When booking your next family holiday, perhaps you would like to try something a little different, more hands on, and that will bring you closer as a family while learning fun and useful things. Agritourism is growing in both popularity and availability- it is not only an educational experience, but a truly unique and interesting one that the whole family can enjoy.
For many, farming was the way our ancestors made a living, and there are still quite a few Americans today who farm full time. Family farms, however, are fast going the way of horse drawn carriages and mechanical watches- it gets harder every year for small, family owned farms to make a living while large brand owned businesses are in the game and making regulations difficult. Enter agritourism. Not only does this allow family farms to stay afloat, but also gives today’s families and children who often have zero idea what manual and physical labor is, insight to the inner workings of farm life, days gone by, rural living, and a whole day being outside- without a video game in sight.
We recently took such a trip to Hull-O Farms in the Catskills of upstate NY. This is not a petting zoo- you can actually take part in farm chores. You will learn to milk a cow, feed the chickens, find the eggs from the coop, bottle feed baby goats, and more. Your family stays right on site on farm property, eating with the other guests in the large kitchen food prepared by Mrs. Hull herself (many recipes honed after being handed down for generations) and often grown on the farm. The family is the 6th generation of farmers who have lived on the property. Mr. Hull (AKA “Farmer Frank”) was born in a room right off the kitchen. Mrs. Hull prides herself on her pancakes, and with good reason. She has produced a cookbook, sharing some of her secrets with guest (though she refuses to share her pancake recipe) and Farmer Frank has spent years perfecting his sausage patties- yes, made from his own product. You know where your food comes from at Hull-O farms.
We spent quite a bit of time with Farmer George, not an owner of the property but a hired hand. His patience with the children and guidance as we learned techniques were greatly appreciated, as we “city folk” had never fed baby goats before and had not cast a fishing line in a very long time. My son, being only 5, had done few of the farm chores in his short lifetime and was thus slow and clumsy (being only a young child). George never lost patience and was calm and gentle with him, letting him make mistakes and explaining methods, oftentimes more then once. He learned many things while on the farm, from the right way to hold a bottle, to how to feed pigs, where eggs come from (he never believed me) and why they are white or brown, and more. My son was enthralled with the experience we had at the farm, asking as we left (and many times since coming home) when we can return.
We also had some downtime from farm chores, and were able to go fishing with Farmer George, participate in a sunset sing-a-long and s’mores roast with the other guests and a lovely local guitar playing musician named Greg Stewart, and met some animal friends as well. A large white turkey (Frick, of the pair “Frick and Frack”) as well as a fluffy gray and white cat my son decided was named “Furry” followed him everywhere we went- doing chores, getting lunch, and even tried to go to the s’mores roast with us. We had to bring the turkey back across the street to the main farm, with Darlene (who works on the farm and is one of the kindest people I have ever met) keeping him and the cat company until they could get them back into the barn for their own safety.
Giving your children the experience of being out doors, working with and having hands-on time with animals and farm chores, is a wonderful one and something many of us lack today- time in nature. Being able to look out your window and see cows grazing is a treat for any child not used to it- and I must admit, for parents, as well.
For more information or to book a trip, go to http://www.hull-o.com/ or call (518) 239-6950