“Eat your vegetables!” is a stereotypical parenting phrase, but I want my kid to not just eat them, but also know where they come from. While we’re farmers’ market regulars, the Montgomery County Farm Tour offered a unique opportunity last weekend to get hands-on with some plants and animals.
Of the 19 farms participating, we decided to visit just two, considering limits on time and toddlers’ attention span.
Our first stop was Homestead Farm, which offers pick-your-own fruit, as well as a number of vegetables at its farm market. While they offered produce for sale, they also had quite a few animals, which were a big hit with the kiddie set.
I especially loved the set-up they had for their goats. Goats are known for their climbing skills and complete lack of fear. They’re notorious for scrambling up on roofs. Rather than fighting this instinct, Homestead had the brilliant idea of giving them something to climb onto. Above our heads were two platforms connected by a walkway. There were even little baskets that visitors could use to haul food up to the goats!
Other animals at the farm included chickens, pigs and a llama. Sprout gave us a running commentary – “Chickens inside!” he’d proclaim. They seemed to be his favorite for some reason – perhaps the crowing or their feathers’ pretty colors. I tried to use this fondness to convince Chris we should raise chickens, but my suggestion was thoroughly ignored.
The orchard was next up, ready for all of our peach-picking needs. To keep him busy, I assigned Sprout the responsibility of placing – not throwing or dropping – the peaches into the box. Of course, it took a couple of tries (and then a couple more) before he moved from violently bruising them to putting them down gently. Despite his assignment, he wanted to actually pick some peaches himself. Thankfully, a lot of the peach trees were short, with fruit within his reach. While I was highly skeptical of his peach selection abilities, he picked quite a few that were perfectly ripe. There must have just been so many that it was hard to go wrong. Like any time you go fruit picking, our hands were bigger than our stomachs. Peach jam and cobbler, anyone?
Our second stop on the farm tour was Star Gazing Farm, a sanctuary for abused and abandoned farm animals. As the animals roam very free there, we were allowed to walk right up to them. Again, the chickens were popular, with Sprout exclaiming, “Chicken, chicken!” and looking interested when the guide showed us a freshly-laid egg. I took the opportunity to connect it to one of his books, Me…Jane, which shows a young Jane Goodall watching a hen laying an egg.
The farm must have made him feel safe, because Sprout even worked up the nerve to touch one of the animals. Every time we’ve seen farm animals, he’s been perfectly content to look and not touch. He backs off quickly if the animal even looks at him. But for whatever reason, he judged the sheep was unthreatening and gingerly reached out a hand to stroke its wool. After a few pets, he declared, “Soft.”
Besides looking at the animals, the farm also had a sheep shearing demonstration and offered a variety of knitted goods made by volunteers for sale. The hats and sweaters were ridiculously inexpensive for hand-made goods, probably less than the price of the wool. I got winter hats for myself and Sprout for $25!
We rounded out the day with a little picnic of PB&J sandwiches, lemonade and watermelon. Our tour of local agriculture offered a small taste of the many farms in our area and what they produce.