In a world full of processed, pre-packaged, preservative-filled foods that entice children at every turn with unnatural hues and cartoon-character shapes, it comes as no surprise that many kids – and adults, for that matter – have zero connection to the source of their sustenance.
Imagine the amazement in a child’s eyes at learning that chicken does not, in fact, come naturally breaded and in the shape of dinosaurs or that gelatin-filled fruit gummies don’t actually count as a daily serving of fruit. To parents, this may seem like a given. But kids raised in the age of supermarket shelves stocked with Dora the Explorer fruit snacks may need more convincing.
Picky eaters gain new perspective after watching a milking demonstration, collecting chicken eggs straight from the coop or bottle-feeding a newborn calf. A nutrient-rich carrot suddenly becomes intriguing to even the most vegetable-averse kiddo after he plucks it from the ground with his very own hands.
We may be living the urban American lifestyle, but there are still plenty of farmers sprinkled throughout the Dallas and Collin County area who are willing to open their doors and give their time to families looking for a lesson in agriculture. We rounded up a few of the best spots for families looking to get out of the supermarket and back to their roots.
Pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms are becoming destinations for families looking to inject a lot of fun and a little learning into their next “shopping” trip. Skip the supermarket chain and go directly to the source for everything from blackberries to peaches to vine-ripened grapes.
Pay by the pint for organically grown pick-your-own blueberries in four different varieties at the Blase Family Farm in Rockwall. The Blase family is enthusiastic about educating families on the plant-to-plate process and commonly offers “bee lessons” that look at the importance of bees in the growth cycle. “That’s part of why we have the farm,” Jill Blase says. “We really enjoy the interaction.”
Families are encouraged to bring a picnic basket and spend a day exploring the wooded 13-acre property, which is complete with a refreshment stand, portable toilets and a petting zoo where children can hand-feed animals. If you can’t make it during the summer months when blueberries are in season, visit during October to take part in fall festivities. Explore a pumpkin patch and jump on the tractor-pulled trailer for a hayride.
Wash down those handpicked blueberries with a pint of raw milk from Lavon Farms in Plano. The family-owned farm is home to a small group of top-of-the-line cows that provide Grade “A” raw milk on a daily basis. Make an appointment before stopping in at 4pm on Monday–Friday for a walking tour of the farm. The 45-minute tour starts off with a close-up view of cows and calves (think: photo op) before heading to the milking parlor for a demonstration. Tell your kids to save up the inevitable “What kind of cow makes chocolate milk?” questions for the Q&A session following the tour. Don’t leave before stopping by the farm store to stock up on dairy goods. Lavon Farms’ raw milk is sold by the gallon along with various cheeses, caramels and other treats.
If “pick-your-own” isn’t substantial enough, head approximately two hours east to The Greer Farm in Dangerfield, where you can literally wake to the rooster’s crow. Complete with private cabins and “farm-to-fork” cooking classes, The Greer Farm epitomizes agritourism. “Increasingly, people are getting further and further away from the land,” proprietor Sid Greer says. “We’re offering families an opportunity to experience what it is like to be on a farm in an environment they wouldn’t be able to replicate.”
Roast s’mores over the fire and kick back in the comfortable confines of the cabin by night; bottle-feed lambs, gather chicken eggs and pick vegetables by day. The Greers are happy to educate both parents and kids on the ins and outs of farm life. “Most kids have no connection between what a chicken and an egg is,” Greer says. The farmer says his favorite thing to see is the expression on a child’s face after getting a goat or lamb to eat out of their hand. “Pure amazement.”
Be sure to call ahead before visiting any farm or orchard. Hours, prices and produce vary by location and season. Visit pickyourown.org for an extensive list of pick-your-own farms and orchards.