Thanks for the Memories, and What's Next for the Claude Moore Colonial Farm

The Board of Directors of the Friends of the Claude Moore Colonial Farm wishes to thank the people of Northern Virginia and the national capital region, the visitors, the volunteers, the members, the donors, and most of all the children and their families for all their years of financial and moral support, of time, of sweat and hard labor. Truly, you were the Farm. In the face of overwhelming odds, you created it from nothing, and kept it going for all those years. And while it rained sometimes, or was unbearably hot, there was always a cold drink, good food, or an escaped pig, to bring a smile and lighten the load. The Farm was a real farm, with a really big farm family, and for all who were part of that big family, the work was a labor of love. We have only memories now, but we will all cherish them and keep them in our hearts forevermore.

Originally established by the National Park Service (NPS) in 1971 on derelict federal land next to the CIA, the Park Service quickly realized it had neither the resources nor the expertise to manage the Farm, and after three previous attempts, finally shut it down in 1981. But already its supporters were passionate, and the community rallied round, reopened the Farm in a matter of days, setting up a non-profit to run the Farm, nurturing it from nothing, and over the next 37 years building its resources and programs entirely from volunteer labor, earned income and donations until it became one of the most popular, best loved and award winning, educational history parks in the region. In 2013, the Park Service decided it had had enough of the brash but vibrantly independent Colonial Farm and for the first time it was included in the government wide shutdown in spite of the farm being completely self-funded. We reopened it again in a matter of days.

The Farm has been closed now since December 21, 2018, after the Park Service failed to renew our long-running Cooperative Agreement. We tried to extend that agreement, that had served us well for 37 years, but the Park Service refused. At that point, the Farm had been entirely self-sufficient for 6 years, receiving not a penny from the NPS or the American taxpayer. Instead of continuing our old agreement, the NPS wanted to impose new rules that would not let us earn the money needed to keep the Farm running (i.e. no Pavilions, no bookstore, no Gift Shop or Market Fairs). Rather than being supported by the community and our volunteers, we would have been dependent on the NPS, and we knew the NPS had no interest in funding or running the Farm. Whatever their motivation, the NPS proposal in effect defunded the Farm, and prevented the community from keeping it going using their own resources and initiative.

At the request of the NPS, the property acquired over the years by your non-profit (The Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm) has been removed and placed in storage. All that remains are the buildings. Some of the buildings date to the establishment of the park, and one was built with federal money and belongs to the Park Service, and these are being returned to the Park Service under the terms of the Cooperative Agreement. Other structures, such as the Pavilions, the Farm House, the Environmental Learning Center, the Blacksmith Shop, the Facilities Barn, Book Shop, greenhouses, livestock and storage buildings, Market Fair Grounds, Caretaker’s cottage and the Gate House were built entirely with non-federal resources, materials and volunteer labor.

The Park Service has asked us to demolish and remove some of the structures, such as the Market Fair stands, and asked us to donate to the Park Service other structures perceived as potentially more valuable. In previous public statements and correspondence, the Park Service has stated that the Farm could re-open under new management and under their rules; and we believe that these structures, which were an integral part of the life of the Farm for many years, would be useful to any future groups seeking to revive the Farm. The value of these structures funded and built by the Friends is almost $1.8 million as shown on our 2017 IRS Form 990.

It took us a year to get the Park Service to recognize the value of the physical contributions to the Farm made by donors and volunteers, and now we are reluctant to do as the Park Service asks without the input of volunteers and the community, and we urge everyone to make their views known about the future of the Farm, and its buildings and facilities. Let us know what you think and send a copy of your comments to the Park Service. We have attached the most recent correspondence between FCMCF and the Park Service so that you can understand the scope of the issue and the efforts made by the Board to preserve the best parts of the labors of volunteers and donors.

We on the Board are all volunteers, like you. And also like you, we believe passionately in the mission of the Farm – to educate the public, and especially the children, about history and agriculture. The NPS has stated that the Farm could continue under new management, and they are asking the public for comment. They could not run the farm back in the 70’s, and almost certainly cannot today, but because we care most about the mission, we fervently hope someone or some organization will step forward and take the opportunity to work with the NPS. Congressman Beyer has said there are “a number of other non-profit groups interested in taking it (the Farm) over”. On our part, we commit to donating the 18th century kit and our buildings; including the Farm House, Bookstore, greenhouses, Market Fair, and Pavilions, to any group that would run a colonial farm at Turkey Run.

For the future, FCMCF has decided to change its name to Colonial Markets and Colonial Fairs, Inc. (“CMCF”) and revise its mission to “conducting historical markets and fairs and similar educational activities.” We do not have a permanent location, but we do anticipate partnering with or participating in events at various locations in the area. Our most important mission of providing historical education and entertainment to Virginia families and children will continue.

Board of Directors, Friends of the Claude Moore Colonial Farm.

To read the letter to and from the NPS, please following the links below: