Hard Bargain Farm is Teeming with Excitement This Fall

September 8th, 2015

Back-to-school time on the farm is exciting for staff and animals alike, as we look forward to the return of visiting children. Some interesting developments on the Farm include a new dairy calf to show off, born in August. Late summer saw the addition of two young Berkshire pigs, born in June. A batch of broiler chicks will arrive on September 8. These animals will quickly learn that young children are very interesting and friendly animals themselves. 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 be named based upon names the kids have suggested. The Angus beef herd is now at sixteen, which includes a bull, six cows, and young of differing ages. The rotational-grazing program, a practice we whole-heartedly endorse, started six or seven years ago.

  Berkshire PigletsAnnie and her calf

Creating The Ultimate Environmental Education Classroom

September 7th, 2015

As students return to their classrooms this fall, the Alice Ferguson Foundation is readying its own new state-of-the-art environmental education campus, unlike any other in the world! When we made the commitment to the Living Building Challenge© nearly a decade ago, we had no idea what the journey would hold. Today, we stand ready to share the first phase of that journey with students from throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

This week, students will begin learning not only how to use a net-zero energy and water building, but also what it takes to construct it in a carbon neutral way with non-toxic materials. As they explore the first of our two-building environmental education campus, they will learn of the building’s role in the campus ecosystem.

Code named ‘Grass,’ for its location in a sunny field, this first building’s ‘job’ in the educational campus ecosystem is to gather solar energy to power the building. Combined with geothermal wells along with walls and a roof designed to be a three-fold energy efficiency improvement over the average building, this first part of the Potomac Watershed Study Center (PWSC) represents a light year leap ahead of the current best practices in construction.

Complementing the Grass building are two sleeping cabins along with a special boardwalk/nature trail through an emergent wetland on the Foundation’s 330-acre working farm that serves as the backdrop for our environmental education endeavors. Welcoming students to these new facilities this fall is a fitting capstone to the celebration of our 60th year of operation. We will be officially cutting the ribbon on the new facility in early October. Soon thereafter, we look forward to beginning Phase Two of the project, which will include replacement of our current overnight lodge that has served students for nearly half a century.

Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center is Bustling with Activity

July 16th, 2015

You don’t have to have lived in the Washington metropolitan area very long to know what an Teacher Instituteanomaly a day like today is. Temps are in the low 80’s, there’s a little breeze, humidity is undetectable—and it’s July! The Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center is bustling with activity, hosting the Summer Teacher Institute for Maryland educators and also a group of participants from the District Department of the Environment, Green Zone Environmental Program (GZEP).

For two weeks in July, teachers from Prince George’s County Public Schools convene at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center to participate in an environmental science teacher institute. Today was the fourth of ten very full days soaking up ways of conveying environmental concepts in a hands-on/minds-on way to their students. Each day of the 10-day Institute provides elementary and middle school teachers experiential and collaborative learning, real world applications, ready-to-use activities, and issue investigation strategies. The Institute’s activities and concepts are correlated to Next Generation Science Standards.

GZEP introduces District of Columbia youth, age 14 to 24, to the green industry, exposing them to numerous exciting careers through workshops and hands-on training in the environment. The program participants develop basic skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. GZEP youth workers undertake projects that have immeasurable sustainability impact in the District. At AFF, some of the youth’s field-based training included assisting in demonstrating first-hand how trash ends up in our water systems. They were placed into groups and challenged to draw pictures of pollution and how trash and chemicals pollute our water. The information learned will be put to use as they work on city beautification projects, invasive plant removal, and other projects in the District.

Hard Bargain Farm is Home to 16 Eastern Bluebird Houses

July 14th, 2015

The Alice Ferguson Foundation headquarters is pleased to be the home of 16 new Eastern Bluebird houses.Blue bird house The houses were built and installed courtesy of Curtis Gentry and family. The houses’ construction pays close attention to the needs of the bluebirds, that were on the verge of extinction just a few decades ago. The green roofs, thick walls, and cross ventilation openings all serve to regulate temperature, providing natural cooling in warmer months. Stovepipe guards on the posts keep out predators, such as racoons and snakes; entry holes sized specifically for the bluebird eliminate more aggressive bird species; sloped roofs, drainage holes and recessed floors keep the birds dry and comfortable. Eastern Bluebirds eat insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and caterpillars so they are welcomed to make Hard Bargain Farm their home.

AFF Hosts Annual Garden Party & Wine Tasting

July 2nd, 2015

Alice Ferguson Foundation hosted its Annual Garden Party and Wine Tasting evegarden-party-eve-croppednt on June 19th. This event was sponsored in partnership with the Prince George’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Among the more than 100 attendees were leadership from the Prince George’s County EDC, two MD cabinet secretaries, two heads of local jurisdictional Departments of the Environment, the Chair of the County Council, and many esteemed members of the local community, businesses, and nonprofits. Guests mingled on the hilltop for an evening of delicious food, drinks, and live music. It was our pleasure to feature some of Prince George’s County’s finest businesses as we offered specialty chocolates generously provided by SPAGnVOLA, as well as a variety of wines from Romano Vineyard and Winery, in addition to a selection of artisanal wines created by AFF Board President Dan Jackson.

The Foundation’s Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center offered the perfect setting and served as a compelling reminder of AFF’s mission to connect people to the natural world by providing environmental education experiences to the students of Prince George’s County and the Washington, DC metropolitan region. We invite you to learn more about the Foundation’s events and news and join our community of members and to support our efforts.

Our guiding principles of education, inspiration and innovation were front and center throughout the evening, particularly with opportunities to tour the nearly completed first phase of our upgraded education buildings. Our Potomac Watershed Study Center (PWSC), one of just a handful of building sites in the world that fully embrace the Living Building Challenge ©, will serve as a valuable teaching tool and resource for business leaders, community members, students and teachers alike. We invite you to learn more about this ground breaking project and to become involved.

Summer Sunday Shoreline Sweep-Up Scheduled at Oxon Hill Farm

May 26th, 2015

Sunday Shoreline Sweep UpHey Oxon Hill residents! Looking for a fun Sunday activity where  you can enjoy the weather, get some exercise AND make a visible difference in the community? Come join us and our friend Ranger Steph from the National Park Service for the Oxon Cove Shoreline Sweep-Up. They take place the first Sunday of every month from 1:00 PM – 3:30 PM. All ages welcome! More information can be found at http://www.nps.gov/oxhi.

Litter Prevention Campaign – Call for Models!

May 26th, 2015

Additional images and examples can be found at TrashFreePotomac.org.In 2008, the Alice Ferguson Foundation embarked on a Regional Litter Prevention Campaign to raise awareness and understanding of litter, change attitudes and perceptions, and persuade people to stop littering. This effort has made a real and lasting impact on our area; the number of people littering after campaign materials were posted declined by 45% and the number of people putting refuse in a trash cans rose 77%. But we still have a lot of work to do.

Trash and litter breed filth and bacteria. It attracts rats, mosquitoes and other animals that carry diseases.

To take the campaign forward, we are updating our materials. We would like to produce new images that show the people who are put at risk from litter’s impact on our communities’ health and safety: you and your family.  We would love for you to get involved!

We are looking for local, non-professional “models”:

Culturally diverse children ages 2 to 6
A woman (age 65 – 80) who is reflective of a grandmother.

A stipend of $100 will be paid to each model. The final product will be similar to the ad shown to the right.

If you are interested in participating, please email or call Kara Pennino, 585.748.7098 by June 5, 2015.

By taking care of trash, you are helping to take care of your family. Be a part of this important initiative!

April 11 Little Hunting Creek Cleanup at McGeorge Terrace

May 11th, 2015

by Scott Cameron – Environment Chair for the Riverside Estates Civic Association

Little Hunting Creek Cleanup at McGeorge TerraceWe had beautiful weather and an impressive haul:  122 bags of trash.  More than fifty people volunteered to help clean the creek and woods, and we enjoyed creek access with at least five volunteer boats. The trash included plastic bottles, Styrofoam, tires, paint cans, a hard hat, aluminum beverage cans, metal foil food wrappers, and glass bottles.  A surprisingly large (and heavy) stack of construction material, comprised of wood, plastic, and rusty metal was ‘harvested’ along with a considerable amount of plastic drop sheet/tarpaulin.  Other trophies included an impressively large plastic sandbox cover, a 4 x 4 foot wooden shipping/storage pallet, and a five-gallon plastic water-cooler reservoir.

Then, on Sunday evening, Judy Joyce invited her church youth group from Aldersgate to come and help pick up trash at Riverside Park on the George Washington Parkway, and walked over to the stone bridge, where Little Hunting Creek enters the Potomac.  It was the mother lode of all trash.  In an hour, they picked up over 16 bags of trash.  The kids were all teenagers, students at either Mount Vernon or West Potomac and they really did enjoy it.  They all said they would do it again, even before next year’s clean up.  Judy served them dinner afterwards, so it was a great outing for the kids, enjoyed by all.

The enthusiasm, cooperation, dedication, neighborliness, civic spirit, courtesy, and good humor of our volunteers was great.  Thank you everyone for your contributions to our community and natural environment.  Special thanks to Allen Davis, Tom Fahy, Mort Isler, Tom Meyers, Barry Spangler, Judy Joyce, Rex Reiley and Greg Benitez for allowing your houses to be volunteer staging areas and trash collection points.

Potomac River Watershed Cleanup at Riley’s Lock

April 21st, 2015

By Hannah Seligman, Intern, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

The Potomac River offers fun, healthy, and educational adventures, and each April the Alice Ferguson Foundation partners with hundreds of local community groups to clean up the watershed during our annual Potomac Cleanup. As part of our cleanup events this year, I participated in the Riley’s Lock Cleanup on the C&O Canal. Kay Fulcomer, a longtime river activist, has led a cleanup here for eight consecutive years. Calleva Outdoors Education provided canoes, life jackets, and paddles for volunteers, and AFF provided gloves and large, heavy duty bags for trash and recycling.

reillys lock 2We launched our canoes from the Seneca Landing boat ramp around 10am and spread across Seneca Creek, the mouth of the Potomac River, and downriver to Violettes Lock. After about three hours on the water we collected 17 full bags of trash, 12 full bags of recyclables (the bulk being plastic or glass beverage bottles), one mini refrigerator, one fifty-five gallon barrel, fishing hooks and lures, one tire, one steel lunch tray, sports balls and lots of Styrofoam. The C&O Canal National Historic Park kindly assists us in disposal of all trash. Jim Heins of the C&O Canal Association – also a leader of several cleanup sites – personally sorts through the recycling bags to ensure that they will be approved at the recycling facility.

Crawling along the banks of the river, reaching to pick up trash, brought me a huge surge of inspiration and joy. Despite the thick bugs I knew I would swallow if I opened my mouth, I could not convince my muscles otherwise. I was smiling and motivated from the feeling of community. I’ve been an intern with the AFF since March, and my goal for this internship is to connect as many people as possible to their local watershed and to promote a sense of belonging to encourage community rapport. Ultimately, I would like to see cleanups be closely affiliated with ecology education to further engage youth.

Reilly lock 1Every action on land will affect the river, and it’s time to awaken our awareness to consumption patterns. The banks along the waterways constantly collect debris. Natural strainers in the water, such as tree matter and broken branches, also accumulate trash floating in the river. Trash is deadly to wildlife and increases toxins to be filtered out of our drinking water. Here are some ways to be part of the solution: Take control; take care of your trash. Do not litter and report any illegal dumping to your county or other jurisdiction. Make sure your trash and recycling receptacles have a secure lid and are not overflowing when you put them on the street for pickup. Volunteer at a community cleanup! “The Potomac River naturally brings good people together,” said Cleanup leader Fulcomer, and The Riley’s Lock Cleanup was a successful community event. Volunteers included community residents, Potomac River Keeper Dean Naujoks, the Canoe Cruisers Association, the Monocacy Canoe Club, Blue Ridge Voyageurs, Seneca Creek Watershed Partners, the Muddy Branch Alliance, Calleva Outdoors, and Montgomery Parks. Thank you to everyone who came out to make a difference and beautify our local waterways! It’s never too late to get involved. Our ultimate goal is a Trash Free Potomac. Contact [email protected] or 301-292-5665 to learn more and find out about upcoming events.

Stewards of our Watershed

April 8th, 2015
peace creek

Peace Creek with the remnants of a shopping cart and bike on the opposite shore.

By Tim Murphy, Potomac River Watershed Cleanup Coordinator

At Peace Lutheran Church in Waldorf, Maryland, we have had a long standing and robust Social Concerns Ministry.  Under the direction of Pastor Craig Endicott, we are further exploring the issue of social justice, particularly what keeps a person as a social concern and what it is we can do to address it.

I am the Cleanup Coordinator for The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup and a member this church. As a part of the Foundation’s Trash Initiative, we explore how trash makes an area unsafe and unhealthy, and how trash can be a gateway to greater social concerns. As part of the Foundation’s newly-launched Faith in our Watershed Initiative, we seek to inspire faith communities around three points:

    • To be stewards of the environment
    • To take action with a cleanup, by adopting a litter can, or with other activities
    • To raise awareness within the broader community using free materials such as posters and yard signs

As the annual Cleanup and goals of Faith in our Watershed meshed well with our social justice focus, it made sense for Peace Lutheran to host a cleanup site this year in the creek that flows behind the church. As stewards of our environment and shepherds of our community, we look forward to participating in this project. Our little cleanup may not have a large impact on the greater watershed, but it raises awareness of a problem that exists in our midst and motivates us to work for a change.

This year’s cleanup is on April 11, but sites are hosting events throughout the month. It is easy to locate a site to volunteer, either for the annual Cleanup or for events held year round.  All of our registered events are found on our Trash Network website.