Vol. XXXII, No. 2
In This IssueWHAT'S HAPPENING?
The Alice Ferguson Foundation was established in 1954 as a nonprofit organization chartered in the state of Maryland. AFF's mission is "to provide experiences that encourage connections between people, the natural environment, farming, and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed, leading to personal environmental responsibility."
Board of Directors
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The Alice Ferguson Foundation has been approved once again for participation in the United Way of the National Capital Area (UWNCA) and the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Our United Way code is #8083 and our CFC code is #62564.Please consider us!
As the annual celebration of Earth Day approaches, I'm proud of the fact that every day is Earth Day at the Alice Ferguson Foundation as we connect people, in meaningful ways, to the natural world. This issue of Hard Bargain News highlights the many ways in which our mission helps fulfill the vision of Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson: "Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures."
At our Annual Member Meeting in March we celebrated our respect and appreciation for three key volunteers who helped form and support the Alice Ferguson Foundation: Thelma Gasparovic, Belva Jensen and Nancy Wagner. And you can learn more about ways YOU can help support and sustain the Foundation and our important work.
Happy Earth Day (Every day!)
Earth Day Happens All Year 'Round at Alice Ferguson Foundation
By Karen Jensen Miles
Earth Day as we now know it is celebrated each April 22 since 1970 and events are held worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth's natural environment. It has become a day that symbolizes what should and could be occurring in all corners of Earth, our home. Over the last half century or so, various people and organizations have staked their claim on Earth Day as their own, but few would argue its worth.
Looking into the past as well as the future, there are many parallels with the mission of the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the vision of the founders of Earth Day. Our mission is to provide experiences that encourage connections between people, the natural environment, farming and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed, which lead to personal environmental responsibility. By providing these experiences each year to thousands of people both young and mature, we pass on the message that we all should be stewards of our planet.
As AFF expands its horizons beyond Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, those of us who have known of the Foundation's good work might not be aware of the various deep roots that are reaching in several well thought out directions. This might be a good time to review our programs so we can see that there is a strategic design for each one as they relate to improving the environment.
Potomac Watershed Study Center:What better way to give thousands a glimpse of how we can incorporate sound and environmentally friendly principles into our daily lives than by demonstrating them with the proposed Day:Use Building, Overnight Lodge, sleeping cabins, and wetland boardwalk. The Center will showcase Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality buildings. Visitors will be inspired to assess their actions and see that conserving is merely a different way of thinking and that by doing so, the planet and its denizens will have a richer, healthier way of life.
Trash Free Potomac Initiative/Potomac River Watershed Cleanup:We are making headway on several fronts in the trash field. The Foundation believes that a trash:free Potomac can be a reality with education, local government support, and community:based action. Everyone can make a difference. Thousands were involved in the annual watershed:wide cleanup just last week.
Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center:Students, parents and teachers all receive experiential environmental and agricultural education under special care from our educators while at Hard Bargain Farm. We now have grandparents visiting the Farm with their grandchildren who came here themselves as students! Every single one of them has fond memories of their experience and it remains a highlight of their early school days.
Bridging the Watershed (BTW):We are all about valuable partnerships here at AFF. BTW is a partnership between AFF and the National Park Service where middle and high school students have the opportunity to visit "national park labs" to increase their awareness of their natural surroundings through original learning modules and service learning projects. We always are excited to hear of their adventures in the many amazing parks in the Washington metropolitan area.
So, you see, we are truly taking to heart the sentiments that are revisited every year on Earth Day. We take them very seriously and act upon them each day. Shouldn't we all?
We all awoke to a sunny, warm day on April 14th, the perfect day for the 24th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Thousands of volunteers at hundreds of sites throughout the watershed spent their Saturday morning picking up litter from their neighborhood streams, parks, roadsides, and rivers. Each year, we are shocked and amazed at the interesting and sometimes absurd items we find mixed amongst the plastic bags, tires, and beverage containers. A few of the most interesting include: a DVD player, a bed frame, a couch, various car parts, bicycles, a Halloween mask, a plastic port:a:potty roof, and a fiberglass bathtub.
This cleanup would not have been such a success without the hard work of our partner organizations, our site leaders, and the thousands of volunteers who are dedicated to creating clean land, safe water, and healthy lives for residents of the Potomac region. While the main date of the Cleanup was the 14th, there are still some ongoing cleanups during April and we encourage you to be involved. You can find sites near you at www.potomaccleanup.org.
One volunteer said, "If every single person would pick up one piece of trash every day, there would be no trash!" It is our goal not only to get more and more folks to pick up trash, but also more and more people to stop littering in the first place. Data collected from the Cleanup is used throughout the year to raise awareness, track trash hot spots, mark progress, and target policy areas that will help reduce litter in the Potomac Watershed. In the meantime, stay tuned for the final results of the Cleanup towards the end of April.
Mom's Organic Market stores in Frederick, Alexandria, Rockville and College Park generously supported the Cleanup by offering a percentage of their proceeds from sales on March 21st to the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. AFF staff were welcomed in the stores and given the opportunity to showcase our programs and spread the word about our Cleanup.
In addition to their generous sponsorship, many MOM's employees participated in the Cleanup and volunteered their time to support AFF once more. MOM's has been a continued supporter of the Alice Ferguson Foundation over the years and we look forward to working with them again in the future!
Spring, as the time for growth and renewal, seems an appropriate time for AFF to launch its Gift Planning Program. Since the early 1900's, individuals have relied on specific charitable gift instruments such as bequests and various charitable trusts to fulfill their philanthropic desires. AFF has, in fact, been the beneficiary of those who thought to remember us in their wills and estate plans and we are grateful to those who have done so.
The cornerstone of most thriving Gift Planning programs is the bequest. This season AFF will share information with our friends and constituents about the importance of having a will and the kinds of bequests that can benefit the children, teachers, and members of the community that enjoy all of our education programs.
Last year, we created our Planned Giving web page. Please take a few minutes to examine the information housed there. By year's end the process to receive gifts of appreciated securities was in place and worked flawlessly.
By autumn, we will unveil our planned giving newsletter to provide the latest tax information and news from Congress that can impact charitable giving. In addition, we plan to conduct a seminar for those interested in learning more about the ways in which charitable gifts play a role in one's estate plan. Please let us know if you want to be included among the invitees.
The Children's Garden gardening season has begun in earnest and several student groups have already lent their backs and hands to help with weeding, soil preparation and potato planting. If it weren't for the students'help, we would be overwhelmed with all that needs doing this time of year. Thanks to their efforts, and those of a few teachers and parents who have determinedly tackled a troublesome weedy patch, the garden is almost ready for the soon:to:be planted warm season crops. Because of the warm winter, several of our crops overwintered well and began new growth early in March. Arugula, mustard greens, mizuna greens, kale and collards are finishing their season and are in full flower right now. Soon they will need to come down, but since the many pollinator species are finding sustenance on their flowers, they will be left for a little longer. We also have other new tenants in the garden this spring and they will soon begin raising a family. The bluebird box that was erected a month ago was immediately inspected and claimed by a bluebird pair and they have been nest building for the last couple of weeks.
Though consistently warm temperatures are just around the corner, the past month has been for potato planting and we are experimenting with a new variety this year. We have great hopes for King Harry, a potato developed at Cornell University and refined and sold by Wood Prairie Farm in northern Maine. Because King Harry has hairy leaves and stems, it is said to have excellent resistance to flea beetles and Colorado potato beetles. Since both beetles were troublesome last year we are hoping that this potato will perform as well in our garden as it does elsewhere. If you grow potatoes, you may be interested in trying this variety yourself and we will report on our findings in subsequent newsletters.
Spring:like temperatures came early this year and so far it has been very dry as well. We can only wait and see what summer brings. The cattle will very soon be grazing in our rotational system. The pastures are growing nicely at the moment. Additional fescue and red clover seed was planted with a no:till drill in March and a light fertilizer application followed in April. Here's hoping for a decent hay crop in May.
All mammal animals on our farm received their annual rabies vaccination in March. Cats and dogs require the vaccine only every three years. Not enough research has been done on livestock to prove that this would be sufficient to protect them, so yearly shots are recommended. Rabies is common in this area and is a serious threat to humans. Any wild animal acting in an unusual way (coming toward you rather than running away, for instance) should be avoided and reported to county health authorities immediately.
As Earth Day approaches, we think of ways we can all help sustain and improve our environment. This is what we teach here at Hard Bargain every day of the year, through watershed studies (following the movement of soil/contaminants); trash reduction and education; composting as a way to create a resource/soil additive; promote keeping worm bins (a fun way to see compost made in your own home); gardening and growing some of your own food; reducing our carbon footprint (the high price of gas will help do that); buying produce and meats from local farmers (for Hard Bargain Farm grass:fed beef go to our website. There are endless ways to ease our impact on Earth and practice, indeed, gets us closer to perfect.
And speaking of such things as reducing carbon footprints, promoting local agriculture and obtaining superior fresh foods: The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission has issued its first Southern Maryland Meats and Seafood Guide. This is a directory of farms in the five southern Maryland counties of Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George's, and St. Mary's that sell their own locally grown beef, pork, poultry, goat, lamb, and rabbit (or catch their own seafood). To use the Southern Maryland Meats logo, producers must be located in southern Maryland and meet stringent standards of quality and humane care. Hard Bargain Farm is listed there. You can download a copy of the guide from the Internet (www.smadc.com or www.somarylandsogood.com) or call 301:274:1922 for a convenient pickup site. You may also come to our Spring Farm Festival on May 5 and get your personal copy.
All spring flowers are in bloom and that means Hard Bargain Farm's Spring Farm Festival is not far away. This is a day we open our gates to the public and it's a great opportunity to bring family and friends to the Farm and enjoy everything we have to offer:
If you have any questions about this event or would like to volunteer, please contact Brenda Wright at 301.292.5665 or email [email protected].
"These activities reinforce my ease and comfort outdoors. They have me thinking about how to include students. My sense of wonder has been reinvigorated." ::Participant in Teacher Institute
"Fourteen teachers were chosen of which I am one!"That is what one science teacher exclaimed at the end of her Bridging the Watershed (BTW) Summer Teacher Institute. The BTW Summer Teacher Institute is a 4.5 day:long training in some of the region's most beautiful and historical areas, our national parks.
Wading into streams to stir up its creatures, analyzing chemical parameters of water that someone once used, differentiating native from exotic species right underneath one's foot, or hypothesizing on the components of litter: this is the kind of constructivist learning that makes up BTW Institute training in the form of modules.
Teachers in the northern Virginia area or in the multi:state area of the middle Potomac region will experience a new national park full of discoveries each day from 8:00 am:4:30 p.m., Monday:Thursday (Friday 8:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.). With training completed, the teachers can bring their students out to national parks to learn about their watersheds through the interactive science modules. Teachers need to complete the training in order for their classes to participate.
Teachers receive a generous stipend once requirements are met. Participants may apply the institute towards graduate credits through Catholic University. Maryland teachers can earn MSDE credits.
Register today, before it's too late, for an experience to learn and earn like no other.
On Sunday, March 18, we welcomed our members to the 58th Annual Meeting of the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF). After adjourning the business meeting we honored Thelma Gasparovic, Belva Jensen, and Nancy Wagner for their outstanding contributions to AFF, especially during the founding years. Their remarkable dedication and commitment helped the Foundation to become a successful, award:winning, leading organization in the field of environmental education. Lifetime member Bud Biles acted as Master of Ceremonies and his presentation was filled with history and anecdotes that made many chuckle and remember. It was a wonderful celebration and a coming together of the past and present.
AFF staff at Hard Bargain Farm and the Washington, DC office paused from work the morning the Space Shuttle Discovery made its final journey from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to Dulles International Airport where it will reside at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Udvar:Hazy Center.
Utilizing the roof:top terrace at their new offices on 23rd Street, NW, staff at the Washington, DC office was in the midst of a meeting as Discovery circled the city riding on the back of a modified 747. It was a picture perfect day as the shuttle passed low over the city, circling the monuments.
In Maryland, many staff were at the top of the hill outside the Farmhouse or out at Mockley Point, expecting to see a tiny speck in the distance. Instead, staff was treated to quite a view as Discovery traveled south along the Virginia side of the Potomac, turning east just past Mt. Vernon towards Maryland which then brought her flight path right over Hard Bargain Farm for an incredible overhead view.
Discovery was launched in 1984 as NASA's third space shuttle and is the first of the three remaining space shuttles to officially enter retirement. The space shuttle Atlantis will stay on view at America's Spaceport in Las Cruses, NM, and Endeavor will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles this fall.
A Note on Aviation History from the AFF Archives:
The little cottage on Hard Bargain Farm by the side of Bryan Point Road is quiet now, but back in the Fifties it was abuzz with small children's voices. For fourteen years, it was the home of the Accokeek Cooperative Nursery during the school year and, for several summers, for the Accokeek Workshop "Junior Naturalists". In addition, the Accokeek Workshop "Piano Classes" met there after school.
The Accokeek Cooperative Nursery (and kindergarten) was started by the first group of families who had bought land from the Fergusons right after World War II. They loved pioneering in the woods so far from Washington, but also wanted their children to have the advantages the city offered. "E" Kenah (later a president of the Foundation) and Louise North (a founder of the Foundation) started a playgroup in 1951 in the Christ Church hall. In 1952, the playgroup, joined by several families outside the Moyaone Reserve, was held in an empty classroom in the Accokeek Elementary School. However, in 1953 the school had no room available and the mothers scoured the area for new space.
"Fergie" (Henry Ferguson) came to the rescue and offered to the cooperative the tenant house Alice Ferguson (Mrs. Fergie) had built in the Forties for her farm help. It was more than perfect. The cooperative turned the two small bedrooms into one large room for the three:year olds (who came two mornings a week) and the four:year olds (who came three mornings a week). The kindergarten met every day in the living room. In fall, the kitchen was used by everybody making applesauce from apples harvested in Fergie's orchard…
What made everything so special was the location on Hard Bargain Farm. The school's program (with the help of Dr. James Hymes, head of the University of Maryland's Early Childhood Department at the time) included all the usual block playing, painting, and story time. However, it had more to offer. Seasons were not an abstract theme—in autumn the children found walnuts with their pungent smell and yellow stains the Native Americans had used; in winter they slid on ice in the pasture across the road; and in spring they found tadpoles and watched the herring swim up Accokeek creek to lay their eggs. They learned where their food came from; watched Mr. Xander (Hank's father) milk the cow; watched the pigs grow fat; followed Paul Burton around as he plowed, planted and harvested the corn; and then they played hide and seek in the dry corn field. Evelyn Biles, later a Hard Bargain naturalist, was one of the kindergarten teachers.