There are still a few weeks before school begins, but that doesn’t mean kids can’t get a jump on learning. A great way to incorporate a little education into a fun outing is to pay a visit to a farm in or just outside the region. Whether you’d like to offer a lesson on agriculture, animal care or history, there are plenty of places to do so.
At the Buckley Homestead in Lowell, kids can get a view at what farming life was like in the past. According to Sandy Basala, Superintendent of Visitor Services for Lake County Parks, the farm was donated to Lake County in the 1970’s by a direct descendant of the Buckley family, which emigrated from Ireland. The upcoming Fall Festival on October 12 and 13 is the longest running program of the Lake County Parks. It started in 1979.
The Buckley Homestead is open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk where families can walk a trail (less than one mile) to see farm animals and view some of the historic buildings.
Starting the weekend following Labor Day though the end of October, the buildings are opened up with costumed interpreters giving a first-hand look at how 19th century farmers lived. In walking the trail, visitors can see the barnyard, a schoolhouse, grainery, barn, pioneer farm and log house.
“What makes it extra special is that it is one of few farm areas where people can take their families in the immediate area,” Basala said. “The family farm is few and far between now and you can’t visit many from the 1800s and 1900s. It gives a feel of what it was like on a farm when people raised animals and grew their own food.”
In contrast to the historic Buckley Farm, Fair Oaks Farms offers a glimpse at how high-tech farms operate today. The facility is a real working dairy farm where kids can see how milk is presently produced. “It’s nice for families who come here to Buckley Homestead and then go to Fair Oaks to really see the difference,” Basala said. “It’s nice to see how they did it then and how they do it now. The technique is different, but the anatomy is still the same.”
One of the largest dairies in the country, visitors not only have the opportunity to see how dairy products are made, but there’s also the opportunity to see a calf being born, a number of interactive exhibits and a 4D theater.
“It’s a family destination that is kind of an education. We call it ‘edutainment,’” said Jed Stockton, Communications Director for Fair Oaks Farms. “You can learn about where your food comes from. There’s an area where kids can go out and play, but they can see where their food products come from. They find out milk doesn’t come from a grocery store, it comes from a cow and a dairy.”
Visitors have a chance to sample some of the products made with milk from the cows at Fair Oaks Farms. In the cheese shop, you’ll find not only cheese, but also ice cream, cheese curds, milk and yogurt.
New this season is the Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms. “It basically shows 21st century agriculture as it pertains to pork production,” Stockdon said. “It shows everything a working pig farm does. There are various displays throughout the building – instructive videos on how pig farming has progressed, touch screens, interactive exhibits. It takes you through what a pig farmer does on a daily basis.”
Admission to the Pig Adventure is included in regular admission and as part of the exhibit, you’re able to see a piglet being born.
This is also a great time of year to introduce kids to farming by visiting a U-Pick fruit farm. Blueberry season is still underway and peaches will be available soon, followed by apples. At pickyourown.com.org, you can find listings by state and county of farms that allow customers out in the orchards to pick their own goodies. And don’t be shy about picking their brains for information. Farmers are often happy to talk to youngsters about their jobs and give them tips on starting gardens at home.