Chip Fleming… A Visionary Agro-Entrepreneur
In the late 1970’s a group of farmers came together to form the American Agriculture Movement in an attempt to organize a strike to raise awareness of the importance of the American Farmer. Some of these farmers drove their tractors all the way to Washington, D.C. to protest, blocking traffic, and creating significant tie-ups. Among this group was Edward Breckenridge “Breck” Fleming II, a Dorchester County farmer who inspired his son not only to be a farmer, but to continue to take a leadership role in his community.
In childhood, Edward Breckenridge “Chip” Fleming III, was always his father’s shadow on the farm, which is how he got the nickname Chip, by being a chip off the ol’ block. “I’ve been on the farm all my life. Every time I had the chance, I was riding with my grandfather, my dad or my uncle, Bill Fleming, watching and paying attention to everything that was going on and why the equipment was doing what it did and why things were doing what they did as it was happening,” said Chip. “I didn’t have any interest in sports, I just wanted to be their shadow.”
The farm’s influence held Chip’s fascination as a child, and led him to farming in his adulthood. A newspaper clipping of his father holding a 14-month-old Chip on the day of the organized strike in the ‘70s is framed in his office today, commemorating his father’s desire to keep agriculture a driving economic force on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“One day when I was 7-years-old, dad said, ‘this doesn’t make any sense! I’m sitting here driving and you’re sitting on the fender watching me — you know how to do this,’” Chip said. He recalls his excitement, that his dad left him on a John Deere 4020 cultivator with an umbrella and fender-mounted radio, cultivating about 150 acres of soybeans that day. “I remember my mother being livid when she came to bring us lunch because she was expecting to see my dad on one tractor and my uncle on the other, but that’s not how it was! She was upset for a while!”
At his father’s insistence, who didn’t want farming to be the only thing Chip knew, he attended State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, and earned his degree in Agricultural Engineering.
“I was fascinated by it, and just have a passion for it as well. You grow up into farming and don’t realize it’s what you want full time. Farming is a very gratifying lifestyle; it’s a rewarding and pride driven business,” said Chip.
Immediately after college Chip went right to work with a dealership as a service tech on combines and seeding and harvesting equipment, a skill that still comes in handy to this day on his own farm.
Today Chip farms approximately 1500 acres of corn, organic corn, soybeans and wheat; as well as serving as Vice-President of the Dorchester Farm Bureau, and is also a University of Maryland Extension LEAD Fellow. “While dad was alive, I’d lean on him about some things to try; but as I got older I found he valued my opinion more towards the end of his life,” Chip said. “After Dad passed, I used to stop and think, ‘what would Dad do?’ But I had to get away from that because I’m a little more of a risk taker than he ever was. If I based all of my decisions on what he might do, I might not be where I am today.”
Chip is a bit of a visionary, as he’s always thinking ahead to what he can accomplish or undertake next. In 2008 with the purchase of 270 acres of farmland the vision of a family adventure park was born. Not that he had extra time on his hands, as he implies, but because he wanted to provide an area for locals to go as a family to enjoy on-the-farm entertainment. “I want to offer my community simple entertainment, an alternative to electronics! To use your mind and enjoy yourself on a day trip.”
It was then that he birthed Breckenridge Adventures, which offers activities like a 9-acre interactive corn maze, u-pick pumpkin patch, pedal cart racing, and even paintball amongst a variety of other things on the 25 acres of activity.
“My wife, Jennifer pretty much handles all the aspects of Breckenridge Adventures,” he says, which includes Linkwood Landing a small mobile home park located at the back of this farm. Laughing he says, “All this started because I had a couple extra hours in the week.”
Much like his own father, Chip would like to see his son, who carries the family name as Edward Breckenridge “Breck” Fleming IV, go to college and experience more of what the world has to offer. “I want Breck to go to college and get a degree, he needs to know more than just driving tractors and running equipment,” Chip said. “I’d be excited if he wants to pursue farming and take over the business, but if his passion is for something else, I don’t want to sway him.”
Chip Fleming is one of Dorchester County UMD Extension’s monthly featured farmers. For more information on Extension or our featured farmer campaign, find us on Facebook at University of Maryland Extension – Dorchester. If you’d like to experience all that Breckenridge Adventures has to offer, you can find them on Facebook at Breckenridge Adventures or online at shoremaze.com.