The story of the Fergusons and Hard Bargain Farm is an opportunity to understand not just an isolated piece of history, but to preserve a full picture of how one couple pioneered the key elements of environmental conservation as we know it today.
For more than 60 years the Alice Ferguson Foundation has provided the opportunity for hands-on, active and direct experience outdoor environmental and agricultural education to hundreds of thousands of urban and underserved elementary schoolchildren from Washington, DC, and the nearby suburbs of Maryland and Virginia
In the early 1920s Alice Ferguson (1880-1951), wife of Henry Gardiner Ferguson, was a dynamic, creative artist trained as a painter at the Corcoran School of Art. She began to look for a country property close to the couple’s home in Washington, D.C., and in 1922, bought Hard Bargain Farm, a place that would change the course of her life, transforming it into a unique, remarkable environment that is still alive with the mark of her creative touch.
Alice produced an impressive array of artworks, designed and built the farmhouse at Hard Bargain Farm, managed the working farm which is still operating today, created a “Country Place Era” style formal garden, and trained herself as an archaeologist to explore Native American sites discovered on the farm.
To commemorate these contributions made by Alice, Henry, a well-known USGS geologist, established the Alice Ferguson Foundation in 1954 as a non-profit organization, chartered in the state of Maryland.
Hard Bargain Farm, initially a 330 acre plot of land along the banks of the Potomac River across from historic Mount Vernon, includes a farmhouse, barnyard and farm structures, rolling hills, fields, woods and wetlands in relatively untouched, undeveloped condition. In the 1960’s the lower half of the farm was deeded to the National Park Service to form the central part of Piscataway National Park, which preserves and protects the viewshed from Mount Vernon across the river in Virginia.
Today the Alice Ferguson Foundation annually
- serves 4,000 elementary school students in one- and two-day (overnight) environmental and agricultural programs onsite;
- serves an additional 6,000 students in National and State parks throughout the metropolitan Washington, DC area;
- trains hundreds of teachers in outdoor environmental curricula; and
- leads the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, a community-wide movement in trash education and reduction through volunteer cleanups, a Trash Summit, and policy, regulation and market-based solutions to the trash issue.