Updated: Oct 3
When I asked my niece, Summer Ann Dorr,24, what prompted her to engage in a months-long battle with her mother (my sister ) about the use of herbicides on the family farm, and then to ask for a battery-powered weed whacker for her birthday, and finally, to take on the weed control with her new "toy,” she tells me that it goes all back to a teacher she had in elementary school.
Summer credits an extracurricular ecology class taught by Alison Vooris for stoking her initial interest in the environment. She tells of how the lessons on ecosystems and helping out with the school recycling program have stuck with her over the years. So today she’s become the chief environmental steward for their 7-acre family farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore. "I just have been kind of trying to make the farm more eco-friendly,” she says.
Summer believes we should stand up for the Earth, and tries to live up to that herself. She tells of seeing people unload a bunch of garbage bags in a nearby field one day. After they left, she investigated, found mail inside the bags, and delivered the trash back to where it came from. "Stuff like that just makes me very upset," she says. "That's what I'm passionate about—keeping the Earth pretty and healthy."
Farming is not a full-time job for Summer, but this past year she's started developing a road-side stand to sell her cut flowers and vegetables. She says she hasn't sold a lot of vegetables because she thinks the market in their area is over saturated, but her organically raised flowers have become quite popular. The organic part of the process is more for her own satisfaction than a marketing strategy. "It's not that big of a thing to practice organic farming in my own garden."
After the first year the flower stand broke even, and encouraged, Summer has applied for a grant for a greenhouse. She also joined a foraging group and is learning that she can augment her home-grown bouquets with foraged flowers. "There are a couple of spots on our road where I get Queen Anne's lace, which is actually also an herbal medicine. And then there's a dirt lane on the side of the highway, and so many wildflowers grow there.”
For many city and suburban dwellers, it's not a far stretch to imagine environmentally-friendly gardening and recycling practices—things like collecting water in rain barrels and avoiding herbicides. But in addition, Summer has been incorporating regenerative farming techniques, which requires another level of commitment. “So you're not just taking from the Earth is the main principle you're giving back to it," she explains.
And all of that has led to the backyard chickens—and maggots.
Using a self-harvesting system, Summer composts foods that include meat and milk, which attracts flies that then lay eggs and produce maggots. But in this case, she sets up a bucket trap and the maggots are then fed to the chickens. She also beds the chickens on coffee grounds she gets for free from Starbucks. "It makes a fluffy bedding, and then it repels the spiders and snakes,” she says.
She explains that she's not trying to get rich from the business, but to do something for the land and her community. She hopes that others will see what she's doing and maybe even follow her example.
Holly Boyer Dorr, her mother, is dubious about the maggots, but little by little Summer’s winning her over. Summer also sees these practices as a continuation of what she learned from her father, Paul Dorr, and a way to honor his memory. "It is kind of how my dad always planned for the farm to be…And any little way I can help is what I'm trying to do.”
Do you know anyone who takes a stand for the environment in a unique way? What does that look like? Please share!