My name is Melissa Groff and I’ve been visiting St. Francis Farm with my three young children and sometimes my nephew. My boys and nephew love being outside playing, and on rainy days enjoy playing video games or watching television. They often complained they were bored unless they could play one game that requires building and farming, raising chickens and pigs and growing crops. All these things that can be done in real life, they were doing on a screen at the push of a button. I wanted these boys who were so interested in the game aspects of farming to experience a farm in the real world. So on a showery day in late June, I called and we made our first visit.
We’ve been back several times, enjoying old favorites like the swing and making new discoveries as the seasons changed.
During October I took my 3 younger children for an eventful day at the farm. Picking up rocks where the pigs once were located was a nice time to work together and talk. We were all surprised by how many buckets we filled with rocks and it felt great to know our time was well spent and helpful. Next we headed by the pond and everyone grabbed a rake to help clear leaves. My 2 boys each took a turn pushing the wheel barrow to the garden, where Joanna uses the raked leaves as mulch. This was a fun job to help with. At home we have a leaf bagger the older guys use with the tractor. I find using a rake more satisfying, and the younger boys and my daughter like to help.
When we finished my daughter and I looked in the pond for frogs and fish. While we waited for the boys and Joanna, Loraine let me borrow books about identifying critters and plants in our backyards. We brought our picnic lunch and Lorraine joined us at the picnic table by the pond. I had a glass of fresh pressed cider Zachary had made. Lorraine offers fresh vegetables and fruit grown on the farm. We never knew you could eat a flower, but I found that nasturtiums taste delicious on turkey sandwiches. Although my children are picky eaters, they found the idea of edible flowers interesting and I hope when they see me try new things that will encourage them to try new foods.
After lunch we each found a place to sit. My daughter and I used a swing seat and everyone else used mats on the ground. Being asked to listen, look, and smell was a lot for my young children, but it was fun. After a few minutes we each took turns telling what we could hear, see, and smell. This is an activity I have since done at home, and I think it helps teach my children to just sit still, slow down, and think.
One of my boys got a push on the swing while the other needs to work on his manners and following rules. We all went together for a walk along Trout Brook where we hadn’t been before. The children enjoyed picking up different leaves, throwing rocks in the brook, looking for salamanders and crossing the smaller stream on the stepping stones. While the boys visited the goats with Joanna at the end of our visit, Lorraine and I talked and I admired her flower beds and herb gardens. She mentioned the abundant apple crop this year and asked if I would use some apples. My youngest boy and Joanna picked a lot of apples. At home we used them to make a pie and a crock pot full of apple sauce.
Lorraine has been very helpful with ideas to make my life with three young children easier. By coming to visit and help we have learned a lot about ourselves. Every time I leave the farm feeling inspired to try new things to make our life more balanced. I love the togetherness and helpfulness I have seen in their family. I think so many families would benefit from a visit to St Francis Farm. Sometimes I feel alone in a fast paced world and a day at the farm is just what I need. I turn the cell phone off and focus on the children and enjoy the great outdoors and great company. I think my children have learned so much and I look forward to another visit.
Things we enjoyed:
planting peas, weeding , raking leaves, swinging, feeding the fish, finding salamanders, seeing snakes, picking apples, pushing the wheelbarrow, seeing pigs, chickens, and goats, shelling hazelnuts, tasting a flower, borrowing books, fresh-picked berries, company, help with the children, nature walks with a guide