Faith In Our Watershed Month – May 2016

May 13th, 2016

Faith In Our Watershed, photo by Bill TownsendTim Murphy, Coordinator, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, Alice Ferguson Foundation

As I watch the drops of rain fall at the farm today, I am reminded that every molecule of water on the earth has always been here. It exists in our waterways, has seeped into the earth, resurfaced for our needs, and evaporated into the air, only to return again as rain. Refilling my 52 oz water jug from the tap supplied by our well, I start to wonder about all the places these molecules of water might have been.

The 2nd Annual Faith in our Watershed Month is a program sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation. We are encouraging faith communities to consider where our water comes from and the gift it is to all the people of the earth. 2/3 of our body weight is water, making the presence of water the primary factor of human viability. The essential message is that how we treat our water will have a long-term impact on our survival. The actions we are calling for are:

  1. Inspiring your faith community through messages during worship or organized educational activities. We at the Alice Ferguson Foundation are ready as a resource for any programming you want to do.
  2. Take Action by cleaning up the trash in your area. Cleanup activities are listed year round on our Trash Network: trashnetwork.fergusonfoundation.org. You can even organize your own cleanup and list it on the network as well. We can take you through every step. Our Adopt A Litter Can program involves taking ownership of a litter can that we provide, to put in a place that is often littered. This program is getting popular, and proving to be an exceptional solution.
  3. Raise Awareness by posting our litter campaign materials. We can provide you with free promotional materials that are proven to reduce littering.

For more information on Faith in our Watershed Month, contact us: [email protected]

Mallows Bay Cleanup Volunteers Remove 4.84 Tons of Trash

May 13th, 2016

Mallows Bay Cleanup, Photo by Adirenne FarfallaThe 28th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup was April 16, 2016. AFF supported hundreds of cleanups all over the region from DC, MD, VA, to WV. Among the cleanup sites was Mallows Bay. Mallows Bay has recently passed the nomination process to become a National Marine Sanctuary and will be entering the next phase of designation involving a highly participatory and transparent public review process. 

Over 150 people volunteered at the cleanup, removing a total of 4.84 tons of trash!

Representing AFF were staff members Karen Jensen Miles, Adrienne Farfalla and Board of Directors Member Liz Theobalds. The site leader at Mallows Bay was Sammy Orlando from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Also in attendance was Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson, Tom Roland. Chief of Parks & Grounds, Don Shomette, author of Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay, Susan Langley, Chief Underwater Archaeologist for the State of Maryland, Mary Groves with MD DNR Smallwood State park, Nick Kuttner with the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Charlie Stek, Chair of the Mallows Bay- Potomac River Community group, Dave Howe and the team from Institute of Maritime History, Judy Lathrop’s Atlantic Kayak Company, and the Nanjemoy Fire and Rescue team. These volunteers freely engaged the cleanup participants in wonderful stories about the sunken vessels and ecological treasures in the bay.

Tim Emhoff from Nanjemoy Creek and Adrienne Farfalla from the Alice Ferguson Foundation lead education programs with fourth grade students from Gale-Bailey Elementary School after the cleanup on activities such as; Who Polluted the Potomac, and Trash Timeline.

Going Green is Good for Business!

April 29th, 2016

AFF award pic2Ten years ago, the Alice Ferguson Foundation began the design process for a 4,200 sq. ft. carbon neutral, net-zero energy, net-zero water education building. Yesterday, this state-of-the-art “green” education building was listed as one of Washington Business Journal’s Top 25 Best Real Estate Deals for 2015. The only nonprofit in attendance, we were recognized in the cadre of 24 other projects in the Washington D.C. metro area.

Our day-use education building is on track to meet strict certification requirements for the Living Building Challenge. Currently, only eight Living Building projects in the world are certified. To be fully certified, living buildings must prove that they are net-zero energy and water, and carbon neutral by operating for a full year and documenting those results…and we are on track.

farmWhen this project began there were no certified Living Buildings in existence, which meant we were entering unchartered territory. We overcame many hurdles and challenges to make the building a reality. The entire process took ten years—we finished construction last October and the final product was worth the wait!

The “Grass” educational building, as it is nicknamed for its plant-like ability to absorb the energy of the sun, is located at the edge of a south-facing field. Its roof spreads out like wings to capture the sun’s energy and a network of 20 geothermal wells, located in the grassy field in front of the building, help ensure we use this power most efficiently. These wells, along with solar panels on the roof, provide all of the renewable energy needed to power the building.

Living Buildings are designed to function like species in an ecosystem and mimic the beauty, resourcefulness and efficiency of nature. They are designed to regenerate—not deplete— their surroundings.

The building works in harmony with nature, aligning with the Challenge’s seven performance categories, which include:

  • Restoring a healthy local ecosystem
  • Sourcing all its water from rainfall
  • Harvesting all its energy from renewable sources
  • Choosing non-toxic materials
  • Supporting a just, equitable world
  • Maximizing physical and psychological health of guests
  • Celebrating beauty, inspiring transformative change through design

Once certified, AFF will join an elite group of leaders dedicated to the newest in sustainable technologies and educating the next generation of environmental stewards. We are honored to have been featured in Washington Business Journal’s list, and invite you to learn more about this innovative project.

Flora, Fauna, and…Fire

February 5th, 2016

By Karen Jensen Miles

Breezeway Fireplace with concretre stainedWhen students and other visitors visit Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, they are immediately struck by a sense that they are in the midst of something special. First, the land itself is a widely varied mix of habitats, each of which has its own beauty as evidenced by the senses that are awakened—lichens on the trees, the raucous chatter of the red-headed woodpecker, or the aroma of the many habitat components.

To add to this aura, the Grass Building has an outdoor fireplace and a wood-burning stove in the large common room. The fireplace is strategically placed in the breezeway, which is the main entrance to the building. The north end of the breezeway frames a real-life painting of treetops and distant fields that is enchanting. The breeze caresses one’s body as it accelerates through the passageway. Some of the gray-brown stones that face the fireplace have moss and lichens growing on them and the many shapes are pleasing to the eye. There are two large openings that face the firebox itself. These store firewood that is procured at the Farm from fallen trees and split into long triangles of differing sizes. When the openings are full of the wood, they are interesting to look at as well. White and red oak; red maple; beech; tulip poplar; and sycamore all have characteristic colors and textures that cause one to reflect on their beauty. There is a raised hearth where persons wanting to feel the radiant heat from the flames may sit.

Visitors that come to the farm frequently gather ‘round a roaring fire to hear ghost stories such as the one about the ‘goat man’ that wanders at night (great fun for grade schoolers) and roast marshmallows and hotdogs on sticks over the fire. These experiences promote a sense of inclusivity, contentment, and the creation of lifelong memories for so many who have never had an experience like this and may never have again. We frequently hear tales of adults who, as children, came to the farm and one of the highlights was the campfire.

The ceramic wood-burning stove in the common room evokes a sense of warmth even when there isn’t a fire set in it. All year long, people remark about how nice it would be to feel the heat radiating from it. There is something primeval about man’s fascination with flames and how they can mesmerize and allow persons close by to dream and meditate. These things are not measurable and there are no rubrics, but they are very real.

Neither the fireplace nor the woodstove will be used to heat unless there is a prolonged power outage, but the value they add to this project and the experience for all who visit is undeniable.

Top 5 Reasons to Support AFF

December 30th, 2015

Grass Day-Use Building, Potomac Watershed Study Center1.  Constructed One of the Greenest Education Buildings in the World
Net zero energy, carbon neutral ‘Living Building’ Opened in October
Learn more

 

Dip netting2Provided Experiential Environmental Education to more than 7,000 Students in our Bridging the Watershed and Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center programs
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BTW students picking up dip net3.  Celebrated our 60th Year in Operation, having served approximately 500,000 Students in our environmental education programs
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2015 contest finalist rc conservancy cleanup canoe crew jai julie4. Mobilized More Than 20,000 Volunteers in the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup
Learn more

 

 

 

Critter-investigation-Web5.  85% of Your Donation directly supports our environmental education programs
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Thank you for helping us reach our year end campaign goal …and everything you do to support AFF!

Volunteers Sweep Up the Shoreline at Oxon Cove Park

December 7th, 2015

Cleanup Chronicles, December 6, 2015

Another successful cleanup was held on Sunday, December 6th, at Oxon Cove Park. Twenty five volunteers enjoyed the sunshine and came out to help on this fall Sunday.

It was an adventure every step of the way. We all met in the parking lot, to be escorted to the shoreline by a tractor wagon. It was a scenic, slightly bumpy ride through endless fields and bare fall trees. The shoreline of the Potomac River offered a unique view of Alexandria, Virginia and the District of Columbia cityscapes. Together, we removed 23 bags of trash from the watershed, including a large plastic crate and an old, broken fishing pole. I was inspired by the words of fellow volunteers when I asked what they were finding. “We are finding a lot of Styrofoam. I am never buying Styrofoam again!” said Khara, volunteering with her daughter who is a high school student in Virginia.

“There are so many food wrappers; we should really be considering biodegradable options… You can learn a lot about people from the trash,” said Erik, a volunteer with Campfire Scouts. Erik said, “This is a great activity for kids because it is so simple, and it gets them outside.”

A group of Bowie State students were strongly represented. “It was something we could do together as a group.”

Ranger Stephanie Marrone was our cleanup leader. Marrone is very knowledgeable about the history of the park and is a wonderful steward of the land.

Thank you for volunteering! A cleanup saves animals, improves water quality and beautifies the park. I highly encourage everyone to participate in a trash cleanup; it is an eye opening experience.

Join us for the next Shoreline Sweep Up on January 3rd, 2016. Contact Hannah at [email protected] or by phone at 202.417.3524 with questions or to volunteer.

If you would like to learn more about Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm, please check out this article from the National Parks Magazine!

Embracing the Living Building Challenge

November 19th, 2015

By Karen Jensen Miles

Sponsored by the United States Green Building Council, Greenbuild is the world’s largest conferenceLiving Building and expo dedicated to green building. The green building community gathers annually to share ideals and mutual passion. The conference features uplifting speakers, unparalled networking opportunities, showcases, LEED workshops and tours of green buildings in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Greenbuild offers a place for thousands to gather and renew their commitment to the green movement.

This year, Greenbuild is hosted by the National Capital Region chapter. The Alice Ferguson Foundation is honored to have been chosen as the site for two of the carefully vetted tours. On Monday, November 16th, we were the last stop on a day long tour entitled ‘River Ride Along the Watershed’, where attendees visited our new education campus that contains the region’s first ‘Living Building’. Attendees learned how this site embraces the principles of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), while also continuing their day of education about the perils threatening, and opportunities arising, for the area’s watershed. The presenters discussed the foundation’s mission and history and why it was important for our organization to embrace the LBC; an introduction to the LBC; and an overview of the building and the site’s water systems that included existing site conditions, project priorities, supply water, waste water and stormwater. Attendees also participated in an interactive, educational lesson called ‘Who Polluted the Potomac?’ that highlights the types of activities that all of us do that impacts our natural waterways. They also walked the site to see the ‘flow’ of water on the site.

On Friday, November 20th, a technical tour comprised of about 50 attendees and ten presenters will arrive at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center to learn about the Living Building Challenge (LBC) in the context of our project. There will be information about AFF as a whole; the project description and development to include: design process, charrette, construction process; rainwater and the site; water and energy; materials used; and LBC lessons learned. Our LBC project is being monitored carefully by the ‘green’ world of architects, engineers, planners, contractors and governmental agencies. We are very excited to be under the microscope since our experiences will aid others as they determine the various routes and responsibilities they want to undertake in the future.

A New Chapter: Back to the Future!

October 23rd, 2015

For fans of the movie Back to the Future II, October 21, 2015 is a notable date. When the film was released in 1989, that date seemed light years away. Interestingly enough, many of its predictions proved remarkably accurate. For fans of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, October 23, 2015, marks the last day of our 60th year of operation. Throughout the past six decades, our guiding principles of Education, Inspiration and Innovation have also proved to be remarkably on point.

In many ways we feel like we’ve gone ‘Back to the Future’ as we unveil our new education building. Some of the key components of the facility, like nutrient recycling toilets, are a modern day twist on an age-old concept. Other components, like harvesting energy from the sun’s power, seemed fantastical just a few decades ago.

Today, as we cut the ribbon on our new education building we look forward to serving thousands of students annually from around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area who will be able to enjoy and learn using one of the world’s greenest, most energy efficient buildings. To date, only seven buildings worldwide have been certified through this rigorous regimen, which also requires strict adherence to use of non-toxic materials in building construction as well as the net zero energy, net zero water and carbon neutral requirements of the Living Building Challenge™.

Leaders from around the region joined us for this important milestone including U.S. Senator Ben Cardin who said “Not long ago, carbon-neutral buildings made completely of non-toxic materials that use net zero energy and water were the stuff of science fiction, but today are a reality. Visionary projects like these will help show us the way out of the climate change crisis we are continuing to create for ourselves. I couldn’t be happier to have this monument to sustainability in Maryland or to know that thousands of students will have the chance to learn vital lessons here in the future.”

Our goal is for students to have an inspiring place to learn in these buildings that serve as powerful and innovative teaching tools. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III also joined us for the ceremony and remarked, “With today’s ribbon cutting of this unique state-of-the-art environmental learning center, the Alice Ferguson Foundation and Prince George’s County will be demonstrating to the world the newest in sustainable technologies and simultaneously educating the next generation of incredible environmental stewards.”

Nobody knows exactly what the future holds, not even Back to the Future’s main character, Marty McFly. What we do know is that the future will be brighter and more promising as a result of the Foundation’s investment in the Living Building Challenge which is certain to change the face of construction for generations to come.

Barnyard Update: Animals and Students Benefit from One Another

October 22nd, 2015
Berkshire-piglets

Berkshire Piglets

Back-to-school time on the farm is exciting for staff and animals alike, as we enjoy the return of visiting children. The entertainment value goes both ways between students and animals. This fall we have a new dairy calf to show off, born in August; two young Berkshire pigs, born in June; and a batch of broiler chicks; which arrived in September. All will quickly learn that young children are very interesting and friendly animals, themselves. Read more

Our goats, sheep, dairy cow, donkey, cat, geese, and chickens already know that children bring hand-outs as well, even if it is a back scratch. The dairy calf and young pigs will eventually get names that kids have suggested. The Angus beef herd is up to sixteen, which includes a bull, six cows, and young of varying ages. The rotational-grazing program, a practice we whole-heartedly endorse, started 6 or 7 years ago.

Annie-calf 2015

Annie and her Calf

When asked what crops we raise, the answer is, “grass.” The farm harvests its own hay for winter feeding of all the animals, and the pastures provide grazing for the rest of the year. It is the sole diet of all our ruminants!

The farm staff grew this summer by hiring Justin Beaven, a young agriculture graduate from the University of Maryland. Justin is very much at home driving a tractor, using and maintaining a wide variety of farm equipment, and handling beef cattle. He grew up helping his dad on his family’s farm in St. Mary’s County, where they raise cattle, and grow corn, soybeans, wheat/straw, and hay. Welcome, Justin.

Volunteer for Fall Cleanup at Chapman State Park, November 7

October 22nd, 2015

AFF is pleased to have formed a partnership with Volunteer Maryland, an AmeriCorpsChapman State Park program. We now have a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator on staff to help establish a more robust volunteer program throughout the Foundation.

Hannah Seligmann served as an intern earlier this year, helping to organize the Potomac River Watershed Annual Cleanup. She will be setting up area cleanups and helping to organize other volunteer opportunities around Hard Bargain Farm, as well.

The first of her efforts includes a cleanup at Chapman State Park on November 7, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Stay for the whole time or come out for an hour, every effort helps! Student service learning hours will be awarded.

For questions, contact Hannah at [email protected] or 301.292.5665 x216