August 2009        

In This Issue

Trash Free Potomac River Watershed Initiative


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
  • Michael Herman, President
  • Nancy Gasparovic, Vice President
  • Nan Kargahi, Secretary
  • Harold Phelps, Treasurer
  • Judith Allen–Leventhal, Director
  • Abraham Haspel, Director
  • Peggy DeStefanis, Director
  • Dan Jackson, Director
  • Steve Kim, Director
  • Linda Lampkin, Director
  • Marion Mulholland, Director
  • Shirley Nicolai, Director
  • Betsy Reid, Director
  • Nancy Weiman, Director
Executive Director
  • Tracy Bowen
  • 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 Free Potomac Watershed Initiative Coordinator
  • Deanna Lutz, Office Manager
  • Tawna Mertz, Consultant, TKM Marketing, Inc.
  • Karen Jensen Miles, Program Director
  • 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
  • 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!
View from Ferguson Farmhouse.  Photo by Libby Campbell

If you visited Hard Bargain Farm in August twenty years ago, you would have had the opportunity for a lot of "alone" time with the animals and an occasional glimpse of Eileen Watts and Hank Xander caring for them. Staff was all on vacation, and programs were suspended for the summer. How different it is this August. We are a veritable beehive of activity with all sorts of important projects in the works.

In this newsletter you can find stories on three B's: bees, berms and bartering. The bees are a new project of BTW educators Anna Wadhams and Becca Fordham. They attended beekeeping classes last winter, and now have put their knowledge into practice with hives in the orchard below the Farmhouse. Staff was treated to the first taste of the excellent honey.

The berms are the basis of the very exciting Living Shoreline restoration, which will be started this fall. AFF has been working on this project for years, with a great deal of effort by Karen Miles and others to oversee development of a master plan and the extensive permitting process. When the stimulus money was announced, because of all this hard work we were "shovel ready" and high on the list for the NOAA grant.

The bartering refers to the subtext of Eileen's farm report. Eileen has embodied the concepts of "green," conservation of resources and thrift way before these became the new economic reality. In her article you can see how she has formed friendships in the farming community, which result in exchange of knowledge and resources that do not involve transfers of cash, but rather of goodwill and the old–fashioned idea of neighbor helping neighbor.


Alice Ferguson Foundation Receives Grant for Shoreline Restoration

Piscataway Park Shoreline
Existing shoreline at Piscataway Park, showing
recent extensive under:cut erosion along
unprotected shoreline. Recent shoreline losses
have exceeded 10 feet per year and threaten
the existing shoreline/ wetland habitat, cultural
resources at the site, and continued use of the
site for educational and interpretive use.
The Alice Ferguson Foundation is receiving funding through American Recovery Reinvestment Act (Stimulus) funds to implement a $1.05M shoreline restoration project in Piscataway Park, Prince George's County, Maryland. This project is one of fifty selected from over 800 applications received by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Restoration Center (NOAA). Piscataway Park is a National Park located along the confluence of the Potomac River and Piscataway Creek. There are unique national–significance–level cultural resources issues associated with this site (Accokeek Creek Site has been designated as a National Historic Landmark).

This pristine stretch of the river is eroding rapidly and is at risk for complete loss. Once–wide shoreline beaches that provided rich breeding grounds for crabs and fish, as well as shoreline wave protection for the unique cultural resources and burial grounds on the site are at risk.

Rock and sand will be placed to create segmented breakwaters and sills that dampen wave energy. The sand and plants will recreate the tidal marsh. The project shoreline extends from Mockley Point at Piscataway Creek to the north, down the Potomac River to the entrance of an unnamed tidal creek, a length of about 2,800 feet. Continued erosion of this site threatens irreplaceable archeological resources on site, and threatens the natural resources of the area, which is known for its pristine habitat and outstanding commercial and recreational fishery.

Aerial view of Piscataway Park shoreline
Aerial imagery of Mockley Point Piscataway
Park shoreline area outlining historical
shoreline area losses from 1862 to present
(source: Maryland Geological Survey).

The project site has unique requirements in regards to conducting shoreline restoration and stabilization activities. While there are numerous methods that could harden the shoreline and limit erosion and land loss, many of those are neither "bay friendly" in terms of providing habitat, nor visually appealing (a significant requirement of this site since it is in the viewshed of Mount Vernon). Additionally, protecting the cultural resources at the site also dramatically limits the amount of shoreline excavation that would be permitted at the site, but aquatic resources (specifically submerged aquatic vegetation) in the near–shore area posed resource conflicts and design challenges as well.

The project partners include the Alice Ferguson Foundation, the National Capital Parks–East of the National Park Service, and NOAA. Funding for the design phase of the project was provided through a partnership between the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, and NOAA. The site lies within visible range of the nation's capital, can serve as a model example of innovative solutions to a number of shoreline erosion/development/protection issues, and can serve as a model partnership of agencies and entities jointly solving a problem and protecting our nation's heritage and habitat concurrently.


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

B–WET National Conference
By Libby Campbell, Deputy Director

I have just spent two and a half days at a most interesting conference at the NOAA complex in Silver Spring, Maryland. AFF has been the recipient of several grants from NOAA over the last few years, and this conference was the first national gathering of B–WET grantees. B–WET stands for Bay Watershed Education and Training, and these grants have supported teacher institutes, classroom outreach and our Schoolyards and Classrooms Project (SCP) at AFF.

It was really great to meet grantees from the Chesapeake region, where the program started, as well as from California, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, and the Gulf of Mexico. In presentations and poster sessions I learned that there are a lot of variations on MWEEs (Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences) and professional development for teachers, but we all face similar joys and challenges. Some of the grantees also did research and restoration projects with kids and communities.

Habitat Hike

Children's Garden

Our own Tammy Shupard was asked to talk about our evaluation plans and strategies, and her presentation was very well received by this audience of nearly 100 people. One afternoon was devoted to field trips to see EE in action, and AFF was asked to host a group at Hard Bargain Farm. A group of thirty came by bus, the biggest group to any of the field sites. Eileen Watts, Chris Ordiway and Sara Campbell led groups on a condensed version of the Habitat Hike plus a hay ride and a stop at the children's garden, where Eileen talked about sustainable land use and the compost/no compost demonstration plots. AFF staff enjoyed this outing as much as the participants. My favorite question was from a member of the Hawaiian contingent who asked if that big–leaved plant growing in the swamp was Taro. We really knew that most of them were not from this area when they asked to see poison ivy. It is always such fun to share our ecosystems with knowledgeable educators from very different environments.

A wonderful bonus at the conference was a morning devoted to short talks by NOAA scientists on eight different topics. From the four I was able to attend, I learned that HAB's (Harmful Algal Blooms) in addition to causing eutrophication, anoxia and fish death (as we teach to our students) can also be the source of algae–produced toxins. In fact these toxins are the leading cause of marine mammal strandings and deaths. Then I learned that the NOAA non–point pollution department has a project in many parts of the country, including the Chesapeake Bay, that uses mussels to detect levels of pollutants such as heavy metals, pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (from car exhaust and other fossil fuels), as well as excess nutrients. The third session on climate change was by far the scariest. There is irrefutable evidence of not only global warming, but also that the very sharp increase is linked with an over 90% degree of confidence to man–made carbon dioxide, which can stay in the upper atmosphere for over 100 years after it is emitted from our cars or furnaces. Lastly I learned that the NOAA Marine Debris division has created a recycling program for abandoned fishing gear, mostly nets, and partners with a company called Canova to chop up the nets and use them for energy. Fishermen pull up these "ghost" nets that foul their gear on every trip, and the energy created by recycling thirty–eight tons of nets can supply all energy needs to forty–five homes in the Gulf for a year.

An unexpected surprise was a water feature in a small park outside the NOAA education building. Instead of a fountain, there was a wave machine. You can sit on the edge of the pool, close your eyes and feel the "ocean spray" on your face as you listen to the surf. Quite a treat in downtown Silver Spring.


Bridging the Watershed Institutes
By Rhonda Scott

Bridging the Watershed Institute Bridging the Watershed hosted four teacher/ranger institutes during the last three weeks of June training a total of sixty–eight participants. The institutes provided participants the opportunity to familiarize themselves with BTW curricula at up to four parks in the region prior to conducting field studies with their students during the fall.

We hosted the first institute in the western/northern end of the watershed region, half at C&O Canal National Historical Park–Cumberland and half at Rocky Gap State Park. Six Maryland Park Service rangers took part in the training and will be able to host field studies at their park in the fall.

As a follow up activity to the institutes, teachers and rangers are engaging in discussions in a special BTW group on the National Park Teachers 'Ning'forum started by NPS just before the institutes. This will allow teachers to stay connected now that they are back in their homes and classrooms. One Prince George's County teacher's comments on the impact of the institute:

"I am still talking about the training with other teachers and getting them interested in signing up for next summer's institute. I found myself talking to a complete stranger about why they shouldn't throw their cigarette butts on the just came right out, and before I knew it another person was educated on the Potomac Watershed."


Summer Teacher Institutes at Hard Bargain Farm
By Karen Miles
Canoeing on Piscataway Bay
Water Testing

The Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center was once again the site of two vibrant Environmental Science teacher institutes this June and July.

Through funding from NOAA's B–Wet program, Chesapeake Bay Trust, Prince George's County Public Schools, and National Science Foundation grants, twenty–nine teachers were trained during the two–week sessions. At the end of each institute, the AFF staff members convened to "defrag" the course to see how it can be improved. All of those involved agreed that this summer's institutes were the best yet!

Here are some teachers'comments taken at the teacher institute post–survey: The most helpful aspect of the Institute was…

…making me learn new things that would help me teach my students better.
…learning more about the watershed and getting a clearer picture on what it is and how it works.
…the staff and instructors at Hard Bargain Farm. They are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and inspirational!

Things I learned or experienced that were "unanticipated":

…Waste water treatment. Never knew that such existed.
…The desire to change.
…How much I contribute to trash, pollution and recycling.


A Typical Visit of an Elementary School at Hard Bargain Farm
By Brenda Wright

Last spring, North Chevy Chase Elementary School 4th grade students enjoyed a day at Hard Bargain Farm. We received many comments from the students and teachers, which reflect their experiences at the Farm:

The students loved hanging out with the sheep and the goats, especially the three goat kids.

Our guide led the students on a great walk throughout the wetlands. She took the time to show students the early signs of spring (skunk cabbage–stinky!), let us watch birds and a snake, and explained how the water and the land are constantly changing. Her appreciation for nature was obvious. The parents commented that they were learning so much as well.

A field trip where mud boots come as suggested attire? That's a good start to a great day.

––Ott Jason, Teacher

On our walk through the wetlands, my group got to pick up the parts of a skeleton and try to use evidence to determine what animal the skeleton came from. Some of the answers were hilarious. We then narrowed down the options after looking at its teeth which were flat suggesting an herbivore. We also looked at some bits of fur to finally recognize it as a young deer skeleton that probably died of starvation in the winter due to the overpopulation of deer in the area. Our guide was very good at letting the kids discover the answers to his questions on their own. At another stop during our wetlands walk we stopped at a giant rotting log which we tore apart to find many interesting bugs, newts and salamanders which everyone had the opportunity to hold in their hands. At this point we reinforced information learned this year in science about decomposers and natures way of naturally recycling. All in all a very cool experience.

––Chad Mack, Teacher

My favorite part was watching the baby goat find its mother. It looked cute when running.

Learned that chickens lay one egg a day.

–– Victor Mardon, student

My favorite part was when we went inside the chicken coop because I found an egg.

Pigs do not smell that bad.

––Sarah Lorber, student

I liked to pet the goats because they were very soft.

––Chris Houlihan, student

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Round bales of hay Farm Report
By Eileen Watts, Farm Manager

All hay cutting for the first round is finally done. Big thanks go to Jerry TePaske for cutting, then round–baling about twenty acres. He produced fifty–one large bales. Some for us and some for him was the deal. We have square–baled the remaining fifty acres for a total of 1,600 bales. This includes about eight acres of oat hay which was more mature than desired, but the result still appeals to the animals. That's what is important.

Three "beeves" went to a USDA certified slaughter house on July 23. Half of the meat has been purchased prior but the other half is still for sale. We are looking for buyers of hamburger, some other cuts, even an entire quarter which could be shared with friends or relatives. Please contact the Foundation if you are interested. The meat should be available after August 10–shrink wrapped and frozen.

The Foundation bought a new young Red Angus cow and her heifer calf. The breed is reputed as having good weight gain on a diet of just grass, but basically they are Angus with a recessive gene for red fur. We liked their looks and also needed the new stock. The cow is already bred to a Red Angus bull so she could possibly give us another red heifer.

A stray banty rooster and hen couple recently found their way to our barnyard. They got the attention of all that live here at first, but now they fit in nicely. They can fly into and out of any pen, so they do all the snitching they can at feeding time. She lays nice little eggs that are an adventure to find and he just actually chased a large groundhog out of the barnyard. I guess they are calling this home now!

My home incubator hatched eleven turkey eggs after 29 to 30–day incubation at 99.5 degrees F. Six have survived to seven weeks of age and will soon be out in a "chicken" tractor. Four of the poults are Bourbon Reds and two are Black Spanish. Both are heritage breeds.


Hard Bargain Farm Welcomes Pollinators
By Becca Fordham

Hard Bargain Farm's BeesWe are excited to announce the addition of two hives of honeybees in the apple orchard at Hard Bargain Farm. In the midst of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) small–scale beekeeping is more important than ever before. These two hives contain over 50,000 bees each, which can pollinate flowers up to five miles away. While a single bee visits over 1000 flowers a day in search of nectar, each hive takes over 4 million foraging trips in order to make an average of 100 lbs of honey per hive. It's no wonder that bees are incredibly valuable pollinators, as many of our favorite fruits and vegetables (such as grapes, cucumbers, squash, and strawberries) are dependent on bees for pollination. These pollinators not only benefit the plants at Hard Bargain Farm, they also produce absolutely delicious, light–colored, fragrant honey. We plan to have two strong hives through the winter. In the spring, we hope to make splits so that we will have four happy hives at Hard Bargain Farm next honey season. July or August 2010 will be our first honey harvest, and we plan to have jars of honey available for purchase at Oktoberfest.

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Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

Nine, Wine and Whiskey
By Ginny Harris

Ginny Harris
Ginny Harris cutting
the 10th Anniversary Cake.
The Alice Ferguson Foundation was thrilled to be the honored non–profit of the first Nine, Wine and Whiskey fundraiser held at Potomac Ridge Golf Course. The Brick Companies, the philanthropic foundation of the Potomac Ridge Golf Course, hosted the benefit with a live band, offering wine from around the world and several choices of whiskey. There was also a delicious buffet of h'orsdeuvres. Sadly, the Nine part of the evening had to be canceled due to heavy thunderstorms and rains. However, those in attendance were in good company with an excellent band from Annapolis and courteous Potomac Ridge Staff. (This event was also the start of the Potomac Ridge 10–year Anniversary–– another reason to celebrate.)

A huge thank you to the Brick Companies and the staff at Potomac Ridge Golf Course! We can't wait to party again with you next year.


Trash Free Potomac Watershed Intitiative





Join us for the 4th Annual
Potomac Watershed Trash Summit

October 28, 2009
House of Sweden
2900 K Street, NW
Washington, DC

Registration is now open!

Breakfast/sign–in starts at 8am, wrap–up ends at 4:30pm.

For more information visit our website: or contact Ginny Harris, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative Manager at [email protected] or by phone at 301–292–5665

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The Randy Barrett Trio "Concert in the Woods"
By Doris Sharp

On Saturday, July 11, we had our second "Concert in the Woods" at the amphitheater. The Randy Barrett Trio was performing a great mix of bluegrass, country and swing. Randy is a formidable songwriter and singer and has won five Washington Area Music Awards. He has appeared at the Kennedy Center, The Birchmere, The Washington Folk Festival and the Library of Congress, among other venues.

The weather played along beautifully–another great night of music under the stars!

Upcoming Shows: August 23, Sunday, 7 p.m. – Jazz and Blues with Mac Walter, Steve Wolf and Barbara Martin September 12, Sat., 8 p.m. – Traditional and contemporary folk music with Grace Griffith and Lynn Hollyfield


Hard Bargain Kids Theater Workshop
By Doris Sharp

Kids Theater Workshop participants
front l–r: Gabby Sullivan, Emma Hollyfield, Mimi Kim
middle l–r: Grace Kim, Sam Kelly, Charlie Donohue
back l–r: Mikeala Peters, Thomas Donohue, Keely Hollyfield

This annual summer theater workshop for children has been sponsored by the Foundation for decades. It is designed to introduce newcomers to the world of theater and to challenge young veterans to manage theatrical concepts and production techniques. The workshop culminates in a final production.

This year's show, performed on July 24 and 25, consisted of original scenes created by the students and monologues from various plays and musicals including The Importance of Being Earnest, Gypsy, You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, The Wizard of Oz, The Fantasticks, and Anne of Green Gables.

The kids did a splendid job and they had a great time. It is wonderful to watch how the veterans evolve over the years and how the newcomers enjoyed themselves. The instructor was Suzanne Donohue, who has taught this workshop since 2001.

The next show of the Hard Bargain Players is Jesus hopped the 'A'Train by Stephen Adley Guirgis, directed by David M. Thomas. Performances are August, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.


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