Maryland Traditions Folklife Area
farming on the Eastern Shore
photo credit: Edwin Remsberg Photographs
Roger Richardson’s family has been farming on the Eastern Shore since 1767. As residents of the Chesapeake region for nearly two and a half centuries, Richardson’s family is deeply knowledgeable about the agricultural industry and farming practices of the Eastern Shore. Richardson’s farm covers approximately 3,000 acres, touching Worcester, Somerset, and Wicomico counties. He has been involved with some of the Eastern Shore’s most important agricultural products, from chickens to corn, soybeans, and wheat. Richardson has held varied leadership positions with community organizations as well as with state and local government. He served as Maryland Secretary of Agriculture from 2007-2009.
Agriculture on the Eastern Shore began with small farms and gardens; its scope has increased to such a degree that large-scale and industrial farms shape the landscape today. With the expansion in the size of farms and the homogenization of crops, mechanical harvesting techniques have become prominent. From combines to balers, threshers, and all-purpose tractors, the types of large farming equipment vary to fit the purpose. Yet, these machines that increase a farm’s output and efficiency do not represent a break from tradition. Farmers on the Eastern Shore are still stewards of the land who provide food that families are reliant upon. As Richardson says, “If you don’t take care of the land, it won’t take care of you.”
Roger Richardson’s family has lived and farmed on the Eastern Shore since the colonial era. His story provides a snapshot of the innovations and continuities in the region’s farming practices.