PROJECTS


  • Fox Haven is a living, breathing, diverse, thriving, resilient ecosystem. As a living organism, it is self organizing and self regulating.

  • Fox Haven is a place of healing and transformation, cultivating admiration, respect and love for mother earth.


We are consciously cultivating the well being of people and the land, inner and outer ecology. We are building community self reliance by working together in the garden and growing our own food. We are growing nutrient rich soil to grow healthy food, for healthy people in healthy communities. We are practicing the principles of permaculture, demonstrating sustainable agriculture and organic gardening. We are providing alternatives to chemically intensive agriculture. We are modeling biodynamic farming, permaculture design, learning from and mimicking nature, as in biomimicry. We are encouraging young people to go into farming and training agents of social change to bring us back into harmony with the natural world.

We are building nutrient rich soil by grazing cows and rotating them into fresh pastures every day. We are tending gardens to provide healthy, nutritious food for learning center guests, neighbors and friends and the local food bank. We are keeping bee hives, planting pollinator friendly plants, milkweed for the monarch butterflies, and learning from the experience.

Understanding the importance of wildlife at all levels of the ecosystem, we protect biodiversity by maintaining dozens of blue bird boxes and welcoming bird watchers. We create wildlife habitat by leaving brush piles out for birds, rabbits and chipmunks, working with the flow and cycles of nature, slowing water erosion by planting trees on contour lines in buffer zones along the creeks to improve the water quality of Catoctin Creek.

We are building community and working with our neighbors, growing organic hay for a neighbor’s organic dairy operation, restoring old buildings on the land instead of building new ones, and hosting community events such as square dances, storytelling and painting classes in our big red barn.

Fox Haven welcomes people of all ages to learn more about regenerative organic farming and gardening, ecology, mindfulness, and nature; to learn how we can live in greater harmony with nature and the elements that sustain us. All of our classes for adults and children are able to be geared towards the needs of your group. If you can’t make one of our events/classes when we first offer it, get 7 -10 friends together and we will work with you to offer the class during a time that is convenient for your group.

Fox Haven offers many opportunities for people to learn about the economic and social importance of environmental stewardship. We offer ways to help educators teach how human communities and natural ecosystems are interconnected and interdependent. Our partners and on-site team offer classes, lectures and hands-on workshops to clarify food security, the connection between pesticide use and ecosystem, soil and human health, the practice of mindfulness and more. We employ building, planting, harvesting, visual art, story writing and story telling, movement, poetry and letters to help people process what they learn. Participants are encouraged to explore ways to use what they learn at Fox Haven in their homes, jobs, civic groups, and in their communities.

We dig into rich soil, smell, harvest and taste plants in the garden workshops, observe pollinators and birds in the midst of their habitat, track wild animals and observe insects on the land and in the streams, and take “listening walks” where we hear bird calls, animal whistles, and the hum of insects. Taking a hike to rub the pigs’ bellies, hold the chickens and observe how they function in our regenerative agricultural practices is a lot of FUN!

Learning about the history of the honeybee, tree identification and appreciation, and studying the history of the mighty American chestnut tree and the science behind its decline and return in our orchard are soulful experiences that build upon the human-nature relationship. Study of the riparian buffers and restoration areas of the farm help us understand its link to clean water. Nutrition and cooking experiences that use seasonal foods from our gardens and wild foods from the land provide another way for students of all ages to learn about the networks, nested systems, cycles and flows of nature. Understanding the effects of various foods on the body’s ability to function in healthy ways improves self-confidence and raises awareness of and engagement with local food systems.

Fox Haven has been planting trees since 1999 to restore denuded hillsides striped of their vegetation and slowly losing soil to the stream valleys.

Under Dick Bittner’s leadership over 180,000 trees have been planted on land parcels making up the contiguous Fox Haven. Dick has worked closely with Frederick County and Maryland to utilize the federal and state supported cost-share Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) that financially assists landowners to plant trees. The program’s focus is to protect sensitive soils, waters, and wetlands while enhancing wildlife areas. The interest of Fox Haven has been to protect the Catoctin River and feeder streams.

If you are a farmer, rancher, or agricultural land owner you may be eligible for funding. Maryland landowners have been working with CREP and similar programs since 1997. Fox Haven Organic Farm will continue to plant and maintain the trees already planted in order to restore stream buffers, stabilize erodible soils, and create wildlife habitat.

Our trees, in addition to helping restore the hillsides, also absorb carbon from our atmosphere.

At Fox Haven we offer workshops to help landowners learn how they too can plant trees for landscape restoration and carbon absorption. Look on our events calendar to find the next training at Fox Haven.

1 in 3 bites of food we eat is dependent on pollination by the honey bee
Honey bees pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops which constitute 1/3 of everything we eat. An estimated $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the U.S are pollinated each year by honeybees. If honeybees die off so might many of our insect pollinated plants. Commercial bee keepers report 29%-36% annual losses of bees since 2006, more than double what is considered normal.

Commercial/migratory bee keepers, also on the decline, have been key service providers to the agricultural industry. Without the yield increases made possible by commercial pollination services, food prices would rise, our farm sector rapidly become less competitive globally, and the security and variety of our food supply would diminish. With the wild insect pollinator populations already in serious decline, commercial/migratory beekeeping is more than ever a vital piece of our agricultural economy. This industry faces collapse for reasons having little to do with the great recession – their bees are dying.
There are hundreds of species of pollinating bees in the mid-Atlantic region. Fox Haven is focusing its attention on growing more habitat, not only for bees but for pollinators in general; thus far we’ve planted 3 acres on the Chestnut Farm. In summer 2014 Hood College student placed “bee condos” there as well. Throughout the Fox Haven properties there are species of bees living healthily without threat of habitat loss or insecticide use. In the past we have experienced pesticide drift off other farms that we believe contributed to colony loss a few years ago.

Please read and share what we have learned about pollinators and neonicitinoids. We believe that more knowledgeable people paying attention to the problem and working to build bee populations and create pollinator habitat will help. Fox Haven can provide guidance, just ask us how.

Just a walk up from Spring House at Fox Haven are the healthy pastures dedicated to rotational grazing of the Holterholm Farms’ cows (part of the Organic Valley Cooperative).

What is rotational grazing?

Rotational grazing is a management scheme that involves the daily movement of ruminant livestock from paddock to paddock in a fenced pasture. The cows are moved onto a small area to graze when the pasture plants are 12-18″ high, and taken off when that paddock to an adjacent one when about half the vegetation has been eaten (there is still leaf surface for photosynthesis to continue to put energy into the plants’ roots for rapid regrowth). Raising animals on pasture under rotation requires knowledge about the soil’s health, plant diversity and nutritional quality. Rotational grazing mimics the movement of wild ruminants (bison, antelope) that built the deep soils of America’s great prairies.

Why are pasture-raised cattle better than grain fed?

Nearly all the meat available in supermarkets comes from animals that are fattened on grain, soy and supplements and raised in highly mechanized Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). These feed lots, or “factory farms” come with a host of social, economic and environmental problems: animal stress and abuse, use of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs unnecessarily, air, land and water pollution, low-paid farm labor, loss of small family farms and ultimately food with less nutritional value (eatwild.com).

The alternative is to keep the animals on a pasture where animals are not treated with hormones or fed growth promoting additives. The animals grow at a natural pace, live with less stress and generally don’t need drugs or antibiotics. Products from pasture grazed cattle contain higher levels of vitamins A, D, E and F, of beta carotene, Conjugated Linoleic Acid than cattle raised on grains. Plus pasture fed cattle have a nearly perfect ratio of omega 6:omega 3.

Rotational grazing and environmental benefits: CO2 sequestration, manure management and nutrient cycling.

Its no mystery that excess carbon in our atmosphere is fostering changes to weather and climate patterns. Rotational grazing sequesters carbon faster than any other agricultural practice. Increased carbon improves the water cycle and more water soaks the soils nourishing plants instead of letting the water run off fields and into streams.The nutrients absorbed by the plants ultimately contribute to animal health. As soil microbe activity increases so does the mineral cycle. Water infiltration helps with manure management as well. In a pasture the animals spread their manure over the soil and it becomes a natural source of organic fertilizer that attracts beneficial insects for the health of the soil and pasture grasses. Consider the alternative. Factory farms where the excrement builds up in feedlots, fouls the air with ammonia smell, pollutes the soil with excess nutrients and ultimately leaches nitrogen and phosphorus into the ground water or into streams and rivers.

The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis ) fledgling count at Fox Haven was up to 157 in 2014. These delightful and photogenic birds fly in Fox Haven’s open fields bordered by forests, and nest in one of the 80 bluebird boxes around the farm.

Blue birds have plump bodies, short legs and tails, and a short straight bill. The females have a grey/brown head, light orange breast, and white belly. The males have reddish orange breast and throat, white belly, and blue wings and head. Bluebirds make their nests out of fine grasses and pine needles. They begin nesting here in April, sometimes as early as March, and continue through the summer. At Fox Haven they tend to nest 2-3 times per year and compete for nesting space with Tree Swallows and Wrens. Tree Swallows use rougher materials and a feather or two to build nests while Wrens use sticks. The Tree Swallows and Wrens have been known to puncture Bluebird eggs to take over a nesting site. Read about bluebird food preferences, communication, mating behavior, habitat needs and more.

Meet our new volunteer Bluebird monitor Orietta Estrada!

For the 2016 bird breeding season, Orietta Estrada, an Environmental Biology graduate student at Hood College, will be monitoring our Bluebird nestboxes as part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “NestWatch” project. Orietta will also be surveying Fox Haven’s different habitats for eBird, taking photos, and reporting on the latest bird news and research. We’ll be compiling her observations and writings as the Fox Haven Weekly Bird Report! Stay tuned through the spring and summer!

The survival of Monarch butterflies has been threatened by habitat loss and pesticide use. These beautiful pollinators travel long migratory routes during which they feed solely on milkweed plants. Large areas of this vital milkweed plant have disappeared under monoculture crops of industrial agriculture and the heavy use of chemical sprays like Roundup to control weeds. Fox Haven wants to help increase the Monarch Butterfly population by planting more milkweed.

Monarch butterflies are symbols of transformation. When the caterpillar creates and goes into the cocoon, the old form disappears in a liquid mass and transforms into a completely new butterfly. You can’t help the emerging butterfly as it comes out of the cocoon because it has to stretch out it’s wings all by itself. But watching this process is fascinating – transformation from caterpillar to butterfly!

Now is the time to go out and find where the milkweed is growing in your area. And then when the time is right, go back to harvest the milkweed pods before they burst and fly away in the wind. Save the pods and learn how to protect them through the winter and learn where to plant the seeds in the spring, and tend them as they grow.You will be giving the Monarch butterflies a place to lay their eggs when they return.

There are over 100 types of milkweed plants. The most abundant milkweed plant in the Frederick County area is known as the Common Milkweed. It has a large pod that changes from green to brown as it dries in the fall. The time to harvest the seeds is after the pod turns brown, but before it bursts open. Growing the seedlings in early spring and planting them once the weather warms will result in the highest germination and survival rate (versus direct seeding in the fall or spring).

Fox Haven is willing to help:

Organize students and volunteers to collect seed pods in the fall and store in paper bags through the winter. Here at Fox Haven, there are Common Milkweed plants in the field across from Heart House and in the fields behind Touchstone House. There are a few plants near the learning center too.
In January, place seeds in a moist towel inside a plastic bag in the fridge. Keep checking the towels to ensure they stay moist.
After 3-12 weeks in the fridge, place seeds in potting trays filled with high quality potting soil. We can place ours in front of large windows in Touchstone House for direct sunlight. Soil must be kept moist. Thinning may be necessary once seedlings emerge.
When seedlings are 3-6 inches high, transplant to small dixie cups. Soil must be kept moist.
Once outside soil temps reach 75 degrees, transplant outside or give to people interested in planting. Prior to transplanting, the seedlings will need to acclimate to the outdoors for several days by taking them outside in the morning and then back in the house at night.
Keep your eyes open for educational activities, programs available for school kids, workshops on Monarch Butterflies about why they are disappearing, how the producers of Roundup are profiting, why our government isn’t yet solving this problem, and what you can do about it.

The Community Garden at the Fox Haven Learning Center has 10 – 80s q ft beds and a hoop house and gravity fed irrigation. The Community Garden provides a training place for all ages to learn about organic gardening, healthy eating and food preparation, the benefits of working outdoors in a garden, team building, plants, pollinators, healthy soil and the connection to healthy bodies. The garden is side by side with a pollinator plot and up hill from Lewis Creek, a tributary to the Catoctin Creek. The Community Garden provides food for visitors, at-risk youth programs, garden volunteers and employees and the local Jefferson Food Bank. We welcome you to the Community Garden at Fox Haven!