We connect families — and especially children — to the farm through “Farm Camp”, which runs 9-11 am every morning, just for guests in the farm stay. This is a boutique experience in which we tailor all activities to the children's ages and skills. We encourage children to come without the parents. Parents are always welcome, of course, but we love giving parents a break, and the kids have a great time becoming experts on the farm and showing their parents around later.
Farm camp is adjusted for each group, but we follow a general schedule:
9-10 am Basic Farm Chores. We feed the chickens, the goats, the ponies, and the sheep. We assess the waters, scrubbing and refilling troughs as needed. We clean the stalls and haul the manure in a wagon out to the pasture. We take our time with all of these activities, as indicated by the abilities and temperaments of the individual kids.
10-11 am Crafts or Ponies or.... Once the chores are done, we have some choices. Sometimes we’ll do a craft project, often involving our sheep’s wool; or a cooking project using produce from the garden. We might walk out into the woods to see the creek or to see if any mushrooms have grown and read the book on the story walk. We might sit in a pen with the bunny, working on showing the bunny how gentle kids can be. We might brush the ponies and do a pony ride in the ring or in the woods. Sometimes a farm emergency crops up and we have to tend to that right away! (ie: escaped sheep, orphaned chick, chickens in the garden, etc.)
After Farm Camp, families are on their own. They can still come down to the barn area and look for eggs or hang out with the animals. They can also schedule hour-long riding lessons on our sweet pony for an additional fee. Or they can relax or head out to explore the area. We keep a binder of information, including suggestions for local antiquing, hiking, swimming, shopping, etc.
The Value of Work: We push the kids to do work. Having seen numerous 3-year-olds handle a shovel with gusto, we aren’t too swayed by a 5-year-old who sighs mid-chore that the shovel is too heavy. (It’s always the five-year-olds!) We remind the kids that this work has to be done so the animals can stay clean and healthy. The chores are short and sweet and adapted to the child’s age, and once they are done we can go on to the next thing! Within two or three days most kids are 100% on board. They understand the task and they’ve developed the skills to do it well.
We started gently pushing kids to do chores, even when they were resistant, when we discovered that many of them, after sighing and dragging their feet about a chore, went back to tell their parents that that particular chore was their favorite part of the morning. Weird, right?! But it kept happening. We try to instill pride in the kids for doing real work that contributes to the farm and to the welfare of the animals. It really is real work, and they deserve to be proud. We LOVE it when they show off the clean stalls or the sparkling clean water troughs to their parents.
We are also motivated by the scores of parents through the years who have told us about their own experiences on a farm as a child, whether it was in Iowa or France or China or Poland or Texas. Often they had to do hard work. Many look back on that work as essential to who they are now as adults, and they want their children to experience that same pride in a challenging job well done.
FOR GROUPS WITH NO KIDS
We host many grown-up-only groups for Farm Camp! We can follow the same format: essential chores, followed by free choice. With adults we can do more complex or difficult chores, of course. If you want to work hard enough to feel sore and tired at the end of the day and sleep well that night, let us know! If you want to take it easy that’s OK, too! We also can do more in-depth crafts.
Many guests use a weekend on the farm as an opportunity to consult about a move to the country. We moved from Brooklyn in 2010 and are eager to share our experience, including everything we did wrong.