How to Visit a Farm
Visiting a working farm can be a wonderful family activity, educational and entertaining for children and adults alike. To help ensure that yours is a successful trip, we offer the following advice.
If you only remember one thing from this page, let it be this: Please call ahead to find a mutually convenient time for your visit. Farmers are some of the world's busiest people, so dropping in is usually not a good idea. Some farms have regular hours when they are open for visitors or CSA pick-ups; if not, call ahead.
I once worked at a farm where the townspeople had so abused this rule of common courtesy, that the farmer was moved to post signs along the driveway. They started out reasonably polite: "If the gate was closed, we're not open for visitors. Please come back when we are open." The last one, up near the house, was very direct, "Turn around and go away!"
A farm is a family business and a home. Respecting the farmers' work load -- and their privacy -- is important.
Park in Designated Areas
If you don't know where to park, ask.
Farms are not necessarily accident proof, and they're definitely not weather proof. Come dressed for the weather, in clothes that you won't mind finding mud or manure on at the end of the day. Wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes to protect your feet and make it easier to walk on the uneven ground. Bring your own water and a snack.
Pick Only What You Are Invited To
Speaking of snacks, please remember that the farm's products are its income. It can be tempting to help yourself to the beautiful food you see, especially when the fruit looks perfect and so plentiful! But just as you wouldn't eat a box of strawberries as you stroll through the grocery store, it is also not appropriate to snack your way through the farm. Be a good guest, and remind your kids to do the same! Taste things only if you are invited to do so. There may be an opportunity to purchase something to take home at the end of your visit.
If you are visiting a U-pick farm, of course, the whole point is to pick the fruit. In that case, make sure to pay for what you pick, and pick only from the row you were assigned.
Mind Your Feet
Stay on the paths. Plant roots and the soil itself need air to stay healthy, and it is easy for them to get sick when the soil has been compacted. Don't walk in the plants' bed! Stay on the path and teach your children to stay on the path!
Help Your Children Learn True Things
Visiting a farm can and should be a fun and engaging time. One of the best parts will be watching your children encounter new things. If you are a parent who is uncomfortable with the insects, mud, and animals commonly found on farms, it is a good idea to think through how you can avoid inadvertently passing on these fears to your children. The farmer will be your guide when you are at the farm. When you arrive, you might ask the farmer to explain to you and your children what real safety concerns exist. 'Most everything else will wash off with soap and water when you get home. Make sure your children are respectful of the farm's rules, and then try to be relaxed and open and enjoy your visit.
Another thing to watch for is the universal parental tendency to make up answers to kids' questions. There's no need for that in your farm visit! Rather than possibly passing on misinformation, go ahead and ask. So long as you are mindful of the farmer's time limits, it is fine -- encouraged, even! -- to ask the farmer how various things work. Your farm visit can be a wonderful opportunity for you to model the learning process with your children. Be curious. Wonder aloud. Ask someone who knows. Listen carefully. Take in this new knowledge. Go home more connected to the world.