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Cultivating Interest in the Environment Through Farm Vacations

by Elyse Glickman

Apr 4, 2018

© Farm and Wilderness

Age Specific / Kids

While the whole “farm-to-table” thing evolved from a rarified restaurant trend to a well-trodden marketing phrase, a family agricultural experience has potential to instill the good eating habits and environmental stewardship that will last well into adulthood.

And why not, especially with childhood obesity statistics that constantly garner headlines? Generations of parents had to address the ages-old issue of getting kids to eat their vegetables and shifting their palates away from fast food. Several destinations across the United States are planting seeds for golden teachable moments. Agriculture-based activities are intended to make what kids learn about nutrition in school come to life in a meaningful, interactive way that runs the gamut from planting and harvesting to preparing and cooking just-picked ingredients.

New England/Eastern United States

Liberty Farms and Farm & Wilderness offer immersive experiences that not only show a farm’s inner workings, but have visitors experiencing a different way of life. Farm and Wilderness’s all-inclusive packages include bunk-style or open-air housing, family-style homemade meals, daytime farm chores (including milking) and interactions with the farm’s cows, goats, alpacas, chickens, rabbits and more. Upcoming programs include Spring Planting (May 25–28) where guests learn how to turn soil, transplant seedlings, sow new seeds and more, and an October harvest weekend.

Farm Wilderness

© Farm and Wilderness

Duke Farms in Hillsborough, N.J., is noteworthy for its nationally respected environmental education center on the grounds of a former estate now home to the largest allotment-style community garden in the country. Renters grow produce under organic, sustainable methods (no-till gardening, building soil biology and using natural mulches for water conservation). As part of the Duke Farms Education Program, the Community Garden offers a wide variety of educational opportunities such as classroom lectures, “walk and talk” sessions and hands-on workshops.

Longwood Gardens, located outside Philadelphia, was originally an arboretum doomed for the lumberyard but saved by philanthropist and industrialist Pierre S. du Pont in 1906. Today, it is now the premier horticulture garden in North America, and features several attractions that range from exuberant plantings and theatrical water displays that stimulate adventure. The Children’s Garden is filled with hands-on water features (courtesy of the 17 fountains), handcrafted sculptures, secret stairways and plant displays that invite younger children to learn about nature. Longwood’s Idea Garden, meanwhile, highlights what goes into the cultivation of seasonal produce.

Cindy Prentice Holly Hill Farm1

© Holly Hill Farm

In Cohasset, Mass., Holly Hill Farm is a certified organic vegetable and flower farm set on 140 acres of conservation land active since the 17th century. From June 11– Aug. 24, Holly Hill offers day camp programs for kids from 3-18. The older kids participate in a farm-to-food pantry garden, growing vegetables for needy local families. Younger kids sow seeds, help care for farm animals and make a strong connection to the land. Adults are able to volunteer as well, and camp staff can help develop a custom program for parents of children participating in summer camp.

Midwest

Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, a couple of hours outside Chicago, boasts an interactive family experience educating them on modern-day dairy farming that’s anything but corporate. On-site adventures include the Dairy Adventure, Pig Adventure and Crop Adventure. On the environmental end of things, the entire facility runs on cow and pig manure, transforming farm waste into energy.

Cindy Prentice Holly Hill farm2

© Holly Hill Farm

The Old School Farm in Nashville operates as a non-profit providing employment for individuals of all abilities while producing quality farm-to-table food for its restaurant. Additionally, there are also lots of homespun family-friendly activities like pottery classes, goat yoga, movie night, polka parties and more.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill shifted its emphasis from being a living history museum à la Colonial Williamsburg to a participatory experience via its many farm and garden programs, rooted in the spirit of the Kentucky Shakers. In addition to lots of eye-opening, on-site activities, the guests get take-home tips for their own home and backyard gardens. The property has 72 overnight rooms dispersed throughout13 historic Shaker buildings, as well as standalone cottages that sleep up to 10 people, family suites and traditional overnight rooms. There are 3,000 acres here that make up The Preserve, and 1,000 of those acres are restored native prairie, one of the rarest plant communities in North America.

West

The Relais & Chateau-affiliated The Home Ranch in Clark, Colo., offers an elevated family farm to table with strong conservation underpinnings. Owners Steve and Ann Stranahan created conservation easements among local landowners that would support and sustain the local ranching and farming community with an ongoing commitment to the stewardship of the land and community. Guests of the property, meanwhile, can stroll the grounds and enjoy meals prepared with ultra-fresh ingredients, and see master gardener Allison Mecklenburg and her crew in action.

Farm Wilderness

© Farm and Wilderness

Pebble Cover Farm on Washington State’s Orcas Island, meanwhile, features an organic garden, orchard and hen house. Guests can help themselves to berries, veggies and fresh eggs, as well as pet goats and chickens, and feed Buddy, the pony.

Hawai’i

When visiting Hawai’i, health-conscious families can experience how noted restaurateur Peter Merriman, one of the founding pioneers of handcrafted Hawai’i Regional Cuisine, brought the bounty of the mainland to the islands. Families looking for unique farm experiences can join the Merriman’s Kapalua team on Maui for local farm tours to Malama Farms, where Peter purchased the farm’s first pig; Evonuk Farms, a herb and produce farm; and Ulupalakua Ranch Company Farm.

#WhereverFamily

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