Spring Chickens

As spring arrives at the Accokeek Foundation, so too have fresh eggs, as our chickens have begun once again to lay.

These black and white Dominiques are recognized as America's first chicken breed.

Our two flocks are some of the stars of the barnyard, clucking and cooing and even controlling small pests. Indeed, our lustrous red Buckeyes—the only American breed created entirely by a woman—are vigilant in their pursuit of mice (and have even been compared to cats in this regard). Right next door lives a flock of Dominiques: black and white barred birds that are recognized as America’s first chicken breed.

The conservation of endangered livestock breeds—from our heritage chickens to our heritage hogs, sheep, and cattle—is just one small piece of the Foundation’s wider historical mission. But with fresh brown eggs in our kitchen and insects out of our barnyard, keeping chickens often seems more like fun than work.

Interested in raising poultry of your own? Sign up for our upcoming Backyard Poultry Workshop!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

9:00 a.m. to Noon

Accokeek Foundation Education Center

$40 Non-members, $35 members

This course will provide you with the information that is needed to raise your own poultry. Participants will receive a handbook and other take-home materials. Pre-registration required.

To learn more about keeping chickens in Prince George’s County, visit www.pghens.com or send an email to princegeorgeshens (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tobacco’s Tools

Bundles of dried tobacco plants hang from a wooden tobacco stick.

The eighteenth-century tobacco barn on the National Colonial Farm is filled with dry tobacco. Cut and bundled in the fall, the once-green plants hang down from hand-split tobacco sticks, now brown and weathered. A 1770 spring would have found colonists preparing their tobacco fields for planting. Last season’s dried plants would have already been stripped and “prized” (or pressed) into hogsheads (or large wooden barrels) for shipment across the sea to England.

But now that tobacco is no longer this region’s cash crop, our tobacco barns—so essential in curing tobacco and so central to our landscape—have fallen out of use. The National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2004 listed Southern Maryland’s tobacco barns among the 11 most endangered historic places in the nation. Southern Maryland preservationists have worked to refurbish these unique vestiges of our past when possible.

The eighteenth-century tobacco barn at the National Colonial Farm.

And as for the tobacco sticks? Not worth much, these sticks are now seemingly without use. But the educators at the Accokeek Foundation have discovered a carver in Tennessee who has re-purposed the once-vital tools, turning decades-old Oak and Hickory tobacco sticks into walking sticks. The incredible (and useful!) walking sticks are reminiscent of this region’s history, so closely tied to the land and the tobacco that grew from it. The sticks can be purchased in our remodeled Visitor Center Gift Shop, which will reopen on Saturday, March 5.

Decades-old tobacco sticks-turned-walking sticks, for sale at our Visitor Center Gift Shop.

Take Action to Ensure That No Child is Left Inside

Governor O'Malley visits the Accokeek Foundation

Governor O'Malley visits the Accokeek Foundation during its annual African American Heritage Day event, September 2010

In 2008, Governor Martin O’Malley launched the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature. In September of last year, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) made history by voting unanimously to pass language requiring every local public school system to provide a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, environmental education program for all students–the first initiative of its kind in the nation. Part of a national movement to get kids back outside and reconnected to nature, Maryland’s No Child Left Inside Coalition, a coalition of 230 organizations, has been front and center in this effort. The Accokeek Foundation was one of its early members. Unfortunately, the original language for the graduation requirement was modified, resulting in a loophole that would allow school systems to meet the requirement by doing nothing new and eliminating any incentive to develop comprehensive environmental literacy programs. The Maryland No Child Left Inside Coalition is urging that the new language be rejected and has asked for everyone who is interested in supporting this effort to make their voices heard.

In response, our Director of Education and Public Programs has submitted a letter to the MSDE encouraging them to reject this new language and instead support efforts toward environmental education. Read her letter below, and take action by submitting your own by February 3.

Continue reading

Introducing…Molly Meehan

We would like to welcome Molly Meehan as the Accokeek Foundation’s newest staff member. Molly will be working with the Foundation’s Center for Agricultural and Environmental Stewardship to help organize and provide a wide variety of workshops, presentations, training opportunities, and other programs. Molly comes to the Foundation with a background in sustainable agriculture, sustainable living, and social justice. She was an Americorps volunteer and has worked internationally in sustainable living education. She most recently worked as a Market Master for Fresh Farm Markets. Molly grew up in the Washington, DC area, earned a BA in Human Rights from the University of Dayton and an received her MA in Sustainable Development from the School for International Training in Vermont.

We are very happy to have Molly on the staff and look forward to great things from her in the future.

The Visitor Center is Getting a Face Lift

Museum Visitor Center and Gift Shop

A Snowy Visitor Center

During January and February, we will be working on cleaning, painting, and rearranging the Visitor Center and incorporating more interpretive material. Though the shop area will be blocked off, the Visitor Center will remain open on its regular winter schedule of weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Hot drinks will be available to purchase, and our staff will be gathering suggestions from visitors about items you would like to see us carry in the shop.

Wanted: Bright and Passionate Individuals

The Accokeek Foundation is currently accepting applications for a Livestock & Pastures Manager and an Ecosystem Farm Manager. If you have a passion for agriculture and the environment and would like to be considered for these positions with the Foundation, please contact Matt Mulder at nature@accokeek.org or call 301.283.2113.
In addition to these career opportunities, the Foundation also is accepting applications for its 2011 intern and apprenticeship programs and for the Accokeek Foundation Fellowship in Public History Practice. The Public History Fellow will help to conceive the theme for the September 24, 2011, African American Heritage Day event and will have primary responsibility for all aspects of planning the event, including identifying and contacting potential presenters, selecting vendors, handling event logistics, and working with Foundation staff to market the event.
For more information about all of the current opportunities, please visit the careers page on the website.

A New Year and New Adventures

It’s officially a new year (and a new decade)! Twenty-ten was a fantastic year, bringing both new and familiar faces to the Accokeek Foundation–from volunteers working hard to wash, spin, and knit heritage breed sheep’s wool into beautiful works of textile art and Museum Theater Interns who worked through the July heat to put on a highly-entertaining performance, A Colonial Wedding, to our Ecosystem Farm Apprentices, dedicated farm volunteers, and the many visitors and school groups who made the park the place to be. Thank you to everyone for making 2010 a year to remember!

On behalf of the board and staff, I’d also like to say a special thank you to all of our supporters for their generous year-end contributions. With your help we raised nearly $10,000 just in the last month of the year!

Your generous donations will support important initiatives in 2011. During these first few months, the staff will be busily renovating the National Colonial Farm exhibit site and the Visitor Center, as well as developing fresh programs you’ll be sure to enjoy this year. The 2011 calendar of events has been updated and posted on the website, so be sure to check it often for details.

Pawpaw Trail


So, while we are busy indoors renovating, planning, and preparing for the new year of fun, make sure to stop by and visit the barnyard to say hello to the animals, catch a few fish from the pier, or take a leisurely hike along any of the six trails that Piscataway Park has to offer. The Park is open year-round from dawn to dusk and admission is free. (Keeping those resolutions should be easy here.)

With best wishes for a Happy New Year!