," he said, "but it's also managed for the osprey." Young birds from the nest have been shipped to West Virginia to help restore them to the Ohio River.

On another pond not far away, thousands of ducks -- most of them raised here and released into the wild -- stirred noisily as an immature bald eagle circled their haven in search of an easy meal.

"We probably have, at times, 50,000 geese on the farm," Fahrman said. He at times has counted as many as 35 bald eagles around the more remote ponds.

Today, Chesapeake Farms was to hold an outdoor reception for its neighbors to explain the development easement they've donated. "A lot of people are thinking of similar things to slow down development and sort of keep [the area] like it is," Fahrman said.

Development pressure in Kent County, especially near the water, is intense, he said: "The farmers found there was more money in selling building lots than they will ever make turning dirt."

Chesapeake Farms is open to the public. For tour information, call 410-778-8400 or try the Internet at

Pub Date: 9/12/97

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