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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hudson benefit nudges $100,000 for family’s cause


CENTREVILLE, Md. — The message was clear, though it wasn’t printed on any banners or repeated over the loud speaker.
Those who attended understood what was at stake.
The message? It could have been you and the next time it might be you.
That message brought nearly 750 people to the Queen Anne’s 4-H Park on Feb. 18, for the latest in a series of fundraisers for the the legal bills of a Berlin, Md., farm family fighting a lawsuit against environmental groups. This one was sponsored by the respective Farm Bureaus of Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Talbot counties.
Speaking to part of the crowd during the benefit, Jenny Rhodes, a member of the fundraiser’s planning committee, said the lawsuit’s implications go beyond the Hudson family.
“It’s about each and everyone of us,” she said. “If we don’t win this battle, they’re going to pick everyone of us off at a time.”
With their turn at the microphone, though brief, Alan and Kristin Hudson thanked all who came out and said they continue to be awe of the kindness of so many people they had never met.
“Look around,” Alan — seen in the above photo at far right with Jim Perdue, chairman and chief executive of Perdue Farms Inc. — told supporters. “This is amazing what you all have done. It really shows the strength of agriculture.”
Last week after the benefit, organizers estimated the total amount raised could get close to $100,000, nearly doubling the planning committee’s initial goal of $50,000.
A more exact figure should come this week as the organizers regroup and account for any donations that came in after the event.
“I never thought it would be that successful,” Rhodes said last week reflecting on the event. “People were coming in the door and just giving donations on top of their ticket cost.”
All the proceeds from the event which included ticket sales, live auction, silent auction, Chinese auction, sponsorship levels and raffle drawings, are bound for the Maryland Family Farmers Legal Defense Fund.
In 2010, a federal lawsuit was filed by the Waterkeeper Alliance against Kristin and Alan Hudson and Perdue Farms for violations of the Clean Water Act.
The lawsuit maintains the Hudsons allowed runoff from a pile of poultry litter to enter a branch of the Pocomoke River which leads to the Chesapeake Bay.
The pile was later identified and sewage sludge from nearby Ocean City, Md., and after investigating the situation, the Maryland Department of Environment asked the pile be moved to another part of the farm and determined no other action was needed besides spreading the sludge in the spring.
The lawsuit persists, however and a trial is expected to begin in April.
As the afternoon turned to evening on Feb. 18, organizers said the amount of support from so many people in and out out of the farm community was astonishing.
“You could just see that people were pretty happy, pretty exited, not about the situation but about being able to do something about it,” Bob Arnold, Queen Anne’s County Farm Bureau president and member of the planning committee, said last week.
Rhodes said planning for the event began last December and picked up after Christmas with the 14-member committee pounding the pavement to sell ticket, lock in sponsorships and secure auction items among the many other duties.
“Everybody had a job and went out and made it come together,” Rhodes said. “It was just everybody working together. It was great to see.”
The fundraising continues up and down the Eastern Shore. A Dorchester County group is organizing a benefit banquet for March 24 at the East New Market Fire Hall. For more information, contact Libby Nagel at 410-430-1045.
The Cecil County Young Farmers and Ranchers have decided to donate the proceeds of their sixth annual Sporting Clay Shoot on April 14 at Hopkins Game Farm in Kennedyville, Md.
For more information contact Chris at 302-293-5347 or Jenn at 443-566-6010.

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