The tradition started last year, we once again welcomed Head Start students and their families to our farm to explore and enjoy our farm. Arriving both in buses and cars, around one hundred and fifty people attended our event. We began the morning with families roaming in and around our barn. With goats and horses inside, parents and children had the chance to greet our animals with the ‘horseman’s handshake’ and take a step inside the stall to pet and brush them, as well. Outside in the paddock, our two cows licked at passers-by over the fence. Out in the grass, the two bunnies hopped about in the sun, letting anyone who came by pet them. After these introductions with our animals, the families headed over to our pavilion to have some lunch at the picnic tables. Adjacent to this picnic spot, we had our riding ring filled with hula hoops, cones, ring toss, canvas sacks for sack racing, small wagons, and more.
Following lunch and some free play in the riding ring, we split up into small groups to take walking tours around the farm. My own group trekked down the pine trails, finding mushrooms, pine cones, and all sorts of natural trinkets on our way to the open field by the pond. Here, we made sure to do some cartwheels and somersaults. From there, we visited the pond to investigate the work of the beaver and snuck into the nearby woods to give a hug to my favorite tree. Making our way through the arboretum, we found some stray rabbit bones and groundhog holes before emerging through the hedgerow at the chicken house. Matilda, the buff orpington hen, allowed us to pet her before we found our final destination – the puppy pen. Here, we greeted and loved on our darling foxhound puppies.
While these tours were going on, we had some other activities for everyone. In the barn, Joy entertained those who wanted to revisit some of the animals. Rick and Missy Grimes kindly volunteered to run the wagon rides around the upper fields, making sure to spot our chickens and horses on their way around. Our neighbors, the Irons, brought their incredible bubble machine to create a sudsy wonderland for everyone to play in. After enjoying all of these wonderful adventures, the buses were reloaded and everyone headed home. Soon enough, however, all of the Head Start preschoolers will be arriving again for their four consecutive field trips – maybe with parents in tow.
Since the animals and nature which we cherish on our farm are so unfamiliar to many of the families, the outing to the farm surely stretched the comfort zones of our visitors of all ages. On the other hand, the farm environment reminded others in our group of a life left behind. One bright-eyed father, wearing his daughter’s Dora the Explorer backpack, told us all about the ten horses and 200 head of cattle he grew up with in El Salvador. He relished in the knowledge that his daughter would get a chance to ride a horse and play in the stream as he did as a boy. And he was not the only one that showed this sort of enthusiasm for sharing a farm experience – there were also the older siblings who attended our sessions as preschoolers and have since moved on to kindergarten, first grade, second grade and beyond! For all who came to our ‘family day’ on the farm, sharing in the experience of animals and nature was surely a sunny day well spent.