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Cover of Summer 2006 Issue

Hull Springs Farm
Sowing the Seeds of Knowledge

Bobbie Burton, VP for University Advancement, Exec. Director for Hull Springs Farm
Katie Register, Program Director for Hull Springs Farm

In the summer of 2002, Longwood Magazine introduced Hull Springs Farm as one of the most significant gifts in a turning point: The Campaign for Longwood. In 1999, Mary Farley Ames Lee, '38, left by bequest this vast resource to Longwood University to ensure that it would be used for educational purposes and not succumb to the development that she had witnessed in other parts of Virginia's Northern Neck.

Big House

For more photos and information, visit the Hull Springs Farm web site.

What exactly is Hull Springs Farm?

Hull Springs Farm consists of approximately 637 acres in Westmoreland County on Virginia’s Northern Neck. Nestled between two tidal creeks, Aimes Creek and Glebe Creek, the farm is bordered by approximately 8,000 feet of relatively undisturbed shoreline. Those creeks feed into the Lower Machodoc Creek which empties into the Potomac River, a primary tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

The acreage encompasses nearly 200 acres of active farmland and approximately 400 acres of forest land. The remainder is accounted for in the sites of various buildings, which include the Yellow House, a two story bungalow that once was the caretaker’s home; The Camp which includes a Camp Cottage (sleeping 12-14 dormitory style), two bunk houses (sleeping 6-8 each), and a detached toilet facility; The Big House, built in 1914 and beautifully renovated in 1994; and The Honeymoon Cottage, an older facility not presently in use. In addition there are several garages and utility buildings, piers and docks, and a boathouse.

The Farm is rich with many habitats unique to the tidal reaches of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including wetland, riparian (streamside), agricultural, and forest habitats in addition to a freshwater pond. Forest types include pine-hardwood, bottomland, and wetland hardwoods. The tidal creeks on either side of the property vary in their salinity. Longwood students and faculty have frequently collected data on the birds, plants, bats, hydrology, and water quality found on the property.

Several archaeological sites, both prehistoric and historic, have been identified on the Farm. Longwood’s Archaeology Field School has been surveying the site since 1993. Based on the evidence of projectile point types and other stone tools, prehistoric Native American Indians were present as early as 3,800 years ago and, based on the evidence of fired clay pottery shards and other ceramics, prehistoric presence continued up to the time of European contact. There is also evidence of windowpane glass, wrought and cut nails, colonial ceramic shards, kaolin pipe stems, and wine bottle pieces that indicate historic occupation in numerous areas as early as the 1680s.


What does Longwood University intend to do with Hull Springs Farm?

Be a Friend of Hull Springs Farm

Longwood is forming a Friends of Hull Springs Farm organization to support the work described in this article. You can become a charter member by visiting the constantly evolving website and making a contribution online or by sending a check made to the Longwood University Foundation, Inc. (with “Hull Springs Farm” in the note section) to:

The Longwood University Foundation Inc., 201 High Street, Farmville, VA 23909.

A gift will put you on the mailing list for updates and reports on the activities at Hull Springs Farm.

From the earliest discussions with Mrs. Lee about Hull Springs Farm and its future, Longwood has been committed to preserving the property from development and using it for educational purposes. The pathway to the future for the Farm has two distinct branches. The first leads to the development of a range of activities targeted to serve specific Longwood programs and the second leads to good stewardship of this vast resource through a host of outreach activities targeted to promote environmental sustainability.

Hull Springs Farm has been used by Longwood students and faculty since the early 1990s. It has served as a field school for archaeology and as a research base for many programs in the biological sciences. A new overall plan is committed to collaborating with other colleges and universities to create new research and teaching opportunities at the Farm; for establishing a summer camp program for K-12 students; and eventually, an environmental education center for all ages and educational levels. Longwood intends to establish an environmental science major that will help address the critical shortage of K-12 earth science teachers, in part by using the Farm and its resources as a living learning laboratory.

Once some of the facilities have been upgraded, the Farm will host a range of Longwood curricular and extracurricular activities in an ideal setting that minimizes interruptions from telephones, e-mail and other daily distractions, and maximizes the creativity and cooperation that seem to flow from a simple, natural environment.

From the outreach perspective, thanks to funding from the Blue Moon Fund and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, an extensive feasibility study on potential uses for the Farm was conducted in 2004-05. The study investigated how the property might best be used as an educational and research center and how a unique niche for the property might be developed, while at the same time preserving and enhancing the land’s ecological functions.

As a result of the information gathered, the study recommended how best to implement a mix of conservation, restoration, recreation, research, and educational goals. In the process, Longwood began to create a consortium of partners including academic resources, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private groups to assist in the development of a vision and long-range plan for Hull Springs Farm.

With the feasibility study as a guide, the property was
introduced to a variety of interested groups through a series of walking and canoeing tours. Scientists, policy makers, researchers, conservation experts, educators, grant administrators, and elected officials have shared their ideas on how the property can best be used.

Highlights from the Feasibility Study

Rapid Growth and Change on Virginia’s Northern Neck

Virginia’s Northern Neck is undergoing rapid development as farms and forestland are giving way to urban development. The region, including properties adjacent to Longwood’s Hull Springs Farm, is experiencing all the impacts that are common to land development.

Need for Multi-Purpose Educational Center

According to completed surveys received from experts in the environmental education field, there is a great need for an educational center with overnight accommodations in Virginia’s Northern Neck, as there are not enough such facilities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Timeline to Complete a Thoughtful Plan

Other universities and organizations which have created
educational and research centers similar to the aspirations of Hull Springs Farm have spent years in the planning, fundraising and development stages, allowing time for a thoughtful examination of ecosystem management issues, planning and data collection. During 2006-07, Longwood will evaluate and upgrade infrastructure with plans to launch expanded use and programming by the summer of 2008.

Opportunities at Hull Springs Farm

Hull Springs Farm presents a unique opportunity for a case study in wise land management for educational, research and ecological purposes. The property provides multiple ecosystem restoration and management opportunities and supports the vision to have the land serve as a model and demonstration site for an integrated approach to land-use decisions, ecological restoration, and low-impact techniques in property improvements.

Use of Innovative Technologies – Part of Integrated Management

Many innovative technologies can be employed with the creation of a regional educational center in Virginia’s Northern Neck. Forest tracts can be managed with innovative, cutting-edge technologies to support research, education and wildlife habitat as well as generate revenue. Wetland, riparian and shoreline restoration projects will have positive impacts on the fish and bird communities, and improve water quality.

It is the university’s intention to establish an education, research, and demonstration center and become a model
for best management practices for sustainability in the areas of forestry, agriculture, wetlands, habitat, and shoreline protection. Thus, in addition to environmental education targeted to K-12 programs and Longwood students and faculty, demonstration sites of best management practices would also encourage a better understanding of sustainable methods among landowners, contractors, developers and policy makers.

What projects are currently in progress at Hull Springs Farm?

Shoreline Erosion Control and Habitat Research

Longwood University secured a $40,500 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation) to assess how living shoreline techniques could be utilized to control erosion, while also preserving or restoring shoreline habitat that supports shorebirds, juvenile fish, tidal marsh, submerged aquatic vegetation, and other plant and wildlife species. This collaborative project involves many partners, including Longwood, Virginia Institute of Marine Science (at The College of William and Mary), Virginia Commonwealth University, Northern Neck Soil and Water Conservation District, Northern Neck Planning District Commission, Burke Environmental Associates LLC, Clean Virginia Waterways, and community volunteers.

Forest Stewardship Management Plan

In the effort to manage the natural resources at Hull Springs Farm, generate environmentally-sensitive revenue, and provide educational experiences for people of all ages, Longwood worked collaboratively with Virginia Tech in developing a new Forest Stewardship Management Plan based on the innovative application of scientific research. Data has been logged into a Geographic Information System (GIS) to facilitate decision making and aid in future education, research, and stewardship activities. This collaboration between Virginia Tech and Longwood marks an important step in developing Hull Springs Farm as an educational resource, and will allow the Farm to function as a showcase for new directions in forest and wildlife management.

Wetland Restoration Study

In the past, thousands of acres of wetlands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed (including much of Hull Springs Farm) were drained and filled for agriculture. Soil and wetland scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have been researching the Farm to determine which areas could be restored to wetlands. Wetlands play an essential role in water quality by filtering pollutants and fertilizers, while providing breeding areas for amphibians, reptiles, and fish, and habitat for plants, insects, and birds.

The Long-Range Plan

Longwood plans to establish an educational research center and become a model for sustainability in the areas of forestry, agriculture, wetlands, habitat, and shoreline protection.

Other plans for the Farm’s natural resources are in the formative stages. Eventually, stewardship plans will be developed for the Farm’s freshwater ponds, riparian areas, invasive species, and agricultural fields.

While it will take time, Longwood University has high aspirations for Hull Springs Farm to serve the university as a retreat and education center while contributing to the greater good, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Commonwealth of Virginia by using this incredible resource to promote environmental sustainability through research, education, and good stewardship of the land.