In 1981, it seemed that the closure of Turkey Run Farm in McLean was inevitable. The National Park Service (NPS) was running low on funds and the farm was on its list of sites to be shut down. However, local citizens were not willing to let go so easily.
"We've had an amazing history the last 25 years from when we thought we were going to go out of business as a park," said farm director Margi Vanderhye at a luncheon last week.
The purpose of the luncheon, which was held at J.R. Stockyard's Inn, was to kick off the 25th anniversary of what is now Claude Moore Colonial Farm. Members of the farm's Board of Directors were in attendance, as were various farm volunteers.
In 1981, the volunteer group the Friends of Turkey Run Farm was born, and on June 7 of that year, the NPS turned the property over to the organization. That fall, the Friends of Turkey Run Farm decided to close the farm, regroup and find a way to raise funds to protect the future of the property.
The Friends struck a deal with Dr. Claude Moore of Loudoun County. Moore contributed $250,000 to an endowment fund which the Friends had six months to match. The resulting $500,000 would then be kept in trust to provide funds for the operation of the farm. Through contributions, parties, talks, student bake sales and a pig roast, the Friends were able to raise the necessary money to match Moore's contribution by April of 1982.
This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the farm's founding, and the 25th year that the nonprofit Friends of the Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run Park Inc. has successfully managed the farm as the only privately operated park in the National Park System. To commemorate this, the Friends will be holding a 25th anniversary celebration on March 2 at the Botanical Gardens.
"This is an organization that has been an integral part of the community," said Vanderhye. "We have 50,000 people who come through the farm every year now."
Claude Moore Colonial Farm holds a number of special events throughout the year to raise money for its operation. One of its most well-known events is its 18th Century Market Fair at which period food, beverages and wares are available for purchase, as well as plants, clothing, jewelry and crafts. In addition, the Pavilions of Turkey Run are rented out for various special occasions.
"It's been great fun, and when I talk about a partnership that's exactly what it is," said Peg Jarman, manager of the Pavilions.
On Thursday, April 27, there will be an open house at the Pavilions designed to show off just how the site can be used for party purposes.
The Farm depends on its hundreds of volunteers that keep it running. Grace Harkins, a member of the McLean Woman's Club, has been volunteering at the farm for 10 years. She primarily works in The farm's store, and says her favorite aspect of volunteering there is "meeting people that come in from all over the country."
"I do whatever they ask me to do," said Harkins. "Sweep the floor, work the register — I've done everything from working in the store to washing chickens."
Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois was also at last week's luncheon.
"I'm honored to have the farm in McLean," said DuBois. "I do go there, I plan to go there in the spring, and I plan to do some volunteer work."