Did you know that working forests are a conservation tool that can help keep farms in families?
Meet Yates Clagett, owner of Bald Eagle Farms in Prince George's County, MD
The name Clagett and farmland are synonymous. Robert Y. Clagett was born and raised on a 300-acre farm in Prince George's County, and those wide-open natural spaces have been a constant in his life. Having raised everything from tobacco to grass-fed cattle to hay, he says, "once farming is in your blood, you can't get it out."
After returning home to the family farm from college, his agribusiness career began immediately with early stints at Southern States Cooperative, including working at a grain elevator in Lothian. From there, it was on to Chaney Enterprises as a Farm Manager for their Environmental Division.
In 1998, he joined the Prince George's County Soil Conservation District, where he served as a Conservation Engineer and made quite an impact over 21 years. Initially, Clagett conducted site investigations, surveying, design, engineering, and construction of Best Management Practices for runoff on construction sites and farms. He soon managed all the agricultural land management programs, as well as a farming equipment rental program. Yet another hat he wore in his time there was as legislative liaison at the state and county level for winery and agritourism bills and property tax credits for preservation programs.
Land conservation was where Clagett found his calling. He recruited, promoted, and administered several programs at SCD, including the MD Agricultural Land Preservation Program and Rural Legacy Program. Over the two decades, he was with the county, Clagett was behind many firsts at the Soil Conservation District.
He created the Historic Agricultural Resource Preservation Program for the County Council and placed the first-ever preservation easement on a PG County farm. Another of Clagett's groundbreaking endeavors was developing and managing the county's first soil health and carbon sequestration demonstration farm. All of these efforts had the overarching goal of conserving working open spaces and agricultural land. Over his time at the Soil Conservation District, Clagett worked to conserve over 5,000 acres of farm and open space in Prince George's.
His focus on farms has not wavered since then. He has transitioned to his own agricultural consulting business while also working in land and farm sales with his father at Realty Navigator. In 2019, Clagett started up Land Management Solutions, based out of Brandywine. Through Land Mgt. Solutions, he advises farm and property owners on generating revenue from nontraditional farm resources, as well as consulting on all aspects of land management and conservation programs.
He's never lost sight of conserving a working farm or forest, whether it was as past president of the Prince George's County Farm Bureau or as former vice-chair and chair of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission. Today, he owns and operates 300 acres at Bald Eagle Farm, what he calls "a little chunk of heaven in an urban county."
Bald Eagle has been in the Clagett bloodline for close to 100 years, but his father ended up building a home there in the early '70s, and Clagett "just fell in love with it." The Clagett roots are in tobacco, with his grandmother's family coming from Germany as tobacco buyers and his descendants establishing a tobacco auction warehouse in Upper Marlboro.
Being essentially the only farmer in the family, he learned from tobacco sharecroppers and other farmers and went from growing a row of tobacco to acres upon acres. "The farm became a part of me," says Clagett. With the entire farm in a rural legacy easement, it's a part of Clagett that will never be lost. Considering "there are no 300-acre farms on the Patuxent anymore," he has done everything conservation-minded on the farm. His soil hasn't even been turned over in almost 20 years.
Another conserved and valued part of his land is the 130-acre marsh and 100+ acre forest that sits on his property. Clagett has a forest stewardship plan for his woodlands and hopes to eventually harvest some of the valuable timber on his property, saying, "we take our timber for granted. Monetizing property is important, and logging is a part of that." Clagett is in the process of planning a timber sale on his property and notes that it is a "challenging process in an urban county where working forests aren't as understood or accepted as working farms."
Clagett knows that harvesting timber can keep the farm in the family and that forest resources are a renewable, regenerative asset and "just a different kind of crop." After graduating from the MD LEAD Foundation fellowship program and visiting a timber harvest site in Garrett County, Clagett was struck by the value his family had on the farm in some of the mature trees in his forest. He understands the importance of trees as a harvestable crop-it is the perfect marriage between forest and farmland, one sustaining the other.
Monetary benefits and producing fiber is great, but Clagett also points to the amazing wildlife habitat that active forest management and timber harvesting can produce. Big trophy bucks and great geese, and duck hunting opportunities are some of his rewards for a properly conserved land. Hearing the gobble of a turkey or the call of an owl instead of cars whizzing by sums up the beauty of undisturbed rural lands — from farms to forests — under the conservation and watchful eye of good stewards like Yates Clagett.
Yates pictured on his farm with his furry friend Hollar, showing some deer antler sheds found on the farm to fellow hunter and forester Dan Rider.
Photo Credit: EDWIN REMSBERG PHOTOGRAPHS
Project Support: RURAL MARYLAND COUNCIL
To learn more about forestry in Southern Maryland watch the Forestry Edition of "Farms in Focus" a series of videos produced by the Southern Maryland Agriculture Development Commission (SMADC)-
LINKS TO LEARN MORE:
Southern Maryland Agriculture Development Commission
Rural Maryland Council
Maryland Farm Bureau