Year-round education center brings community to Fox Haven Farm

Fox Haven Learning Center’s director of programming, JoAnn Coates-Hunter, left, and Renee Bourassa, the learning center’s deputy director, are shown in front of the center’s dairy parlor. 

JEFFERSON — Fox Haven Farm is known for its land conservation efforts.

More than 65,000 new trees and shrubs have been planted on the 582-acre farm, which has been certified for organic hay and vegetable production under the Maryland organic certification program.

The farm’s conservation, forest stewardship and nutrient management plans guide land-use decisions, but Fox Haven has added a year-round ecological retreat and learning center that offers sustainable practice, weekend or daylong bootcamp workshops, stream walks for exploration and discovery, career and art workshops, and map and compass learning sessions.

“For over 30 years, Fox Haven’s forest and farmland have been a proving ground for innovative, sustainable farming practices to restore the health of the land to protect the water quality of Catoctin Creek, and to provide habitat for wildlife,” according to the farm’s mission statement at

“While we have worked informally to share those practices with others over the years, in 2011 we set a goal to make that information more widely available through an education center that is open year-round,” said Renee Bourassa, the learning center’s deputy director.

Fox Haven averages one event per week, but that number fluctuates depending on the time of year and whether private events are scheduled. Attendance at events has been between four and 75 people, Bourassa said.

Fox Haven’s Crop Mob in August attracted people from as far away as Baltimore to participate in the potato-digging event. Some of the potatoes were donated to Heartly House in Frederick.

Heartly House interim chief operator Mary Ellis said Fox Haven began to donate vegetables to clients in their emergency shelter earlier this year and continued with the potatoes in August.

“We’re really pleased to be one of their recipients,” said Ellis, who joined in with the digging. “You got a little dirty, but it was for a great cause and well worth being on the farm — what a beautiful setting, and they’re so dedicated to what they do.”

More crop mobs are on the horizon.

“Since we can’t bring the farm to the community, we bring the community to the farm,” Bourassa said.

Holistic Health Associates in Frederick held a team-building event at Fox Haven recently, and health and nutrition coach Rachael Pomato said she left impressed with how sustainable practices on the farm affect the health of the land, animals, food and the community.

“From the giant cistern under the barn that collects rain water from the roof to water the organic gardens, using cover crops to enrich the soil and protect the growing plants, the geothermal greenhouse that uses the sun and plants to warm it, the bee hives for biodiversity and pollination, and even composting toilets, I was awed by the ingenuity and wondered how I could practice more sustainability in my life,” Pomato said.

The ecological retreat and learning center connects people with the things they care about most — food, wellness and community, Bourassa said.

“With workshops on subjects such as healthy cooking, eating locally, art, meditation and wild herbs, community members not only develop new skills, but also learn about ways we can help to sustain and protect the land around us,” Bourassa said.

Follow Ike Wilson on Twitter: @ikewilson99.

(3) comments


But what about the Bed and Breakfast side of the business or the facility being rented out for large weddings...That last half the night with music blarring and people screaming? All approved, I assume (I know...), under the guise of a Retreat Center for youth...not quite the same thing, IMO; especially at 2 in the morning. It is a nice place and I know it's mostly rural, and very Green (as in organic), but it's not exactly what was expected, again, IMO


It is a beautiful place to visit and they are doing important work there. P.S. Can't we all use a few potatoes to get us through the winter?


"Some of the potatoes were donated to Heartly House in Frederick." Heartly House? The Food Bank, Soup Kitchen, or Beacon House yes. I once worked at a crisis house (not DV) and United Airlines donated to the program over 4,000 travel kits that they use to hand out in first class. We said thanks and took them and stored them in the basement. Over 75 boxes! Let's just hope Heartly House is not up to their ears in potatoes. Those women have had a hard enough time as it is.

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