By Nicole Loughan
A class trip with my daughter fueled my nostalgia about living on a farm.
I recently accompanied a group of kindergarteners to Merrymead Farm in Langhorne and the experience made me yearn for my childhood, one that’s quite rare. I was raised on a beef cattle farm in the Midwest, owned by my father. We lived just down the street from the rest of my family. As a unit they owned several hundred acres, almost all the land I could see was ours. The slogan plastered on the side of our barn was eat beef, drink milk, where wool. Between all of the family properties I grew up around horses, chickens, pigs, cows, sheep, bunnies, barn cats, goats and dogs. I would run around the farm with my cousins and siblings watching animals, feeding calves and picking berries for our summer berry sale.
I moved away from farm life almost 20 years ago, but I go back to visit my family every summer. During last year’s visit my kids got to watch my cousin give horseback riding lessons to kids with special needs. They were able to feed chickens and nurse baby goats when their mom went lame. They got to watch a sheep get sheared.
My kids have had a basic introduction to farming, which helps so much with their understanding of the world and our food. I was so excited to learn that there is a chance to get down and dirty on the farm, without having a family in the business. Bucks County has more than 60 farms and Hunterdon County is home to 127,043 farmland assessed acres. Some of my friends have been enjoying farms which offer summer camps or chances for kids to be volunteer farm hands through programs such as those at Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville.
There are so many pluses to kids being around a farm, and by farm I mean a local, family owned farm not a factory farm. With summer coming up I think it’s a great idea to take a day trip out to a farm and get a little more in touch with nature, here are some of the wonderful advantages available from spending time with nature.
Knowledge – As a society we are so separate from our food most people don’t know what it is. Most kids have no idea where their food comes from, they eat a burger and don’t know it’s a cow. Or they drink milk and don’t know it’s from an animal udder. Knowing this may create a vegetarian, I know I dabbled with it for a little bit, but it’s still only fair for them to know what they are eating. I eventually came to feel comfortable with my carnivorous ways, but I do have relatives in farming who don’t eat meat. One of them moved to horse and rabbit farming instead of beef.
Compassion – though I am a meat eater I don’t agree with animal mistreatment. Neither do successful farmers. Happy animals are healthy animals and while we were raising our cows for beef, they went out to pasture often, they saw a vet on a regular basis and were well treated while they were with us.
Adventure – Growing up on a farm always left room for the unexpected. When roaming the farm as a child a million unexpected things could happen in a day, like the time we crossed paths with a ravenous possum. The day we crossed the river from one property to the next and found ourselves pulling off leaches on the other side, it was terrible at the time, but the memory makes me smile now. I know what a leach is and how to get it off, salt by the way.
Science – Watching plants grow through a season is very exciting and leaves many opportunities for scientific exploration. Kids can learn about photo synthesis, but on an even more basic level they can watch how fast seed grow in the soil. For example corn that is planted now is just sprouting a few leaves but in a little over a month that corn will be five feet tall.
There are dozens of farms to visit nearby. Here are a few to get your family farm adventures started:
Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse at 369 Stamets Rd in Milford, is home to approximately 35 cows with a bakehouse that creates breads and pastries.
Carousel Farm Lavender Boutique, located at 5966 Mechanicsville Rd in Mechanicsville is an 18th century stone barn and rolling fields of lavender broken only by fieldstone walls – the Carousel Farm is located just outside of the Delaware River town of New Hope. The Carousel Farm, first established in 1748, has had many lives over the centuries, once a dairy farm, later a horse farm and, in the mid-20th century, an exotic animal farm.
Howell Living History Farm, located at 70 Woodens Ln in Lambertville, is a time machine that takes visitors to the year 1900, when horse drawn buggies traveled the lanes of Pleasant Valley and when farms were bordered by snake fences and Osage orange trees. Each year, over 65,000 visitors experience their rural heritage through the living history programs offered at the farm.
Fulper Family Farmstead, located at 281 Rocktown Lambertville Road in Lambertville, is a 103 year old farm. Tours include the milking parlor, newborn calf barn, maternity suites, composting program, and renewable solar energy system.
Paxson Hill Farm, located at 3265 Comfort Rd in New Hope, allows locals to stroll through unique gardens like the shade gardens, formal gardens, ponds, bell garden, wing gardens, and the “never never land”.
Solebury Orchards, located at 3325 Creamery Road has seasonal U-Pick fruits and veggies. The next you season starts in July and runs through October.
Tullamore Farms, at 1998 Daniel Bray Hwy in Stockton, is dedicated to providing the finest ethically and sustainably raised food products while focusing on responsible, progressive stewardship of land and livestock. Locals can participate in cooking classes or even stay overnight at the barn.