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Brinsfield to step down as director of Wye Research Center
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
QUEENSTOWN, Md. (June 23, 2015) — After 33 years at the helm, Dr. Russell Brinsfield will retire July 1 as director of the Wye Research and Education Center in Queen Anne’s County on the Eastern Shore.
It’s been a long and fulfilling ride for the 70-year-old, himself a Dorchester County farmer, whose passion has been to explore the interface between agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay.
Sitting in for Brinsfield pending the appointment of a new director will be Dr. Ken Staver whom Brinsfield hired as a graduate student in 1984.
Maryland has been interested in agricultural science since 1966, when Arthur A. Houghton Jr.s Wye Institute made available 100 acres of Institute land for use by Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station.
In May 1979, Brinsfield was involved in a plan for research and related activities on land which would be purchased from the Wye Institute in 1973.
This plan would provided a blueprint for the future development of the experiment station’s field unit at the Wye.
In 1982, the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station formally established the Wye Research and Education Center and hired Brinsfield as director.
And in 1991, the WREC officially opened the Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. Laboratory,.which serves today not only as a lab but as the facility’s asministrative building.
Through the years, Brinsfield and Staver have partnered in any number of research projects on the 350-acre research farm, many focusing on the runoff from the farm’s fields and its impact on the waters into which it flowed, in this case the Corsica and Wye rivers.
In fact, in assessing the accomplishments of research center over the years, Brinsfield mentioned first the studies there which led, ultimately, to the creation of the famed Maryland cover crop program for its proven success in limiting groundwater runoff into the Bay. Maryland now spends millions of dollars a year on the cover crop program which is acknowledged as the largest single effort in the Bay restoration project.
Brinsfield also is retiring as executive director of the Harry T. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, a position he has held since he assisted in founding the non-profit in 1999 dedicated to open space and farmland preservation.
In that vein, Brinsfield is a co-founder of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy which works with private land owners to preserve farms, forest and other unique natural areas for future generations.
Since 1990, the conservancy has preserved over 50,000 acres on Maryland’s Mid-Eastern Shore.
Brinsfield takes personal pride on the fact that all of his professional ventures have had a similar or related focus — the preservation of farmland, protection of the natural environment, the role of science in agriculture, the future preservation of the Eastern Shore’s heritage and way of life.
“They all fit together,” Brinsfield said.
Witness, in that regard his life apart from the Wye Research Center and its related responsibilites.
He has been mayor of the town of Vienna, a charming community just off Rt. 50 on the Nanticoke River, for 15 years.
In that leadership role , he has overseen the tranformation of the town into “a gateway to the Nanticoke River and Watershed and a model Chesapeake Bay community which is conservation-oriented and respects its heritage and natural environment while planning progressively for the future.”
That future included the creation of a residential development zone south and west of town that would include open space and a green belt buffer area to be would be “integrated into the existing town character and fabric.”
Also, several years ago the Maryland Board of Public Works approved the purchase of 276 acres south of town for a green belt buffer area for $4.6 million funded through the State’s Program Open Space.
For 33 years, Brinsfild commuted from his Vienna homestead to the Wye, 100 miles roundtrip.
“It cost me two cars,” he said, “but never once did I get up in the morning and ask myself ‘why the hell are you doing this?’”
Russell and Sandy Brinsfield have a daughter Amanda, now Amanda Fenstermaker, the director of tourism in Dorchester Couinty.
There are three grandchildren, two girls and a boy, all under the age of six.
“Now,” said Brinsfield, “I will have a lot more time to spend with the grandchildren.”