News & Press

Farmer spearheads zero-runoff campaign


Sam Owings, owner/operator of Hambleton Creek Farms near Chestertown, MD, has launched a non-profit enterprise that aims to significantly curtail – or even eliminate – agricultural runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

“I kept thinking there ought to be a simple, cost effective way we farmers could help clean up the Bay,” says Owings of his plan to slow or even stop rain runoff and divert it into the ground water instead of into the Bay. “And the great thing is, you take up little or no tillable crop land, so the potential for lost income is negligible.”

Owings’ idea, which he is promoting through a tax-exempt organization known as High Impact Environmental (HIE), involves construction of settling ponds in existing grass waterways that were intended mainly for erosion control.

Using his farm between Chestertown and Church Hill as a model, Owings has constructed a series of four catch-basins to demonstrate his theories to farmers, landowners, environmentalists, and anyone else interested in stemming the flow of storm-water-borne chemicals and sediment into the Bay. For now, his cascading system of interconnected “floodway containment basins” controls runoff from 77 acres and is capable of holding back water from a 50-year storm event plus all the soil, nitrogen and phosphorous that would run downstream with it.

“I’m still collecting data, but I know this works,” says Owings, “Since we finished the fourth basin in March not a drop of water that fell on this patch of land has made its way to the bottom of the slope.”

Owings, 59, grew up on a family farm in Kent County. He earned an associate degree in general agriculture from Delhi State University in New York and has 26 years of agribusiness experience. Additionally, for 20 years, Owings owned and operated a site-development and paving business based in Anne Arundel County. His interest in the health of the bay goes well beyond altruism, since he is an avid sailor and enjoys water fowling and fishing and almost any activity on the Bay and its tributaries.

HIE is pursuing grants to complete the model project that will control runoff from 567 acres in the upper Hambleton Creek watershed, and then expand the program to help area farmers take advantage of these pollution control practices.

“With government regulations regarding runoff becoming ever more onerous,” says Owings, “it’s important for farmers to get out front on the issues of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment control. And HIE is offering a good way to step up to the plate on this.” Anyone interested in learning more about the HIE program is invited to attend the July 5 Grain Marketing Meeting sponsored by the Queen Anne’s County Extension Service. The program begins with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast at Higgy’s Country Inn on Rt. 213, to be followed by the grain meeting and then a presentation by Owings and a tour of the nearby HIE project. RSVP with Jenny Rhodes, Queen Anne’s County Agricultural and Natural Resources Extension Educator at 410-758-0166.

Contact : Sam Owings 410-279-2744.

High impact solutions to storm water pollution

press article

press article

Article published in Delmarva Farmer
“Owings builds possible answer to ag-bay issue with water control unites”

Article published in Record Observer & Star Democrat
“Officials tour farm to view conservation techniques”

storm water management