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Hard Bargain Farm educates, enlightens students about environment


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Photo courtesy of Hard Bargain Farm/Alice Ferguson Foundation. A lush garden is in full bloom near the farm house at Hard Bargain Farm.

Photo courtesy of Hard Bargain Farm/Alice Ferguson Foundation. A lush garden is in full bloom near the farm house at Hard Bargain Farm.

Published on: Thursday, August 29, 2013

By Tracey Gold Bennett

Children are getting re-acclimated to their studies inside the classroom, but in a few weeks Prince George’s County students will participate in experiential learning outside the classroom.

They’re going Sept. 17 to the 330-acre Hard Bargain Farm and Education Center in Accokeek. Annually, the farm serves 10,000 students — 4,000 of whom participate in overnight environmental and agricultural programs.

London Bell, 11, is in the sixth grade now, but fondly remembers her overnight trip to Hard Bargain Farm when she was a kindergartener.

Photo courtesy of Hard Bargain Farm/Alice Ferguson Foundation. Cows graze in the bucolic pastures at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek.

Photo courtesy of Hard Bargain Farm/Alice Ferguson Foundation. Cows graze in the bucolic pastures at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek.

“We took a nature tour. I learned about plants how plants are producers of their own food,” she said. “We also went on a hayride. We gathered around a campfire, sang songs and made hotdogs and s’mores, but then it rained. We still sat out side and had fun in the rain.”

Hard Bargain Farm is operated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation and is located across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon.

“The farm has pre-Civil War beginnings but was established in 1954 as a nonprofit organization, chartered in the state of Maryland,” said Alena Rosen, communications coordinator for The Alice Ferguson Foundation. “Students who come to Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center participate in hands-on environmental field studies that are correlated to state core curriculum so that the students can use these experiences to not only gain knowledge, but apply that knowledge back in the classroom.”

The knowledge not only goes back into the classroom but it apparently sticks with some students for years to come. When asked about her experience, Bell’s eyes lit up, she flashed a giant smile and the intonation in her voice went up a couple of octaves as she told her story.

“We slept in a cabin, learned about bats and how they’re not dangerous, and I even touched one. I milked a cow. I really liked the farm,” said Bell, who liked it so much she even remembers what she had for dinner. “We ate chicken mashed potatoes and string beans.”

Rosen said students who come to the farm participate in lessons and other action-oriented activities. They learn about the effects of farming on the watershed and the change in farming technology over time including sustainable agricultural practices. 

“Students explore the property’s woods and wetlands through habitat hikes, dip netting, soil identification, bird watching, and many more field studies that are designed to engage all learning styles. Students also learn about their watershed, biodiversity, ecosystems and adaptations through the program, and through their experience here,” Rosen said.

The farm’s mission is to connect people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship and advocacy, Rosen said. It’s a mission that was more than accomplished for Bell.

“I think I learned to enjoy nature more because I went on this trip to the Hard Bargain Farm,” Bell said.

Reader Comments - 2 Total

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Posted By: sade20003 On: 8/29/2013

Title: My next trip with the family!

This sounds like an awesome outing with the family. I haven't always been a fan of camping, but after reading this article and hearing the testimony of London Bell, I know that this is going to be a comforting and learning experience for everyone. I can’t wait to visit Hard Bargain Farm! Thank you for the article Mrs. Bennett and the Sentinel Newspaper.

Posted By: sade20003 On: 8/29/2013

Title: My next trip with the family!

This sounds like an awesome outing with the family. I haven't always been a fan of camping, but after reading this article and hearing the testimony of London Bell, I know that this is going to be a comforting and learning experience for everyone. I can’t wait to visit Hard Bargain Farm! Thank you for the story Mrs. Bennett and the Sentinel Newspaper.




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