Even with the National Park Service coming to change the locks in a few hours, Anna Eberly can’t resist a few last lessons about colonial life.
She holds up one of the hand-woven baskets before it gets stuffed into a plastic bag. Unlike some of the other baskets woven from grass, Eberly says this one is woven from thin wooden shavings, making it incredibly resilient to everything except being dropped while carrying a heavy load.
After 46 years of volunteering at the farm, lessons like that come naturally to Eberly. But today (Friday) is the last day she’ll teach them at the farm. After one year of battling with the NPS over control of the farm, the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, which has maintained the farm since 1981, rejected an agreement that would have required greater levels of administrative and financial oversight.
Elliott Curzen, the director of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, said the farm equipment and animals are being moved off-site. Eberly said they are going to her home out in Loudoun County, where there are two acres of pasture.
“It’s disappointing we couldn’t come to a compromise,” said Curzen. “The locks change tomorrow, or tonight, and we have until Jan. 20 to keep moving property off-site.”
There was plenty of finger-pointing to go around throughout the debate over what should happen with the farm. The conflict started with a 2015 report questioning the farm’s financial relationships and demanding more oversight into what is bought and sold at the farm in markets, a mainstay of the farm events. Even a joint letter from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to the NPS wasn’t able to stave off the closure.
The NPS says the regulations are the same as would be imposed on any other national park. But Eberly said the new regulations were unfair, given that the park funds itself through the fairs rather than from federal funding.
The NPS says it has no plans to sell or develop the land, but in 2019 there will be community discussions about what should happen to the site next.
On the farm’s last day, there was some bitterness from volunteers helping to pack up. Eberly noted that the cats running around as people worked would be going back to her property.
“Taking care of them is my job,” said one volunteer walking past, before amending, “well, ‘was’ my job.”
“I won’t miss dealing with the National Park Service,” said Eberly. “I’ll miss the volunteers, but this is just a place. It’s a former landfill, with terrible soil. It’s not a very good farm. We have to import everything here from Loudoun.”
But it was also a living history museum to what life was like for the average colonial farmer in the 18th century. Curzen said while it was around, it was a unique look into a piece of local history, and one that will be gone by the end of the day.