In our hectic, fast-paced world, getting back to nature can mean many things. For you and your family, it may mean spending time in the woods, far from the sounds of highways and cell phones. Or your family outings may have an educational purpose. Maybe you’d like your kids to know where their food comes from and to learn about growing fruits and vegetables. If that’s the case, then farm camping is your ticket!
Farm camping is less about where you camp and more about what you do during your days. Whether you camp at a nearby RV park, campground, or right on the farm grounds, what’s important is the time you spend exploring the farm during the day. Many family farms are happy to welcome visitors and to show them the ins and outs of the farming life. You and your kids might get to collect eggs from the hen house, watch the cows be milked, and pull fresh carrots from the garden.
If you visit a region that’s known for a particular farm product, you can probably find tours that include behind-the-scenes looks at the animals and plants that make the product possible. For instance, you can often meet the dairy cows on cheese or ice cream-producing farms. Farms that specialize in goat cheese or sheep’s-milk yogurt may have animals for the kids to pet. And many stables are happy to introduce kids to a friendly horse or two.
A great way to start out your farm camping adventure is by adding one or two discreet activities, to see how your family responds. You might go to a pumpkin patch to pick your Halloween pumpkins, or go berry or apple picking at a u-pick field in the summer. Make a habit of stopping at farmer-owned fruit and vegetable stands and asking how the crops are doing that year—your kids will pick up on your interest and they’ll become curious, too. Farmer’s markets are also a great place to introduce your kids to vegetables they might not have encountered before. They can see Brussels sprouts still on the stalk, garlic with the stems still attached, and carrots with their feathery green tops.
Festivals that celebrate farm produce are also a great way to have a farm experience during your camping vacation. You might head to the famous Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, to the Tyler Texas Rose Festival, or the Georgia Peach Festival in Byron and Fort Valley. No matter how obscure the fruit or vegetable, you can bank on there being a festival somewhere in the U.S. that celebrates it.
Vineyards are also great places to get in touch with the land. Many vineyards give tours of their fields, allowing you to stand in a field of grape vines and soak in the scents, views, and serenity the farmer feels every day. You might find terrific wildlife viewing at the vineyard—ask if you should watch for hawks, eagles, foxes, or deer. The vineyard you visit might grow a small amount of a side crop like tomatoes, vegetables in a garden, or a specific variety of flowers.
You can also get a taste of the farm life by visiting the state or county fair in the area you’re visiting. Whether you’re headed to Saint Paul, Minnesota (home of the largest state fair in the country) or are just taking in the local fair in a small county, you’ll find plenty of animals and farm products at the fair. Look for 4-H activities and strike up a conversation with the kids. You’ll learn all about how they raised their goat or chicken or rabbit, and you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of animal husbandry. At some fairs, 4-H volunteers run a small petting zoo, where your kids can touch friendly pigs, geese, goats, and sheep.
No matter what approach you take, you’ll be enriched by your contact with farms and farmers. Farms represent the source of life, a place where nature’s cycles are played out every day. It’s a phenomenal learning-place for kids, and a soothing experience for adults of all ages.