Volunteer Dick Hoffmann: Working on the Farm Is a Blast from His Past

This article is reprinted with permission from the October 2017 Golden Gazette.

Hoffman 2_edited-1Dick Hoffmann is originally from northwest Iowa—where corn grows tall. He came to Fairfax County in 1983 by way of farm-rich Missouri.

With a geological engineering degree in hand, he and his wife planted themselves in Reston with a job safely lined up at a large company.

Who knew that more than 30 years later, Dick would be driving a tractor pulling a wagon full of children for fun and informative rides at Kidwell Farm, a part of Frying Pan Farm Park in western Fairfax.

Located at 2709 West Ox Road in Herndon, this county-owned park preserves and interprets life on a 1920s-50s farm and includes a meeting house that was used for town meetings and religious services.

The volunteer tractor job was a natural fit for him. He holds a fondness for farms that stems from his childhood. Additionally, he says that retirement is just around the bend from his “real” job. (He works as a consultant on government proposals.)

Dick graciously took time out of his day to answer a few questions about his life and why he likes volunteering on the farm.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I went to kindergarten in a one room school. We had 21 students, seven grades and one teacher.

When I was in high school, we moved to Missouri. I graduated from the University of Missouri at Rolla. My wife and I moved to Northern Virginia in the early 80s and have lived in Herndon and Reston. We have twin boys and a dog.

How long have you been driving the wagon and is it hard to operate?

I’ve been driving for more than 10 years, and it’s not really hard to operate. Luckily, I already could use a standard transmission, and thankfully, we don’t have to back up. But, you need to carefully watch out for people — especially kids, stay away from fences and try not to hit many potholes.

It must build up your arm muscles . . .

Mine aren’t bad, but a lot of muscle isn’t necessary. The newer John Deere tractors have power steering and the old Farmalls have tricycle steering gears that make them easier to drive.

Did you always want to drive a tractor?

No, this job offer was quite unexpected. My dog frequently walks me at the park, and one day a park employee asked me if I would like to drive wagon rides.

How many rides are given in a day?

Wagon drivers usually work in the morning or afternoon. They do five or six rides with between five and 130 riders.

In the summer, we give rides to park visitors. But, now during the school year, we mostly carry student groups on field trips. The number usually depends on the weather.

We also provide rides during special park activities, like the Fall Carnival Fun, which is coming up Oct. 13-15.

Why do you like driving the tractor?

It gives me a chance to tell people interesting things about the park. I also learn from my riders, too, like the gentleman who herded bison.

It is also a bit nostalgic from living on a farm and helping my surrogate grandfather while I was in college.

How did you become a volunteer?

My dog frequently walks me at the park, and one day, I was asked if I would like to help with wagon rides.

What is your favorite season to drive?

Probably fall when the leaves are turning and temperature is cool.

Any memorable rides or people that stand out?

The day the shuttle arrived at Dulles was exciting. Some people on the ride had past connections with the farm and talked about how things used to be on the farm and in the area.

Frying Pan Farm Park is located at 2709 West Ox Rd, Herndon,  VA. Call 703-437-9101 for more information or go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fryingpanpark.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 11 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2008. Another Park Bond Referendum will be held in November 2012. Today, the Park Authority has 420 parks on approximately 23,168 acres of land. We offer 371 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park System is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: o Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist. o Eight golf courses including Laurel Hill, our newest, upscale course and clubhouse located in Southern Fairfax County o Five nature and visitor centers. Also seven Off-Leash Dog Activity areas o Several lakes including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax o The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter o Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel o An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter o Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel o Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent o A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly o A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale o Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community o Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center o Provides 274 athletic fields, including 30 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 500 school athletic fields PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: • A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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