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Living Up to a 100% Local Commitment

Chesapeake’s Bounty connects shoppers with local farms, fish and more

William Kreamer re-opened his grand­father’s roadside market in St. Leonard in 2006.

Just a few weeks ago, in winter’s last stand, shoppers in light flannels and heavy vests scurried from the damp sidewalk into Chesapeake’s Bounty North Beach store. A smile from Veronica Cristo and an aroma of apple cider warmed the room. The wood floor creaked as they drifted through waist-high aisles of sweet potatoes, apples and stacked jars of local honey and jam, on their way to a table of dinosaur kale and bright green spinach.
    Farmers markets were still weeks away. But thanks to high tunnels, fresh greens were on this market’s shelves.
    Chesapeake’s Bounty is the middle ground between local farmers and customers who put a premium on local fare. When William Kreamer took over his grandfather’s roadside market in 2006 he made a 100 percent local commitment. Grass-fed meats, dairy products, seafood and seasonal produce — even that salt, plus wheat, flour, rice and oil — are all produced in the Chesapeake watershed. All value-added products from outside suppliers are required to have at least one essential ingredient grown locally.
    “Now we find ourselves part of a really local food supply,” Kreamer says, “and we absolutely love it.”
    Chesapeake’s Bounty now has two stores. The farm and original store is just off southbound Route 4 at St. Leonard; the North Beach market is on the corner of Bay Avenue and 7th Street, where Kreamer’s food truck serves farm-to-table lunches and dinners out back. The menu changes weekly and seasonally. Crabs are now on the menu, steamed or live.

Learning the Trade
    Fast forward to full summer
    Shelves are bursting with tomatoes (beefsteak, heirloom, cherry and clusters of red/orange/yellow), ­peaches, plums, berries, sweet corn. Crab hunger is big. Buyers negotiate over the last bushel of live crabs and inquire when the next batch of soft shells will be in.
    “From a very young age I was exposed to the dynamics of the live seafood market,” Kreamer recalls. He grew up hopping puddles down the soggy boardwalks of D.C.’s seafood markets where his grandfather, waterman Greg Ciesielski, sold seafood. The young Kreamer was absorbing the knowledge of different seafood types, pricing, marketing displays and quirky local recipes that would eventually mold into his own vision of filling local plates with local bounty.
     “I picked up some of his spirit through those experiences,” Kreamer explains, “most importantly, his willingness to meet new individuals he might be doing business with and maintaining relationships with local farmers and watermen.”
    For 12 years, Ciesielski owned and operated Chesapeake’s Bounty as a family business. Kreamer worked there on and off as a kid, student and graduate student until it closed in 2005.

A New Market with Old Values
    Kreamer reopened Chesapeake’s Bounty a year later. After trying conventional farming his first year, he decided he wanted no more to do with chemicals. So he turned to permaculture, a farming technique that mimics nature’s self-sustaining systems, eliminating the need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
    Not everything comes from Chesapeake Bounty’s own farm, so Kreamer found suppliers who shared his values and farming principals to maintain supply. As well as watermen and farmers, his suppliers include cheesemakers, bakers and artisans.
    “There are very few Chesapeake’s Bountys out there,” explains Greg Bowen, director of American Chestnut Land Trust. “They’re proving you can buy local food all year round.”
    The farm also encourages participatory agriculture through a work-exchange program. Getting some mulch between your fingernails, weeding and watering, spreading some compost or volunteering for miscellaneous tasks in whatever time you have earns you the right to harvest whatever you’d like to take home. Including sunchokes, a Kreamer favorite, going into five recently acquired acres.
    “It’s not a trade. It’s beyond that,” Kreamer says. “We’re talking about a gift economy. You come here and share your gifts, and we share the abundance of the farm.”

It Adds Up
     Spending a dollar at a local business generates two to four times the economic impact of distance shopping. Farmers capture only seven percent of the monetary value of their sold food, according to the USDA, as corporate chains now distribute roughly 95 percent of all food.
    “What Chesapeake’s Bounty is doing is critical to the success of the local food movement,” Bowen says. “They’re allowing farmers to capture a larger portion of the food dollar.”
    And at Chesapeake’s Bounty, shoppers are putting their money where their mouths are.
    “It’s not just about buying a tomato,” says customer Tara Conway as she carriers a carton of heirloom tomatoes and pint of oysters towards the gravel parking lot. “It’s about knowing what’s behind the tomato. It’s nice to know I can count on it coming from a good place.”