February 2009        

In This Issue

WHAT'S HAPPENING?  NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE: Environmental Education at AFF TRASH FREE BY 2013!
Trash Free Potomac River Watershed Initiative
NATURE CONNECTIONS FARM STORIES HARD BARGAIN FARM THE ARTS AT HARD BARGAIN FARM OUR BOARD MEMBERS AND STAFF

 

The Alice Ferguson Foundation was established in 1954 as a non:profit 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."

Please support environmental education in our beautiful region by becoming a member of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, and enjoy the many special events and benefits year 'round. Details

 

 

Calendar of Events

 

Board of Directors
  • Bryan Logan, President
  • Michael Herman, Vice President
  • Nan Kargahi, Secretary
  • Harold Phelps, Treasurer
  • Judy Allen:Leventhal, Director
  • David Bookbinder, Director
  • Peggy DeStefanis, Director
  • Nancy Gasparovic, Director
  • Steve Kim, Director
  • Marion Mulholland, Director
  • Shirley Nicolai, Director
  • Betsy Reid, Director
  • Nancy Weiman, Director
Executive Director
  • Tracy Bowen
Staff
  • Chelsea Borchini, Naturalist
  • Libby Campbell, Deputy Director
  • Sara Campbell, Naturalist
  • Lane Elson, Farm Associate
  • Katrina Fauss, Bridging the Watershed Educator
  • Becca Fordham, Bridging the Watershed Educator
  • Laura A. Gillespie, Bridging the Watershed Admin. Assistant & Webmaster
  • Ginny Harris, Trash Coordinator
  • Benita Jenkins, Director of Development
  • Deanna Lutz, Office Manager
  • Tawna Mertz, Consultant, TKM Marketing, Inc.
  • Karen Jensen Miles, Program Director
  • Alison Mize, Director of Policy
  • Helen Nelson, Accountant
  • Chris Ordiway, Naturalist
  • Carol Park, Database Specialist
  • Ryan Pleune, HBF Outreach Coordinator
  • Sharon Rabie, Naturalist
  • Rhonda Scott, Naturalist/Bridging the Watershed Program Assistant
  • Doris Sharp, Publications Specialist, Arts Coordinator, Naturalist
  • Will Sheppard, Bridging the Watershed Educator
  • Jodie Abbott Standish, Web Designer
  • Bill Townsend, Naturalist
  • Jeanne Troy, Bridging the Watershed Program Director
  • Anna Wadhams, Bridging the Watershed Educator
  • Eileen Watts, Farm Manager; Program Director of Agricultural Education and Animal Husbandry; Naturalist
  • Penny Weaver, Development Associate
  • Becky Williams, Naturalist
  • Brenda Wright, Naturalist
  • David Yarmchuk, Naturalist

 

 

 

 

An Easy Way to Make Donations!

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!
Wareham Lodge.  Photo by Libby Campbell Welcome to the New Year at the Alice Ferguson Foundation! We are starting off cold but happy, keeping our students warm and engaged with our winter outdoor programs. In this quieter season we are reflecting and catching our breath before our busy spring season. You will see in this issue what we have been doing lately; and we cordially invite you to become a member of AFF to show your support and commitment to our work in creating a better world for all of us, one kid at a time.

TRASH FREE BY 2013!
Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

Potomac River Watershed Cleanup.  Photo by Bill Townsend

Calling All Volunteers! We Need you. Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative
by AFF Trash Team

Celebrating 21 Years of Good Clean Fun

  • This year is the 21st Potomac River Watershed Cleanup and there's no better time to get involved in some good clean fun! Over the past twenty years we have removed more than 3 million pounds of trash and we're still going strong. This year's Cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, April 4, 2009 : so mark your calendar! For more information and to register online to host a cleanup site visit www.PotomacCleanup.org or call 301:292:5665. Information for volunteers will be posted in early March. We hope you and your family will join the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) in giving back to our Potomac River Watershed. Sponsorship opportunities are also available for the Cleanup.
  • In conjunction with the 21st Cleanup, the second Litter Enforcement Week is scheduled for March 28 : April 4. Regional law enforcement officers will be actively enforcing litter and illegal dumping laws during this week.
Three easy ways you can help us get to the root of the trash problem
  1. The volunteer:based Trash Survey Program is being launched this spring and if you can spare an hour of time, we welcome you as a volunteer. Gathering the data is a huge part of getting to the root cause and composition of trash and litter in our region. Plastic bags were the number one item found in the AFF pilot survey. The District of Columbia Department of the Environment conducted a survey of trash in the Anacostia basin in DC and found plastic bags the most:littered item on land and in water. Single:beverage containers and food wrappers were the second most:littered item in both surveys.
  2. Mark Smallwood, Green Mission Specialist at Whole Foods and a recipient of the AFF Potomac Champion Award, is chairing the Trash Free Facilities Committee. Dedicated volunteers are serving on the committee to help design our Trash Free Facilities Program. If your business, school, agency or organization is interested in becoming a trash:free facility, please call the Foundation at 202:518:7415 (Alison Mize).
  3. The Potomac River Watershed Trash Treaty has been signed by over 100 local, state and Federal elected officials. We have developed a Trash Free Potomac Watershed Citizens Pledge for our volunteers, partners, and any interested watershed citizen to sign. It is available on our website now. Be one of the first to sign!
If you are interested in volunteering for these programs or volunteering in any other capacity, call our office at 202:518:7415.

Trailmapping to reach a Trash Free Potomac by 2013 Kayaking on the Potomac River
The AFF trash team and regional environmental leaders are developing a "Trailmap," which is a strategic plan to reach our shared goal of a Trash Free Potomac by 2013. Members of the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative Advisory Council gathered in a beautiful conference room overlooking the Potomac River; and it was this view of the meandering Potomac that inspired us to work creatively towards achieving our goal. Look for updates on the Trailmap in the coming months.

Anacostia listed as impaired for trash under the Clean Water Act
The development of the total maximum daily load (TMDL) of trash permitted in the Anacostia River is well underway. Prince George's and Montgomery counties; the District of Columbia; the Anacostia Watershed Society; Alice Ferguson Foundation; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region III; the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG); the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRCD); and the Montgomery County Stormwater Partners are developing the plan. The jurisdictions are concluding the baseline survey of trash and the results will be available by February 2009. For more information on the Anacostia TMDL, visit our website and look for Jon Capacasa's presentation at the 3rd Annual Potomac River Watershed Trash Summit at The World Bank in DC.

Trash written into the Montgomery County stormwater permit
Of other note is the inclusion of trash in the draft Montgomery County stormwater permit (MS4). The District of Columbia is willing to include trash and trash eradication in their next stormwater permit. Prince George's County along with the other counties in the Potomac River watershed now have a great model to follow for including trash in their MS4 permits as well.

 

Talented Leadership of Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative
We could not be prouder of the skill, commitment, and drive of the 2008:2009 Advisory Council to the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative. On November 19, 2008 our high level participants attended the first meeting of the year in the private conference room of Congressman Steny Hoyer (D:MD). The Council members were welcomed by the Chair of the Council, Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D:MD). He and his staff have been strong supporters of the initiative since its inception three year ago.


Executive Director Tracy Bowen
with Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

The meeting showcased the achievements made by the Initiative in the last year. Some milestones worthy to mention are efforts made in regulation. Montgomery County drafted and will soon pass a Storm Water Permit (MS4) including verbiage from the Trash Treaty by reference and will implement regional strategies to reduce trash and increase recycling. This sets a standard for other jurisdictions to add trash issues into their permits when they come up for review. Another great achievement discussed at the meeting was the progress on our Public Education Campaign called PROACT (Potomac River Outreach Awareness Campaign for Trash).

After the meeting, attendees toured the "waste to compost" facility in the Longworth Cafeteria on the Hill. This tour was facilitated by Daniel Beard, Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives. (He spoke at the 3rd Annual Trash Summit at The World Bank about the Speaker of the House requesting him to "green" the Capitol.) A huge part of "greening" is managing waste and the Longworth Cafeteria now composts and recycles everything! All organic food waste is "chipped" into fluffy compostable material. We were able to see the chipper in action and were very impressed. It made all of us Trash Babes and Hunks weep with joy seeing a truly trash:free facility in existence. The House side of the Capitol is a model for the region and the nation to follow!

The Members of the Advisory Council are:

  • Chair: Honorable Chris Van Hollen, U.S. House of Representatives, Maryland
  • Holly Bamford, Program Manager, Marine Debris, Office of Response and Restoration, NOAA National Ocean Service
  • Robert Boone, Board Chair, Anacostia Watershed Society
  • David Byrd, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Government Operations/Environmental Services, Prince George's County, Maryland
  • Jon Capacasa, Director, Water Protection Division, EPA Region III
  • Carla Diggs Smith, Community Campaign Liaison, CareFirst BlueCross Blueshield
  • Paul Fiore, Governmental Affairs Manager, Tire Industry Association
  • Stuart Freudberg, Director, Department of Environmental Programs, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments
  • Honorable David Gray, Vice President, Frederick County Council
  • Honorable Penny Gross, Supervisor, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
  • Allen Hance, Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Trust
  • Joseph Hoffman, Executive Director, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
  • Linda Howard, Executive Director, Summit Fund of Washington
  • Honorable Steny Hoyer, Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Honorable Isiah Leggett, County Executive, Montgomery County
  • Jerry Johnson, General Manager, Washington DC Water and Sewer Authority
  • Honorable Michael Lenett, Senator, Maryland State Senate
  • Bryan Logan, President, Board of Directors, Alice Ferguson Foundation
  • Honorable Timothy Lovain, Councilmember, City of Alexandria Council
  • Honorable Thomas V. Miller, President, Maryland State Senate
  • Honorable James Moran, U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia
  • Joel Oxley, General Manager, WGMS/WFED/WTOP/Washington Post Radio
  • Jerry Phillips, Public Affairs Broadcaster, Federal News Radio 1500 and NBC:4 Reporters Notebook
  • Honorable Patricia Ticer, Senator, Virginia State Senate

 

AFF Answered Call to Service
Rep. Hoyer and Senator Cardin. Photo by Bill Townsend
Rep. Steny Hoyer and
Senator Benjamin Cardin
high five in Anacostia Park

Cleanup.  Photo by Helena Continho, Sunnyday Studio, VA
January 2009 Potomac Cleanup

Planting trees.  Photo by Bill Townsend
Planting of 44 trees in Anacostia Park

By Ginny Harris, Potomac River Watershed Cleanup Coordinator

This year's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was dedicated to the renewal of America's spirit of service so our staff did not take a holiday on Monday, January 19, as usual. For this special day of service we scheduled a cleanup! Through the Presidential Inaugural Committee website www.usaservice.org we enlisted the help of many volunteers. We braved the cold and set out to do our favorite activities : picking up trash and educating kids!

The cleanup took place at Hard Bargain Farm, where over sixty people showed up and removed 103 bags of trash (close to 2,575 pounds) from the icy cold Potomac River shoreline. "We had very happy and energetic volunteers despite the cold conditions" said Brenda Wright, the coordinator of this event. Hot chocolate was served along with homemade cookies. At the end of the cleanup, a 5:year old boy said "I never knew that it would be so much fun picking up trash!" We couldn't have said it better!

A second group of AFF staffers attended the Renewal of Anacostia Park project in DC's Anacostia Park. Educational booths were set up, trash was removed and forty:four trees were planted in honor of the 44th President. With the possibility of President Obama showing up, hundreds of people attended the event, again, regardless of the cold weather. Sadly, the crowd did not get to see President Obama, but were entertained by Congressman Steny Hoyer, Senator Benjamin Cardin, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Mayor Adrian Fenty. It was a very successful day for Anacostia Park.

AFF Cleanup Volunteers.  Photo by Helena Continho, Sunnyday Studio, VA
January 2009 HBF Potomac Cleanup Volunteers

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NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE: Environmental Education at the Alice Ferguson Foundation

BRIDGING THE WATERSHED
(Not) Talkin'Trash
By Jeannie Troy, Bridging the Watershed Director

Taking water temperature thru the ice

High school students never fail to surprise us. This means the Bridging the Watershed program is a constant surprise, as we work nearly every day in national parks with high school students and their teachers.

In fact, I have been surprised time and again when we do the "Talkin'Trash" field study. Students get very excited about collecting litter and frequently turn the activity into a competition. We occasionally have to redirect students who are trying to steal trash from each other's bags, or taking it out of trash cans in the park.

Beyond the service provided by students, Talkin'Trash is meant to be an educational unit in a class curriculum. The classroom activities and field work meet a variety of state and local learning standards in science, math and other subjects, such as carrying out a scientific investigation or investigating the interdependence of diverse living organisms and their interactions with the components of the biosphere. Yet, it seems that the benefits go beyond the cognitive and academic value. A Fairfax County teacher recently warmed my chilly day with the following comments:

"My students really got into the trash activity. Several of them are using water bottles from home now instead of buying disposable ones every day. We set up a recycling collection for bottles and cans in our room, too. Our school doesn't recycle but at least my students are collecting them so I can take them home for recycling. The class dynamics changed after the field trip, too. They are much more of a team working together after picking up the trash. Their new cooperative attitude was an unexpected benefit from the activity."

This is the very essence of the Bridging the Watershed program's existence: to excite students to learn; to help students learn; to spark something in a few of those students to develop a passion for the natural world (or at least to push their comfort zone a little bit); and to make a change in their lives. This teacher demonstrates, too, the importance of a committed and well:trained teacher: she is working within the confines of her school's policies to help the students change their behavior to benefit the environment.

It's always affirming to hear from our participants that the program is reaching its goals. We certainly hope that the same thing is true, even when we do not hear back from the students and teachers involved. To help us rest more assured of this, starting this year BTW will be undertaking programmatic evaluations, which will provide us feedback on our progress reaching our goals. We'll keep you posted!

 

HARD BARGAIN FARM ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER

HBF featured in NSTA Reports
Hard Bargain Farm's Schoolyards as Classrooms Project was featured in NSTA Reports, a National Science Teachers Association newspaper.
View the full article.

 


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NATURE CONNECTIONS

Is a Fish Just a Fish?
By Libby Campbell, Deputy Director

Mummichog
(Fundulus heteroclitus)

Mummichog

  • Usually 7:10 cm
  • Color variable, males have flecks of blue and silver
  • Upward opening mouth
    (surface feeders)
  • Rounded tail
"Mummichog" is an Indian word meaning "going in crowds". They are seen swimming in large schools in shallow muddy areas at the edges of marshes.

From HBF Field Guide

I had an interesting encounter on an early morning walk along the boardwalk last fall. Two researchers from Louisiana State University were trying to catch mummichogs with fish traps along the "T" of the boardwalk. Dr. Andrew Whitehead, the lead researcher, has been studying Fundulus heteroclitus, which we call mummichogs. This species seems to be a very adaptable, able to thrive in both fresh and brackish water. He has been studying them up and down the coast for years, and says that our population is unique in that it is genetically more similar to Fundulus in Maine than those that live less than twenty miles from here. He said a possible reason for this is that after the last ice age, 10,000 years ago, the northern variety retreated back north as the ice melted, but this pocket of fish somehow was left behind and preserved while other strains developed into the southern types of mummichogs. A second theory he has relates to our close proximity to the halocline, the boundary between fresh and salty or brackish water which exists just ten miles downstream on the river.

For more information about Dr. Whitehead's research please visit his web site at http://www.biology.lsu.edu/faculty_listings/fac_pages/awhitehead.shtml


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FARM STORIES

Farm Report
By Eileen Watts, Farm Manager

Cowboy.  Photo by Libby Campbell
HBF's barnyard icon, Cowboy
Our hay production in 2008 was very good, thanks to the weather (so much better than '07) and the timely cutting, curing, and baling. Every bale went from the field to storage in only two days. A farmer's dream! We finished the year with 4300 bales. I used to say we needed about 2000 bales for our own animals each year, but this winter may be different! We expect to see dramatic savings in hay consumption as a result of starting a controlled grazing program using electric fencing. Some of our fields, which were cut earlier for hay, now have a heavy growth of fescue. After a frost or two this grass is very palatable to cattle, but deer and geese were the ones to enjoy it before now. Sections of these fields are being fenced electrically to allow the cattle access to small portions at a time. They "clean their plates" quite well before the fence and cattle are moved to a new adjacent area. This system allows for longer and more efficient grazing, not only in the usual pastures, but in areas where they have never been able to graze before. Each day that they are grazing is saving us ten to twelve bales of hay @ $4.00. We hope to feed the cattle this way well into January, before giving in to total hay feeding. In years past our goal was to not have to feed hay until around Thanksgiving. So far, we are doing well and are just learning the full potential of this system!

Last month, approximately fifty:eight tons of lime were spread on hay and pasture fields that showed a need for pH adjustment according to soil test results. Most forages preferred by animals require a soil pH of 6 : 6.5, just slightly acid. In this locale, lime is needed about every three years to buffer the effects of acid rain fall.

For sale:
Fresh broilers, $3.50/lb.
Hay, $4.00/bale

Call Eileen at 301:659:1666 or the office at 301:292:5665.

For the first time in recent memory AFF had a large steer slaughtered which was packaged as grass:fed beef. Three quarters were sold before the meat was brought back to the Farm, the remaining quarter is here frozen, being sold by the piece. The feedback has been super. As a matter of fact, Jerry TePaske, who transported the animal, was paid in T:bone steaks. We hope to sell more in '09. Beef raised in a sustainable manner, on a diet of grass only, without growth stimulants, and not transported long distances to a feedlot is a product worth having. My grandparents would ask, "Is that a new thing?" In this case, the old way is proving to be a very good way, for the animal and the consumer.

On December 22, our barnyard icon, Cowboy, died. He was everybody's friend, checked your pockets for goodies, would stand up on two legs to get an apple slice out of your hand, and pushed his way into the center of every crowd. He was definitely smarter than the average goat. Cowboy was twelve years old, a good life for a big goat.

Jersey bull calves. Photo by Rebecca Fordham

The barnyard is the new home for two Jersey bull calves that are about two and half months old. The last calf we bottle fed was a big hit with the children and these are becoming the same. These two were purchased by a friend to be in a live nativity scene. We intercepted when it was time to return them to market, where life for the cuties looked grim.


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HARD BARGAIN FARM

Potomac River Habitat Study Complex Update

Last fall, the Design Team and the Building Committee began the arduous, but exciting, task of design development for AFF's Potomac River Habitat Study Complex. There are three main components of this project:a boardwalk around the emergent wetland that will be a highlight of our environmental education school visits to Hard Bargain Farm; a new day:use building that will also be used for special events; and a lodge and two sleeping cabins that will house overnight groups and classrooms.

Design Development is the phase in project planning where a "concept" turns into something more concrete. What once were walls, floors and roofs without construction materials specified, now becomes a "reality" (at least on paper). For example, the roof might now become a standing seam metal roof or the wall might consist of Hardie planks or rough sawn hemlock board and batten. At the end of the design development phase, a comprehensive cost estimate can be prepared, which will incorporate the expected actual elements of space, operating systems and materials, and a timely competitive market price estimate.

AFF is in the process of filing a Special Exception to our zoning. The Maryland:National Capital Park and Planning Commission is expected to take 12 to 18 months to process, notify the community, and possible hold a hearing, after which the Planning Commission and/or County Council will approve or disapprove the Special Exception.


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THE ARTS AT HARD BARGAIN FARM

"Theater in the Woods" : The Hard Bargain Players 2009 Season

The 2009 season has been announced so mark your calendars!

Show number one:
The Good Doctor, by Neil Simon, directed by Melissa Gilpin
Opens May 8, 2009 and closes May 23, 2009

Show number two:
Jesus Hopped the 'A'Train, by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by David M. Thomas
Opens August 7, 2009 and closes August 22, 2009

Show number three:
Translations, by Brian Friel, directed by Missy Bell
Opens October 2, 2009 and closes October 17, 2009

The Hard Bargain Players have decided to lower the price of admission for the upcoming season from $12 to $10 for adults, and from $10 to $8 for students, seniors and AFF members. In this time of economic crisis, wouldn't it be a treat for something to actually go down in cost? In hopes of maintaining our current patrons—and maybe increase the audiences—the Players felt that this was the way to go.


 
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OUR BOARD MEMBERS AND STAFF

A Family Gone Green
by Chris Ordiway, Naturalist

Dora.  Photo by Chris Ordiway

I don't know exactly when it happened but I think we've become the ‘greenest'family I know. The green:mania may have been initiated by me but it quickly rubbed off on the whole family, especially my daughter Dora.

Case in point number one: resistance is futile. My mom isn't very green so on a recent visit Dora harassed her a little until she agreed to participate in two of the activities we regularly do with kids on the Farm. We thought we'd teach her right and set her straight on the path to being a Green:Grandma. Halfway through the first activity "Who Polluted the Potomac?" Mom declared that we should be doing this activity with everyone. (I began to wonder if Mom knows what I do!) I'm pretty sure what she meant was to do the activity with everyone else who never comes to the farm. I'd be happy to teach corporate America the error of their eco:ways but I'm not sure they'll listen to me. But at least Dora and I made a difference with Mom, it may take time for her to make changes but I'm sure it will happen.

The other activity, the Trash Timeline, hit her hard and fast. Dora and I have been trying to get Mom to recycle but talking about it wasn't making any progress. After doing the activity she was genuinely surprised at how long trash, her trash, was going to be buried in a landfill. Mom was making lunch for us all so I decided to poke through her trash (one of my favorite things to do with kids on the Farm) to see what our lunch was costing the planet. Once I removed the recyclable items her trash can was empty! Without a word Dora stuffed everything into a canvas tote and brought it home for recycling. Hopefully, keeping the planet a livable place for her grandkids will keep Mom on the right path, as it should all of us.

Case in point number two: older does not always mean wiser. Before our son was born in October we attended a baby shower at my wife's work place. The manager of the store let the employees put on a little party with food, drinks, gifts—the whole works. After finishing a drink Dora asked the boss where the recycling bin was. Her response was "just toss it in there", meaning the trash can. Taken aback by the unexpected reply Dora said quietly, "I'll just take it home." We adults all had a good laugh at (and luckily with) the boss at being snubbed by an eleven:year old kid about doing what's right. Better yet is that Dora couldn't leave well enough alone. Not only did she round up a bag to put the recyclables in but she convinced the boss (the manager of a multi:million dollar store) to help her root through the trash to remove cans. What a kid!

Someday we'll have our own little farm with solar and wind power, perhaps geothermal and enough rain water collection for landscaping and toilets. Probably hybrid vehicles and even an electric tractor may be in our future. We'll try to live light on the land, compost all we can and even grow some of our own food if possible. But until that day comes I'm secure in the knowledge that my family is going greener by the year and that no matter what I accomplish in my future the world will be a brighter, cleaner place in the hands of my children and grandchildren.

 

Meet AFF's New Staff

Chelsea Borchini
Chelsea Borchini
Chelsea Borchini graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a B.A. in Anthropology. She then spent three years working on various archaeology projects in the Washington, D.C., area, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. It is through her most recent project involving surveys at Piscataway National Park that she was introduced to the Hard Bargain Farm. Since joining our staff, Chelsea says one of the things she enjoys most about her job is interacting with the kids and the unexpected things they say. Chelsea was recently married and she and her husband are avid skateboarders. In fact, Chelsea helped build the Green Skate Lab in Washington, D.C., a skate park built by friends with recycled materials and donations. When she's not skating Chelsea also enjoys playing the guitar and making ceramics.

Sara Campbell.
Sara Campbell
Sara Campbell has a long history with Hard Bargain Farm. Her family moved to the neighborhood when she was in first grade and she remembers coming to the Farm for many Oktoberfests, Farm Festivals and sledding in winter. She visited Hard Bargain with her class as a fifth:grader and she experienced the Farm like many of us who work here have not.  Sara attended Towson University and set out to study biology. Her degree has enabled her to travel all over the world to study birds. When she learned about a job opening at the Farm, Sara was excited about working with kids in the outdoors. She especially likes watching the kids roll down the hill. On her days off Sara enjoys hiking. In the winter time she likes to travel to warmer locales.

Dave Yarmchuk.
Dave Yarmchuk
Dave Yarmchuk hails from Bloomfield, New Jersey. Before becoming a naturalist at Hard Bargain Farm, Dave taught Biology, Physical Science and Environmental Science in Baltimore. Although he has a strong background in teaching and environmental education, Dave's most bizarre job was as a "Soda jerk". Dave graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Cook College at Rutgers University and taught High School Science for four years.

Dave decided to leave his full time teaching job to get a masters degree in education but since he was used to working eighty hours a week as a teacher he figured he would need some extra work on top of his full time administrators course work. He found a part time naturalist position at AFF through the MAEOE website and the thought of being a naturalist and working outdoors with kids was incredibly appealing to him. Even though he didn't know where Accokeek was on a map and he had to drive forty:five minutes to work, the moment he came around the bend at the top of the hill, he was hooked on Hard Bargain Farm. 

Dave says that the most interesting observation about his job since he came here is:

"Every time I talk to teachers about their trip to Hard Bargain Farm, they always tell me they got the "good naturalist" on their tour, and every time they're talking about a different person."

Ryan Pleune.
Ryan Pleune
Ryan Pleune came to us from Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was teaching biology and earth systems at a high school. He holds a B.A. in biology from Colorado College. He moved to this area with his wife who received a staff fellowship at Georgetown's Environmental Law Clinic. Ryan wanted to spend more time teaching outdoors so he searched through job postings at the MAEOE website. When he found out that AFF was hiring an outreach coordinator to help teachers use their schoolyards as a classroom he decided he would be a good candidate with his desires to work with kids outdoors, and that his background as a teacher and wilderness therapy instructor would be beneficial for doing professional development with teachers.

His most interesting observation is that cows can eat up to 100 lbs. of grass per day and might produce 65 lbs. of manure daily.

 

Farewell to Evelyn
Evelyn Biles.  Photo by Libby Campbell
Evelyn in December 2008

A dear friend, fan, and former employee, Evelyn Biles, passed away on January 18, 2009. As recently as December 19, 2008, Evelyn was here to celebrate the holiday season with our staff, something she did every year since retirement was forced upon her due to physical disabilities. This was also the traditional occasion to celebrate her late December birthday with song and candles.

Evelyn worked at Hard Bargain Farm for twenty:four years as a part:time naturalist (in those days we were all called park rangers). Her first choice was to work with the youngest students, the kindergarteners and pre:K's. Her always cheerful attitude spelled fun for everyone. She playfully called her favorite tractor, which pulled the wagon full of children, as "Dear John" instead of John Deere. When students came from Mt. Rainier Elementary School she faithfully wore her Mt. Rainier sweatshirt as that was her own earliest alma mater.

Prior to working with Hard Bargain's day trip program, Evelyn was a kindergarten teacher in the little cottage on Bryan Point Road, which was originally built by Alice Ferguson for her farm helpers.

Evelyn Biles.  Photo by August Selckmann
Evelyn on "Dear John" tractor
She taught there for four years, giving many local children their first exposure to school. This program ended when Prince George's County accepted the kindergarten year into its own system.

Evelyn loved working with young people. As a matter of fact, she didn't view it as work at all. All who knew Evelyn will miss her immensely.


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