I recently visited The Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, Virginia. Having grown up in the Washington D.C suburbs, I was familiar with the multitude of museums, parks, battlefields, historical societies and art galleries in the area. However, I never knew about this privately funded and operated farm that resides only a mere 15 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Tyson’s Corner.
What truly makes Claude Moore special is the commitment to preserve an authentic look at the life and times of a working class Virginia family prior to the Revolutionary War. Since 1973, nearly 2 million visitors have participated in the farms experiential learning programs. At Claude Moore, experiential learning consists of helping and learning from the family in a variety of daily chores. The family members are dispersed throughout the farm doing a number of period appropriate activities. Rain or shine they stay in character while dressing the part in period clothing and using replica tools to perform a variety of tasks from cooking dinner to tilling the soil.
With my $3 admission ticket into the farm, I had the opportunity to gain hands on experience from the family in several matters of farm life. At the beginning of my journey into the late 1700’s, I walked past the tobacco crop and tobacco barn on my left. A member of the colonial family approached me and asked if I wanted to learn how to plant and maintain the tobacco crop. I gladly obliged him and spent the next 10 minutes learning about tobacco planting, the harvest season and the ideal soil conditions.
The farm has a number of animals including turkeys, geese, hogs, chickens and cattle. The family also harvests wheat, corn, flax and grows a variety of fruit trees in the orchard. When I approached the main house, I could see smoke rising out of the chimney and approximately 6 chickens and 4 turkeys circling the house. As I entered the house, a member of the colonial family was cooking a mix of vegetables freshly picked from the garden in 1 large pot. She informed me that the vegetable stew she was cooking is going to be the main meal for the family today. Although I did not have a bite of the stew, I could tell by the aroma alone that she was quite skilled at making a delicious hearty meal with a handful of simple ingredients.
I concluded my tour of the farm like most patrons and visitors of a museum or historical location would… at the gift shop. The selection was largely varied and extremely locally sourced. Handmade jewelry, soaps, hand dipped candles and more homemade jams and spreads to fill a pantry for months lined the shelves and counters. For children, the gift shop offers authentic replicas of colonial style games, currency and pictures books. Overall, my visit to the farm was very enjoyable and a unique perspective on the colonial life of a hard working farm family from the year 1771.
Next time I visit will be for the Summer Market Fair on July 18th and 19th from 11 am – 4:30 pm.
See you there!
Guest post by Gregory Levitan, Arlington, VA