This exhibit takes an agro-environmental look at the particulars of our local geography that have shaped our growth, and how our growth in turn has remade our landscape. To face the coming challenges of climate change, we look back to explore northern Maryland’s history of innovative responses, and forward to the changes we can all make today.
It is based in part on the life and work of agricultural journalist Russell Lord 1895-1964). He grew up in Baltimore County, lived in Harford County, and edited a literary journal called The Land, which advocated environmentally responsible agriculture. His wife Kate Lord, a nationally known artist, provided illustrations for his books and for the journal, some based on Harford County’s countryside.
To learn much more about the Lords, see Margaret Eppig’s Russell Lord and the Permanent Agriculture Movement: An Environmental Biography.
Harford County is a land of piedmont hills gently rolling down to the coastal plain, veined with rivers and creeks flowing fast toward the fall line, and then meandering slowly across the plain to the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary. In the early twentieth century, the county was mostly farmland. Dairy, grain, and meat predominated in the northwestern two thirds of the county, which was also dotted with mills and small industry. The southeastern portion—now largely part of Aberdeen Proving Ground—was fertile land for fruit and vegetable farming, and supported many canneries.
The wide zone at the edge of the southeastern portion, where Harford’s rivers and creeks meet the bay, is marshland filled with grasses, reeds, and sedges. Quiet coves, along with numerous fingers of land (necks) and water (guts) make excellent nesting and feeding spots for waterfowl. Around one million ducks, geese, and swans winter on the Chesapeake Bay, eating wild celery (eelgrass), sago pondweed (ribbonweed), and redhead grass. These underwater grasses form a crucial nursery for oysters, crabs, fish, and other mollusks and crustaceans. Aberdeen Proving Ground includes more than 35,000 acres of this wetlands zone.