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Prince George's County students visit historic Hard Bargain Farm

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Photo courtesy of Hard Bargain Farm. Cows graze in a pasture at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek.

Photo courtesy of Hard Bargain Farm. Cows graze in a pasture at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek.

Published on: Wednesday, October 09, 2013

By Tracey Gold Bennett

Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek has its origins back in the 1800s. 

Alice Ferguson wrote about her first encounter with the farm in an account she authored titled “Adventures in Southern Maryland.”

“All old Maryland places have names, and we knew that ours must have one too, but the real estate agent ignored all questions. When we signed the deed we saw it (for the) first time. We were the owners of Hard Bargain. It is rather a nice name to use when you take apples to market,” Ferguson wrote.

In September, school children from Prince George’s County got the chance to have an overnight, hands-on experiential lesson in farming at the picturesque 330-acre farm across the Potomac River from historic Mount Vernon. Children learned about organic food, farming practices and the importance of environmental preservation at the farm operated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

Established in 1954, the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s mission is to introduce people to hands-on sustainable agricultural methods and practices and to educate the public with particular emphasis on students regarding the cultural heritage of the local watershed, stewardship and environmental advocacy. 

“While students participate in these lessons as well as other action oriented activities at the farm, they learn about the effects of farming on the watershed, the change in farming technology over time and sustainable agricultural practices,” said Alena Rosen, communications coordinator for the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

Hard Bargain Farm has been around since before the Civil War, and the Alice Ferguson Foundation took over during the administration of President Warren G. Harding.

“The Fergusons purchased the farm 1922. The farm included pristine rolling hills, fields, woods and streams. The purchase included a dilapidated farmhouse, several farm structures, fields, woodlands, wetlands, streams, the Potomac shoreline, a view of Mount Vernon and a beautiful landscape. In the 1920s, the Fergusons built the existing main house (the old house collapsed during restoration efforts) and its ancillary buildings,” Rosen said.

“They played an active role in preserving the surrounding natural landscape. Following Alice’s death in 1951, Fergie — as Henry Ferguson was affectionately known — became more active in community affairs and permitted a community nursery schools to operate from a cottage on his property.”

According to Rosen, it was in 1954, when Henry Ferguson became instrumental in the creation of the Alice Ferguson Foundation in memory of his dear wife, Alice.

“Henry G. Ferguson died in 1966, but he expressed his desire for the Foundation to continue to serve its founding mission,” Rosen said.

The vision, begun by the Fergusons over 80 years ago, has continued through the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Hard Bargain Environmental Center has become a facility that supports a model environmental educational opportunity for thousands of children even to this day.

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