College of Agriculture & Natural Resources

Sam Owings - Making Positive Use of Storm Water

An Agriculture and Environmental Law Conference Preview
Sam Owings
Image Credit: 
John Vogel

A full-time farmer, nonprofit creator, and environmental program developer are just some descriptors of Sam Owings, a speaker at the November 18 Agriculture and Environmental Law conference.

Owings grew up on a family farm where he began working at the age of 13 for $5 a week.

“We grew grain, including corn, wheat, soybeans, and also fed our 8,000 pigs per year, we grew vegetables, string beans, tomatoes, sweet corn,” said Owings in an email interview.  His family regularly used soil conservation practices to prevent soil erosion on the farm.

In college, Owings earned an associate degree in applied sciences in agriculture from Delhi State University of New York (SUNY). After graduating, he returned to working on the farm and at the age of 30 opened a contracting business in Anne Arundel County.

“We specialized in site development and asphalt paving,” said Owings. “I learned a lot about sediment and erosion control in this industry.”

In 2001, Owings returned to farming in Queen Anne’s County to grow soybeans.

When he began farming again, Owings combined his knowledge of site development with agriculture to create a cascading system, with a goal to prevent storm water from flowing freely into state waters. The program captures the water in a terraced system of cascading basins, where it can create wildlife habitat, filter sediment, nutrients, replenish the depleting  groundwater, and help with flood control, said Owings.

“After developing the cascading system, I started HIE (his High Impact Environmental nonprofit) and then received nonprofit status in 2009 with the hopes to get some grant funding to expand my programs,” said Owings.

HIE’s primary goal is to implement programs that educate the public about cost-feasible, storm water conservation, and management practices, according to their website.

The nonprofit is located in Queen Anne’s County and works with neighboring counties to implement cascading system programs as well as Owing’s other program, the chain filter.

“Both are geared toward reducing sediment and nutrient movement from farm fields to state waters that will make for a sustainable future for agriculture,” said Owings.

Owings hopes that in the future HIE will work on a large public works project to recruit farmers and landowners. In his vision for the project, farmers and landowners would be compensated for the use of their land so that these programs could be implemented on a wider scale.

“I believe HIE’s efforts have brought awareness to making positive use of storm water instead of just letting it move freely into state waters, which is the major cause of the degradation of our waterways,” said Owings.

Owings will be a speaker at the Agriculture and Environmental Law (ALEI) conference on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland. See the registration page at for more information.


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