SUSTAINABILITY MODELS & PROJECTS
SOLUTIONS FOR A HEALTHY EARTH
Since 2000, Fox Haven Farm has been finding local solutions to some of our world’s most troubling problems. Since industrial agriculture is one of the main causes of global warming, we are reducing greenhouse gases by sequestering carbon deep in the roots of the cover crops, which we also use to reduce erosion and enrich the soil with more humus.
We want to cultivate the land in such a way as to increase the well-being of the land and all that call it home. We encourage and try to equip people with tools that build their connection to the land, with the hope that they will become agents of positive change.
- Fox Haven is conserving and protecting over 700 acres of land in Jefferson, Maryland. Of those, 578 acres are certified organic, including a 3-acre heritage apple orchard and herb farm.
- Since 1999, we’ve planted over 120,000 trees, 30+ acres of warm and cool-season grasses and shrubs, created riparian buffers along the Catoctin Creek and smaller feeder creeks.
- Four hundred acres are in permanent easements, protecting the land from development in a county that is currently seeing an influx of new development. This protected land will continue to provide an oasis, a sanctuary, an area where local residents and guests can go to experience nature in its wilder state.
- We put 999 acres into the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP/CRP). CRP provides technical and financial assistance to landowners to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. CRP encourages landowners to convert highly erodible cropland and other environmentally sensitive areas to permanent cover, i.e. introducing native grasses, trees, filter strips, riparian forest buffers, wetlands, and shallow water habitats.
- We steward the forests and protect animals with 14 acres dedicated to a Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP), resulting in the return of beaver, wood ducks, trout, and a multitude of birds by the creation of a diverse ecosystem.
- We establish sanctuary for wildlife, building brush piles that chipmunks, rabbits, snakes, squirrels and birds can hide in, have installed over 100 bluebird boxes, and 2 acres of pollinator strips to preserve threatened honeybees and wild insect pollinators, and 3 acres of monarch butterfly habitat with milkweed to help protect and support our pollinating friends.
- Fox Haven has dedicated 131 acres to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and protects 5 miles of Catoctin Creek, which runs through our land.
- We conserve and manage water with over 160 acres of trees planted on contour lines in stream buffer zones that protect water quality in Catoctin Creek and use swales, ditches and collecting ponds to spread water out over the fields, where it can resupply groundwater.
- Our solar panels generate power to bring groundwater up for drip irrigation in the garden.
- Through our speaker program with wildlife rehabilitators, we encourage young people to care for animals as rehabilitators.
- Photographs of local wildlife and educational exhibits are on display in the dairy parlor.
We embrace and are on a journey of applying the principles of regenerative agriculture. Excess carbon in our atmosphere is changing weather and climate patterns. Fox Haven is using regenerative practices to sequester carbon while gaining other benefits for soil and crop health.
- The farm uses rotational grazing of cows to sequester carbon, which is faster than any other agricultural practice. In a pasture, the cows spread their manure over the ground becoming a natural source of organic fertilizer, which attracts beneficial fungi and microbes that sequester carbon and diversify all the microscopic organisms living in the soil, which enrich the pasture grasses. Sequestered carbon improves the water cycle and more water soaks into the soil, nourishing plants, instead of the water running off fields causing muddy streams and The nutrients absorbed by the plants ultimately contribute to the health of the cows and the quality of milk we drink, which is distributed by Organic Valley. As soil microbe activity increases so does the mineral cycle. Water infiltration improves manure management. Confined animal feed operations (CAFO) factory farms overwhelm systems, as animal excrement builds up in feedlots; it fouls the air with ammonia, pollutes the soil with excess nutrients and ultimately leaches nitrogen and phosphorus into the groundwater, streams and rivers, resulting in pollution and dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay. Confined animals are fed unhealthy diets, become sickly, causing overuse of antibiotics, which result in antibiotic resistant strains of pathogens, that cause the rise in untreatable diseases for humans.
- We practice crop rotation and cover cropping all year long, never leaving the ground bare, which protects topsoil, rebuilds nutrients, and diversifies microscopic organisms in the soil.
- Healthy, rich, biologically diverse soil is also amended with compost from the kitchens and Clivus waterless toilets.
- We preserve the important fungal network that feeds plants and sequesters carbon, the soil biota, by using low or no-till practices that minimize disturbance to these critical living communities in the soil.
- We are minimizing use of fossil fuels by having only one tractor for the entire farm. And we are also minimizing our footprint on the land by not building any new buildings. All the buildings we use were on the land and have been renovated by a local artisan, including five farmhouses, two spring houses, two big bank barns with loafing sheds, the corn crib and the Dairy Parlor.
Home organic gardens have a significant positive impact on the environment and on peoples’ health. Fox Haven’s demonstration gardens (vegetable, herb and flower), farm, classes, internships and projects teach principles and techniques, at any scale, to assist farmers and backyard gardeners in more sustainable practices to nourish people and the planet.
- The farm has produced and sold organically grown vegetables, fruit, and hay since 1998. Organic certification was applied for in 1999 and received in 2002.
- The food we produce is sold wholesale to the Common Market Cooperative in Frederick, Md. Herbs are sold to the CSA members, Tenth Ward Distillery, herbalists, and restaurants.
- The Learning Center area of the farm holds a 3-acre heritage apple orchard. We demonstrate the use of alley cropping with medicinal herbs in the middle of the orchard.
- The orchard was previously the site of an American Chestnut Research project, in cooperation with the American Chestnut Foundation. Once the research was completed in 2016, the 3 acres were planted with heritage apples and other fruit trees. Several chestnut trees remain in the orchard and nuts are harvested by staff, interns, and members of the American Chestnut Foundation and for roasting and further research.
- The Learning Center’s herb CSA (community supported agriculture) project benefits clinical and hobby herbalists in Maryland, Delaware, DC, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and as far away as Rhode Island. It is the first of its kind in the region. (It does not include cannabis.)
- We incorporate ethical wild food foraging, tending the wild, and mushroom cultivation with the herb farm work and classes.
- Beekeeping happens throughout the farm on diverse established habitat for over 400 types of bees found in our region. To ensure our bees have sufficient nutrition for the winter, we only harvest excess honey once a year, just before the spring nectar flow. Wax from the hives is used in creating salves and herbal remedies.
Fox Haven partners with non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and its volunteer community to advance a variety of formal research and citizen science research projects. Projects often continue year after year, contributing data into a body of results that researchers, teachers, thought leaders, and practitioners use, and we share with visitors in various ways.
- The Learning Center partners with Hood College graduate programs and Dr. April Boulton on research related to stream health, pollinator health and habitat, and organic pest management, including several pollinator strips and hillsides planted in native flowers in support of the research on native bees and honeybees. Beehives are kept in the orchard to support the growth of the apple trees and herbs, and to build biodiversity.
- Our Internships enrich research projects, formalize learning outcomes with hands-on experiences at Fox Haven, in partnership with institutions including Hood College, JMU, and the University of Maryland Applied Agriculture Program.
- We offer between 5-10 herb farm internships each year. Interns plant, tend, harvest, study and create at-home products with the herbs and also assist in educating during the CSA classes.
- Over 80 bluebird boxes abound on Fox Haven’s bluebird trail and we have partnered with bird researchers and birding clubs, as well as multiple students over the years, who gather data that is shared with the Cornell Ornithology labs.
- In 2016, the Learning Center installed a solar array on the roof of the big red barn. Visiting students can use the online monitoring site in their classroom science projects. As of June 2019, this solar array has saved over 164,000 lbs. of CO2 emissions, equivalent to planting over 4,200 trees.
- Educational signs along our walking trails and in our facilities promote our monarch butterfly sanctuary, pollinator habitats, riparian buffer zones, American Chestnut research, composting and soil health, biodiversity, pesticide-free gardening/farming, etc., making it possible for everyone that visits to learn something before they go. This includes the local and regional businesses, non-profits, and NGOs that hold retreats here.
- Our educational signs are made by scouts and students, as part of their community service for scout gold and eagle awards, including signs saying, “No spraying along this road.”
“The world of life, of spontaneity, the world of dawn and sunset and starlight, the world of soil and sunshine, of meadow and woodland, of hickory and oak and maple and hemlock and pineland forests, of wildlife dwelling around us, of the river and its wellbeing—all of this is the integral community in which we live.”
– Father Thomas Berry
Fox Haven offers a place to explore and learn, for conversations about bigger questions and more sustainable ways to live. Be part of this enlightening conversation—register for an event or class, schedule a visit or retreat.
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