Lyndsey Marston is the Director of MFT's Stewardship Program, and monitors MFT's farm easements in…
This summer, it’s more important than ever for families and kids to get outside. Farms are the perfect place for kids to explore, continue learning throughout the summer, and build a connection with nature and the place that they live. Whether it’s meeting lambs and sheepdogs, learning what a carrot looks like before it’s pulled out of the ground, or finding out how many stomachs cows have, a summer spent on farms will help kids connect with the world around them, spend time outside, and have a blast doing it!
Websites such as REAL Maine can be great resources for finding farms to visit: click here to search their list of Maine producers. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) also has a map of their member farms. If you’re looking for a specific type of farm business, producer organizations like the Maine Maple Producers Association or the Maine Cheese Guild often have their own maps as well.
Note: Many farms welcome visitors, but every farm is different. Please check with the farm that you plan on visiting to make sure that it can be a fun, safe and interactive experience for your family.
Here are 5 ideas for farm activities for kids to inspire your next farm visit:
- Meeting farm animals: Depending on the farm, there may be a variety of animals for kids to meet and learn about. Dairy farms might have cows or goats; sheep and dogs can be found at fiber farms, and many farms also have chickens or horses. Depending on the farm, you may be able to see the animals, watch them at work, or even interact with them (of course, check with the farmer to see what they prefer). See how many different types of animals you can find at one farm!
- Learn what different foods look like when they’re growing: Many kids (and adults) are familiar with how carrots or tomatoes look on the dinner table, but may not know what these foods look like in the field. Walking next to a field and guessing what is growing can be a fun way for kids to think critically about what they’re seeing, and connect the food they’re eating with where it comes from. What kind of leaves does the plant have? Does it have flowers? Does it have fruit? Visiting farms throughout the year can be a fun way to see these plants change over time.
- Experience the growing season: Farms can be a great place to connect with nature, and they are one of the best places to experience the changing seasons. In the spring, the ground thaws, lambs are born, plants are put into the ground, trees are tapped for maple syrup and early produce like asparagus, greens come out. Summer brings warm weather, farm events (like MFT’s Farm Parties) as well as the most farm activity and the bulk of familiar veggies coming to market. Sprinkled throughout the summer is the ripening of fruit: strawberries in early summer, then blueberries, raspberries, peaches and then fall apples. In the fall, cool weather crops return along with long growing plants like winter squash, and farms can be a great place to experience Maine’s changing foliage. In the winter, many farms hunker down but farms still have farm stands that sell storage vegetables, meat and dairy products. Whatever season you find yourself exploring Maine’s farms, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to experience the changing seasons and the rhythms of the agricultural year, strengthening their connection to nature in the place they live.
- Pick Your Own: Many farms offer the opportunity to pick your own fruit, which can be one of the best farm activities for kids and the whole family. Whether it’s strawberries, apples or other fruit, there’s no more interactive way for kids to experience fresh farm produce than picking it straight from the plant themselves. Wandering through a fragrant field and bringing home fruit is a great way to spend a sunny weekend. Plus, when you get home, the whole family can help eat the fruit or turn it into jam, baked goods, popsicles or other foods.
- On-farm learning experiences: In addition to exploring farms and seeing what the farmers are up to, some farms also offer more organized on-farm learning experiences. Look for tours of larger farms, creameries or maple sugar shacks. Some farms or agricultural centers, like Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment in Freeport, have guided educational programs to help kids learn about one aspect of the farm, like milking cows or growing from seeds.
For more ideas for farm activities for kids this summer, check out the Maine Farms Scavenger Hunt. The Scavenger Hunt is full of family-friendly ideas for ways to explore Maine’s agricultural landscape.
If you want more farm activities, sign up for our Kids on Farms newsletter and we’ll send you an email when we’ve got more ideas for fun farm activities!