by Kaylin Beach, Volunteer Coordinator
Joshua is a 14-year-old homeschooled student in 9th grade. His favorite subject is Geography. When not at the farm or doing schoolwork, he enjoys playing competitive soccer, building Nerf guns and computers, playing Minecraft, surviving in the wilderness (aka, his backyard), and cooking (especially spicy food!).
Joshua has served the Foundation in almost every volunteer role. Spending most of his time as a Farmhand and volunteer Museum Interpreter, he has supported several of the Foundation’s large events behind the scenes, worked the fields and gardens of the National Colonial Farm, and tended to the Heritage Breed Livestock. His most recent volunteer service included the design and creation of a fake tree for the Visitor Center Kids Corner, to be debuted this spring. He designed, built, and painted the 6-foot fake crab apple tree with support from Accokeek Foundation Staff and the Visitor Center Intern.
During our last fiscal year (October 2018-November 2019), Joshua volunteered an impressive 171 hours with the Foundation. He was one of 6 volunteers who received the award of Highest Honors, given to volunteers who serve 100+ hours in a year. As one of our stellar volunteers, I sat down with Joshua and asked him to share with us his thoughts about volunteering with the Accokeek Foundation.
Kaylin Beach: How long have you been a volunteer at the Accokeek Foundation? What made you decide to become a volunteer?
Joshua Beach: At least 3 years. My sister works at the Foundation, so I decided to come and support the work she was doing. I like being outdoors and working with my hands, so farm work sounded like something I would enjoy.
KB: What is your favorite part about volunteering at the Accokeek Foundation?
JB: I love to learn new things, like how to manage farm animals, build strong fences, complete barnyard chores, garden, pick hornworms from tobacco, cook over an open fire, carve pronged sticks for moving cattle using 18th-century tools, build a fake tree, etc…. I like that every time I come in, there’s a new adventure waiting for me. I also really enjoy the staff’s enthusiasm towards new learning experiences – they are just as curious as I am and always willing to explore with me.
KB: What do you know now that you didn’t know when you first started volunteering?
JB: Pretty much everything I know now about livestock came from working with the Farmhands program under Farmer Joe and Farmer Maryn at the Accokeek Foundation. My experience with farm animals was limited to horses and turkeys prior to, so I really gained a lot of good experience from working in that program. As a volunteer Museum Interpreter, I learned how to spit-roast a turkey the 18th century way, and how a boy my age would’ve lived on a tobacco farm. It was fun to dress in 18th-century clothing and work on a farm like I lived there, especially when I got to do something I wouldn’t be able to do at my real house (like spit roast a turkey, start a fire, or cut saplings to build a fence from.)
KB: How has volunteering impacted your life?
JB: Volunteering has helped me to expand my knowledge and experience in areas that interested me, but I didn’t have the resources to grow in on my own. It has allowed me to acquire school credits, as a homeschooler, while doing work I find meaningful and fun. It has challenged me to try new things and not be afraid of failure, but to embrace the process of learning. Also, it has allowed me to get really muddy and build lots of fires (safely, I will add)!
KB: Can you tell us about a memorable experience you had while volunteering at the foundation?
JB: I was working in the fields with Farmer Joe one day moving our female cattle from one pasture to another, and our old bull was being antsy. It was during mating season, and he wanted to get out of his pasture and over to them, and I was standing in his way. He started to charge at me from the other side of the field. Farmer Joe saw it and yelled for me to get out of the pasture. I jumped out of the way, over the worm fence, to safety. I learned that bulls are more easily aggravated during mating season, especially when female cattle are around. I also learned that I had to quickly respond to the situation logically, instead of panicking. If I had panicked, I wouldn’t have been able to listen to Farmer Joe and make it to safety.
KB: What’s one piece of advice you would give to potential volunteers about volunteering for the foundation?
JB: Don’t limit yourself to one volunteer position or supervisor. Some of the most incredible experiences I’ve had at the farm have come from the variety of jobs I have been able to do. I have enjoyed the option of varying tasks, as it can get boring doing the same thing every time.
Also, don’t be afraid to try something that is a little out of your comfort zone – learning should be challenging, and the Accokeek Foundation is a great place to grow! Also, the supervisors I’ve been able to work with have taught me a lot about working hard, following instructions and being a part of a team.
It is through volunteers, like Josh, that the Accokeek Foundation has been able to maintain and interpret over 200 acres of Piscataway Park. We know that we could not reach our current audiences as effectively without folks like Josh, who are willing to work behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly.
The Accokeek Foundation staff would like to say “Thank You!” to Josh for being such a stellar part of Team Accokeek.