EAST NEW MARKET The importance of the agricultural industry in the Eastern Shore's economy and the need to preserve it were the themes of a Dorchester Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event held with the Dorchester County Farm Bureau Jan. 26, at Atlantic Tractor in East New Market.

Agriculture accounts for a quarter of the Eastern Shore's economy, said Dorchester Chamber President Allen Nelson. It is a $601.6 million industry in Dorchester County and a $7.96 billion industry throughout the state.

Agriculture provides 3,488 jobs in Dorchester County and 47,828 jobs throughout the state, according to information offered by the Dorchester County Farm Bureau.

Maryland Farm Bureau President Pat Lagenfelder attended last week's event, along with Dorchester Farm Bureau President William Layton, who spoke about current efforts to support Worcester County farmers Alan and Kristin Hudson, the target of a lawsuit by the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance.

Also that evening, Atlantic Tractor donated $2,500 to the Hudsons' defense fund.

The Hudsons are facing more than $300,000 in legal expenses for their defense in the suit, which alleges a "longstanding manure pile" exists on the Berlin farm. The situation was investigated by the Maryland Department of the Environment, according to information on the SaveFarmFamilies.org website, which is devoted to the Hudsons' defense.

The MDE asked the Hudsons to move the manure pile to another location on their farm and said "no further action is required on (the farm's) part, other than to spread the (biosolid pile) in the spring, for the next crop growing season," according to SaveFarmFamilies.

The Dorchester County Farm Bureau is raffling a special-edition John Deere bicycle to support the Hudsons and also is cooperating with Upper Shore farm bureaus, including the Queen Anne's County Farm Bureau, with a fundraiser set for 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Queen Anne's County 4-H Park.

The Feb. 18 event for the Hudsons will feature local foods from the region, raffles and a silent auction. Advance tickets are $25, $15 for children 12 and younger. For tickets, call Jenny Rhodes at 410-310-0103 or send an email to rhodesjennyverizon.net.

The Business After Hours event featured a variety of Dorchester agricultural and related products, including wines from Layton's Chance winery in Salem, chicken dishes prepared with poultry from Amick Farms of Hurlock, and cookies and other baked goods from Emily's Produce of Church Creek.

Pickled peppers and Ortega salsa from B&G processors in Hurlock also were on the menu. Valerie Brinsfield represented local growers who supply B&G.

Among the most popular dishes of the evening were summer sausage, sloppy Joe and pulled barbecue, all made from buffalo raised at SB Farms at Hynson Road near Hurlock.

Shirley Edwards of SB Farms said buffalo raised in Hurlock are transported to a processor in Pennsylvania, the only one in the area with equipment to handle such large animals.

The processor also creates the summer sausage, sloppy Joe and pulled buffalo barbecue that is among the products sold at the SB Farms store in Hurlock and by Edwards and her husband, Bill, at farmers markets in Cambridge and St. Michaels during the season.

The Edwards offer a full range of cuts of buffalo meat, on par with beef but lower in fat and grass-raised.

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