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On the Farm

By John Kelly and Craig Stoltz
From the book "Kid-O-Rama"
Copyright 1998


Historic Farms | Hoofing It | Pick-Your-Own Farms | Privately Owned Farms

If you had been born 150 years ago, you probably would have been intimately familiar with the business end of a dairy cow, the dietary peculiarities of hogs and other aspects of farming. Today you're more likely to be abducted by aliens than to, say, slaughter a chicken. And your children? They seem to think that McNuggets grow on trees, right next to babbling brooks filled with chocolate milk. That's why a visit to a farm can be such an eye-opener.

Many area parks departments operate farms. These invariably are referred to as "working farms," despite the fact that a working farm of the late 20th Century probably is owned by a multinational conglomerate. That makes most of the farms here lessons in history as well as in animal husbandry: They recount farm life from the 18th or 19th centuries. Children will get a taste of the hardships of rural life and even may be thankful that a chore for them is emptying the dishwasher or taking out the garbage, not plowing the back 40. But any sense of perspective probably will be overwhelmed by the moos of cows, the quacks of ducks and the baaas of sheep. Animals are what kids find most appealing about farms, and these places are filled with them. Remember to dress appropriately: old jeans, boots if you have them. And that smell? That's a farm, kid.

Historic Farms | Hoofing It | Pick-Your-Own Farms | Privately Owned Farms

"Historic" Farms

Maryland Virginia
National Colonial Farm Claude Moore Colonial Farm
Old Maryland Farm Kidwell Farm
Oxon Cove Park (formerly Oxon Hill Farm)  
Carroll County Farm Museum  
Beltsville Agricultural Research Center  

Hoofing It

The Land of Little Horses

Pick-Your-Own Farms

What might be condemned as unfair child labor is instead celebrated every spring, as fruit bushes ripen all over rural Maryland and Virginia and families spread out across pick-your-own strawberry fields. Depending on the weather, strawberry picking starts around mid-May. Then come blueberries and raspberries, generally ripening in mid-June, with blackberries and peaches following in July, grapes in August and apples in September. Many farms listed here also have salad greens and other vegetables, but it's hard to imagine kids having much fun picking that.

Prices vary from season to season, but strawberries — the most popular produce for kid-picking —generally cost about $1 a pound. Most places will give or sell you baskets, but it's best to be prepared with your own containers. Since these are small, family operations whose hours and supplies can change daily, and since some are not easy to find without detailed directions, always call before you visit.

Wear old clothes and keep an eye on children to make sure they're not destroying as much as they're picking (or that too much isn't going from plant to mouth rather than plant to bag — though some sampling is to be expected). Be especially watchful for bees, who like the sweet scent of ripening fruit.

Produce picking is hard work: You'll be dirty, dusty and dog-tired. And be mindful that the urge to pick "just one more" will be replaced when you get home with: "Where will I put all these dang things?"

Our list of pickin' places

Private Farms

These two privately run farms open their barn doors to young visitors. Hours are sometimes sporadic, so call before you visit.

Cedarvale Farm Cider Mill Farm

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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