June 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!
Spring flowers bloom at the Ferguson Farmhouse.  Photo by Doris Sharp Fun happenings at AFF this spring! Lots of visitors, from Future Farmers to Spring Farm Festival merrymakers. Awards! Trash! Comic Strips!

Now in summer mode, AFF offers fun times for all—concerts and plays, Kid's Theater Workshop, the annual Pig Roast for members, and lots of teacher training. Read below and come join in the fun.


Future Farmers of America's Blue Wave Hits Hard Bargain Farm with a Splash!
By Deanna Lutz, Office Manager
The Blue Wave.  Photo by Ginny Harris
The Blue Wave.
Knee:deep in the river to pick up trash. Photo by Ginny Harris
Knee:deep in the river to pick up trash.
Rolling down the hill. Photo by Brenda Wright
Rolling down the hill.

More pictures are available on our web site.

For seven weeks this summer over 2,300 Future Farmers of America (FFA) members will travel to Washington, DC to attend the National FFA Organization's Washington Leadership Conference (WLC) where they strive to take their leadership skills to the highest level by learning to know their purpose, value people, take action and serve others. Each five:day conference inspires FFA members to make a positive impact in their school, local community, state and country. The culmination of each week's event is a civic engagement activity designed to take leadership and service learning to new standards.  

The Alice Ferguson Foundation was selected as recipient of the first week's service project and it was with a bit of nervousness that AFF staff planned for the busy morning with an expected 250 students, mentors and chaperones heading to Hard Bargain Farm. Never before had we directed such a large group of volunteers! The plan was to pull invasive plants, mulch the paths and pick up trash from along the Potomac River.

While the naturalists on staff are used to the green shock experienced by some of the younger students who attend our educational programs, there was nothing shocking or shy about the bright blue shirted FFA members! They arrived in seven buses, very well organized and ready to get to work.

An informal poll of the crowd revealed chapters from South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Texas, Louisiana, Montana, and Missouri—many of whom had never before visited Washington, DC and were glad to be out of the city and back in the ‘countryside' of Accokeek.

Throughout the morning's work there were plenty of opportunities for getting to know one another. The students were lively with questions about AFF and our educational programs, the Fergusons, the farm and those ‘pointy leaved trees' (American Holly) which they don't have ‘down home'.

Staff shared history of Alice and Henry Ferguson and the joy of working for the Foundation while the volunteers talked of their family, friends and hometowns. The question was often asked if they were planning on farming after high school. A couple of young ladies honestly admitted they only planned on marrying a farmer!

These delightful young adults were willing to do anything we asked them to and jumped in with both feet —literally—to get the job done! Those picking up trash along the Potomac River waded in up to their hips with one young man removing his wet jeans and finishing the morning in just his boxers (and bright blue t:shirt!) Those mulching along the chicken path admitted that they had hoped to shovel some manure while here and thus didn't hesitate when Eileen hinted that the manure spreader needed to be stocked. Of course, they happily pitched right in to get it loaded up.

But the morning wasn't all work and no play. A large number gathered at the top of the hill just outside the garden to enjoy the view of Mt. Vernon and to roll down the hill like raindrops.

We cannot end this report without a special thank you to Lowry Phelps, Superintendent of Recycling and Litter Control for Charles County, for providing the mulch; and to the AFF staff who planned and worked to make this a successful event. It was truly a special experience to work with these young leaders.

National FFA partners with the following organizations for the WLC service event: Living Classrooms of the National Capital region, the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Mid:Atlantic Gleaning Networks. In the past two years, WLC participants have dedicated over 23,000 hours of service to the Washington, DC area.

Back to Top


Alice Ferguson Foundation Garners Award of Excellence from National Garden Clubs Inc.

Deputy Director Libby Campbell accepted Award of Excellence from National Garden Clubs Inc. 
Deputy Director Libby Campbell
accepted the Award of Excellence
from National Garden Clubs Inc.  
AFF has been honored with the national "Award of Excellence" from National Garden Clubs Inc. (NGC), the largest volunteer organization of its type in the world. This award—the highest honor given by NGC—recognizes the Foundation's efforts to provide ongoing community education for the protection and conservation of local natural resources, farming, and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed.

The nomination was sponsored by the National Capital Area Garden Clubs Inc. The award was presented to our Deputy Director, Libby Campbell, at the National Garden Clubs annual convention on May 18, 2009, in Houston, Texas. The event was attended by over 700 members from across the continent.

National Garden Clubs Inc. is a not:for:profit organization that marks its 80th anniversary this year. With nearly 200,000 members and 6,300 member clubs across the U.S., Central and South America, NGC offers extensive educational programs and a variety of informative print, electronic publications, and resources to promote gardening and environmental responsibility. NGC is headquartered in St. Louis, adjacent to the world:famous Missouri Botanical Garden.

Presentation of the award.  Photo by Doris Sharp
Presentation of the award. From left
to right: Gretchen Heinze Hardman
of CFCC, Karen Miles of AFF,
and Kevin Wedding of CFCC.
AFF Receives $2000 Grant from the Community Foundation of Charles County
The Climbing the Environmental Education Ladder program is the Alice Ferguson Foundation's three:tier approach to environmental education. The Community Foundation of Charles County (CFCC) provided support for this program in the amount of $2000 this spring. State funding from the Maryland State Department of Education through the State Aided Institutions program for the Charles County's 700 fifth:grade students who come to Hard Bargain Farm for an overnight program has been cut by 40%. Fees for the one:day programs for approximately 500 Charles County students cover only one:third of the cost of providing these programs. This very welcome grant from CFCC will help make up the difference.

AFF was presented with the check at the awards dinner on May 15, 2009.

The big canvas.  Photo by Libby Campbell
The big canvas.
Spinning and carting wool.  Photo by Libby Campbell
Spinning and carting wool.
Plant sale.  Photo by Doris Sharp
Plant sale.
Dirty River.
Dirty River performing at
Spring Farm Festival.
Spring Farm Festival
On Saturday, May 2, 2009, Hard Bargain Farm hosted its 29th annual Spring Farm Festival. Despite the intermittent rain showers, we had over 400 visitors on the farm enjoying the many different activities, from milking the cow, churning butter to hay wagon rides to the river. Everybody who felt inclined had a chance to be creative and paint on an oversized canvas. Visitors could observe blacksmithing, wool spinning, and antique tool demonstrations. The Clearwater Nature Center showed birds of prey and children had the pleasure of touching aquatic critters in a tank.

Live music (bluegrass and country rock) was superbly performed by the bands Dirty River, Boys' Night Out, and Long Odds. What fun they were!

Fergie's Gardeners had a very successful plant sale. The proceeds will help support the maintenance and restoration of the formal garden at the farmhouse. We are very grateful to Denison Landscaping and Roozens Nursery for their generous donations. Landscape designer Betsy Reid offered garden advice and tours of Fergie's garden.

More than fifty volunteers helped to make it happen. We thank you all!


Back to Top

Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

Let's Talk Trash... Cleanup
By Ginny Harris, PRWC Coordinator
This year's 21st Potomac River Watershed Cleanup was another huge success. 12,419 volunteers came out and removed 273 tons of trash from over 473 Cleanup sites. It was estimated that our watershed was littered with 40,833 plastic bags along with 31,275 cigarette butts. These are very high numbers and should cause a shock reaction! 2,046 tires were removed—an increase of about 700 tires from last year. Our top three name brands always hold steady with Budweiser, 7:Eleven, and McDonald's.

Our 2009 Trash:A:Thon winner is Deborah Kutzleb. The Trash:A:Thon is a fund raising tool for our Anti:Litter Public Education Campaign. Donations to the Trash:A:Thon go towards the creation of commercials and media air time, billboards, and radio ads that educate the public about the effects of littering and illegal dumping.

Many excellent entries were submitted to the photo contest. The winner was Johnny Bivera from OurVisualPlanet with his photo taken at the Cleanup site Fletcher's Boathouse. It received 24% of the votes. Congratulations!

Photo Contest Winner.  Photo by Johnny Bivera, OurVisualPlanet
Potomac River Watershed Cleanup Photo Contest winning photo
of volunteers at Fletcher's Boathouse, taken by Johnny Bivera of OurVisualPlanet.

Tea at the Farmhouse
In appreciation of Deborah Kutzleb, our Trash:A:Thon winner, AFF invited Deborah and a guest to tea at the Farmhouse. Deborah and her co:worker Merriann took a (rather damp) tour of the formal garden guided by Board member Betsy Reid. They learned about the history of the Fergusons, walked the winding paths, and saw pictures of the garden in its original state. In the intimate setting in Alice and Henry Ferguson's living room tea, cookies and cucumber sandwiches were served. Everyone had a delightful time in the tradition of the Fergusons.

Tea time at the farmhouse.  Photo by Deborah Kutzleb
Tea Time at the Ferguson Farmhouse.
L:R: Chelsea Green, Betsy Reid, Brenda Wright, Deanna Lutz,
Merriann Lynch, Ginny Harris and Deborah Kutzleb

Back to Top

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

Mystery Comic Strip
By Jeanne Troy, Bridging the Watershed Director
The mystery of the disappearing macroinvertebrates is captivating middle and high school students across the watershed! Last summer, the Bridging the Watershed team developed a "film noir:style" comic strip to engage students in the Water Canaries module. The story follows Chazz Clubtail's investigation into the case of Water Penny's disappearance. The comic, a form popular with today's teens, introduces many of the critters that students will encounter on a BTW field study, and the issues that affect water quality in local streams and rivers.

Potomac Confidential comic strip
To see the full comic strip, please go to: fergusonfoundation.org/btw/teacher_resources/potomac_confidential_final.pdf.


Back to Top


For sale:
Fresh broilers, $3.50/lb.
Eggs $3.50/dozen.

Please call or come by! The office number is 301.292.5665, Eileen's cell 301.659.1666. Plenty of each is available.

Farm Report
By Eileen Watts, Farm Manager

In May lots of rain and unusually cool weather has kept us out of the hay fields and somewhat out of the garden too. Everything is definitely green but not very tall. The first opportunity to cut hay came on May 18. The hope is to cut each hay field once

Eileen bringing in hay.  Photo by Doris Sharp
Eileen bringing in hay.
and let the cattle graze the following growth on all fields throughout the fall and winter. This controlled grazing plan creates some extra work—putting up and taking down fences—but it saves work in the end when the cattle cut and utilize the grass themselves. Finally, no more hauling hay to cattle in the winter seems like an attainable goal! The herd is now twenty:two head with the birth of two more calves expected.

Eggs for sale.

Goose and turkey babies will soon be running around in the barnyard. The turkeys will be housed in a chicken tractor however. Nineteen turkey eggs are incubating (mechanically) at the moment. The goose eggs, being incubated by mom, should hatch very soon. She'll take care of and protect her own:a job she is well qualified for. The gander will help her out.

More broilers are growing up in our chicken tractor. Our layers are putting out to their fullest—we are getting plenty of eggs.

Back to Top


"Theater in the Woods" : A Secret No More
By David Thomas, Managing Artistic Director, Hard Bargain Players

The Good Doctor.
HB Players Michael Margelos and
Sean Frasier in the "Good Doctor."
The Hard Bargain Players of Accokeek, Maryland, have often been referred to as "the best kept secret in Southern Prince George County".  It is time to let the cat out of the bag and be a secret no longer! In fact, we want to shout, dance and spread the word that there on the grounds of the Alice Ferguson Foundation a vibrant theatre company exists. We invite you to become part of this group of live theatre enthusiasts. For more than a decade the Hard Bargain Players have been producing plays at a naturally occurring amphitheater in the woods of the Hard Bargain Farm. We believe we have now got it just right. We want you, our community, to be the final judge. 

When selecting plays, we do our best to produce those pieces which are "off the well beaten path".  We generally shy away from plays that community theatre companies produce season after season, unless our unique space allows us to bring something extra special to an often performed play. Several years ago, we produced John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. In our space, the fauna of the Hard Bargain woods became the cattails along the creek bed, the stage was a bunkhouse for migrant farm hands.  We choose plays with sparse sets that challenge our actors to make the playwright's words breathe and that leave our patrons talking about it long after the evening of theatre has passed. Every now and then we do a play intended to amuse.  On occasion we will do a play with adult situations or adult language. While it is never our intent to offend anyone, we find that some of today's most interesting playwrights (e.g.: David Mamet, Stephen Adly Guirgis) use language that is not acceptable to everyone.   In choosing a season we make sure to offer something acceptable to all. We believe we have met our goal for the 2009 season. 

In May we opened with Neil Simon's The Good Doctor. This is one of those plays that amuse and allow one to laugh at life's absurdities.  Director Melissa Gilpin brought together a production team that made the entire evening one where the troubles of the day were able to be cast aside. On August 7, we begin a three:week run of Jesus Hopped The 'A'Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis, a powerful drama set in the protective custody wing of Rikers Island, a prison in New York. Can what has been discarded ever be replaced? Is forgiveness or understanding allowed for those who go against well established social mores? This play does contain adult language and situations. We close our season with Brian Friels'Translations, one of the most beautiful love stories I've read in years. Love between a man and a woman is explored, but even more moving is the love for a heritage, love of a people, love of a way of life, love for one's language.  Set in 19th century Ireland, this play will touch the heart.

To give even further incentive to the public we are able to offer high quality live theatre for less than the cost of a movie. Adult tickets sell for only $10.00. Seniors (you decide), students and members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation are charged only $8.00 per ticket.  Light refreshments are served during intermission. Performances are outdoors so dress in your most comfortable jeans and T:shirt. If you think you might enjoy being a part of our company, we welcome you. For the rest of you, we ask that you give us a chance. See one or more of our shows.  Experience the magic of Theatre in the Woods at Hard Bargain Farm.  For more information, directions, pictures of past productions please visit our website at www.hbplayers.org. We are looking forward to meeting you.

Hard Bargain Kids Theater Workshop in July
For Ages 8 to 17
An annual event sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Hard Bargain Players, the summer theatre workshop is designed to introduce newcomers to the world of the theater and to challenge young veterans to manage advanced theatrical concepts and production techniques. The workshop culminates in a final production and promises to engage and entertain participants, as they work in the areas of stage management, acting, costuming, lighting, set design and construction.

The workshop starts July 20 and ends with a performance on July 25. The instructor is Suzanne Donohue, a theater veteran. She received her BA in Dramatic Arts from West Virginia Wesleyan College where she studied under the highly respected Children's Theatre playwright and activist John Urquhart. For more information call the Foundation at 301.292.5665 or visit www.hbplayers.org or www.fergusonfoundation.org.

Download the Application for Hard Bargain Kids Theater Workshop.


Rick Whitehead, Big Joe Maher and Stever Wolf.  Photo by Bob Christensen
Rick Whitehead, Big Joe Maher and Steve Wolf
perform at Hard Bargain Amphitheater.

First "Concert in the Woods"
Sunday, June 14, the first "Concert in the Woods" took place at the amphitheater. Performing were Steve Wolf, Big Joe Maher, and Rick Whitehead. Each of these award winning "first call" musicians is a well known band leader. Rick Whitehead, guitarist, is a former leader of perhaps the finest service band in the country, The Airmen of Note. He now leads one of DC's most exciting jazz combos. Big Joe Maher has toured and recorded internationally with his group The Dynaflows and is well respected for his soulful vocal renditions of American standards and classic blues, as well as his impeccable drum grooves. Steve Wolf, bass, has also toured internationally with many of the regions finest bands, and for the last eighteen years has led the popular Swing Speak quartet.

It was a great and exciting concert under the stars—a perfect night.

Upcoming Shows:

  • July 11, Saturday, 8 p.m. : Bluegrass with the Randy Barrett Trio
  • August 23, Sunday, 7 p.m. : Jazz and Blues with Mac Walter, Steve Wolf and Barbara Martin
  • September 12, Saturday, 8 p.m. : Traditional and contemporary folk music with Grace Griffith and Lynn Hollyfield

Back to Top


Former AFF President Elmer Biles Receives Volunteer Award

Elmer Biles receives volunteer award.
On Left: Jeanne Hitchcock, Maryland
Governor's Office of Community Initiatives.
Middle: Elmer S. Biles with MarylandState
Governor's Award. On Right: Israel Patoka,
Executive Director, Maryland Governor's
Office of Community Initiatives.
At an awards ceremony this spring in Annapolis Elmer (Bud) Biles received the Governor's Volunteer Service Award. His list of volunteering is a long one. He was especially honored for the tremendous amount of time and energy he put into recording the history of western Charles County, particularly the history of the property of Chapman State Park and historic Mount Aventine manor. When the large parcel of land that is home to Mount Aventine, a historic antebellum home built on the property in 1840, was under threat of development in the 1990s, Bud joined the Friends of Mount Aventine. He has worked tirelessly through the years, attending hearings and conducting citizen outreach until the state purchased the property in 1998 and created Chapman State Park.

During this time Bud also traced the history of the Chapman family who owned the property from 1750 to 1914. For the last seven years he has been giving lectures at Mount Aventine on many historic topics.

Bud began volunteering in the early 1960s when he and his late wife Evelyn became members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. Evelyn encouraged Bud's love for history and stewardship of the environment. (Evelyn was a naturalist at Hard Bargain Farm for twenty:four years.) Bud has served as the Foundation's president from 1968 to1970 and again from 1980 to 1984. He continues to be active as an advisor on our finance committee.

Bud Biles is one of those special volunteers that make the world a better place.


Back to Top

[email protected]
Contact Us at [email protected]