A New Country Place Ethic for a New Country Place Era
Deep pockets and environmental consciousness coexist on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
By Susan Hines
Graham Landscape Architecture
Situated on the banks of the Choptank River on Maryland’s
Eastern Shore, Tidewater Farm’s 400-plus acres represent a new order of country
estate where hundreds of acres are amassed not as a showplace of wealth but
rather a showcase for the region’s distinct ecology and farming traditions.
Typical of the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin, the landscape is both
agricultural and coastal. Not so typical at this country place, the vernacular
holds sway aesthetically, and the agricultural tradition is celebrated, even as
the owners embrace more ecologically sensitive practices than their predecessors.
“It’s a movement similar to the country house estate era,
but shaped by different forces,” says Jay Graham, FASLA, of Graham Landscape
Architecture in Annapolis, Maryland. “People with money and a certain ethic are
buying these tired farms on the Eastern Shore. They are products of the Earth
Day generation and receptive to the notion that you can leave this land better
than you found it.”
Widespread application of this stewardship ethic could
preserve a region that is becoming known as “the new Long Island.” More and
more city slickers are flocking to this mainly rural area of Maryland looking
for expansive vacation properties at relatively modest prices. These newcomers
are largely unaware of what it means to own hundreds of acres of farmland in an
ecologically sensitive watershed.
“When people buy on the Eastern Shore, they generally have a
city or suburban mind-set,” explains Graham’s colleague, Arthur Balter,
Associate ASLA. With their suburban landscape architect in tow, he says, some
clients end up building a new landscape that erases the character that drew
them to the area. “We help them understand what this new asset is. They don’t
realize, for example, that if you don’t protect the shoreline, you are going to
lose what you bought.”
“The trend is from farming to housing subdivisions,” says Kevin Campion,
ASLA. Yet, protecting the agricultural landscape that
attracts these buyers in the first place is essential to maintaining the
Eastern Shore’s unique culture and sense of place. Campion, Graham Landscape
Architecture’s project manager for Tidewater Farm, notes the benefits of this
approach. “There has to be land for farmers to farm or they will give up. Then
you will have houses and subdivisions and development and sprawl.”
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