Last year, we took Charlie to our local zoo: the Prospect Park Zoo. We weren’t sure what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised to find out that it actually had a petting zoo! There’s a bunch of sheep, geese and other animals that your kids can feed or pet — if they are brave enough!
Charlie was fascinated by the geese, and tried talking to them:
After that video was filmed, he got pecked by a goose, and subsequently became absolutely obsessed with them. He started carrying around all of his rubber duckies, and making goose sounds with them:
And thus began his obsession with animals! We quickly found that he not only loved animals, but that he loved being out in the great outdoors. He had an absolute blast when we took him out apple picking at 22 months:
Afterward we took him to a petting zoo across the street from the apple farm, and he loved that too! He also had a blast at the Santa Ana Zoo, when we visited Bee’s family in LA.
In fact, he loved these farms, zoos and animals so much that we got to thinking how we can get Charlie out into nature more. In addition to apple farms and petting zoos, we came up with three more ways to connect our kids to nature!
1. Farm Stays at Local Farms
This summer, we’re planning to take the kids a bit upstate to visit some local farms. There is a booming business in “agritourism“, where a working farm will have a bed and breakfast where you can stay overnight. It’s called a “farm stay” and I can’t wait to try it out!
Families can stay overnight, and check out the farm animals during the day. A lot of farm stays have corn mazes too… I think the kids will love it! Some farms even let you pick your own fruit; here are some kids picking strawberries at Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, California.
Photo from Kiztastico.com (where there’s a great post about strawberry picking with the kids!)
You can find a list of over 900 farm stays at farmstayus.com. There are ranches you can stay at too, if that’s your preference.
2. Crop Mobbing
There’s also a growing number of farms where you can do something called “crop mobbing.” That’s where groups of volunteers (often as many as 50 people) all converge on a single working farm to help out with a farm for a day. In return, the farm serves everyone a free lunch. Sounds like a deal to me! It’s not as kid-friendly, but in a few years it sounds like something that we can maybe bring our kids to.
Mrs. Bee and I once helped pick grapes at a local Long Island winery a few years ago, and it’s still one of her favorite things we’ve ever done. It really helps connect city slickers like us to our local farming communities, which is a wonderful change of pace from this modern world of chain grocery stores and convenience stores. Unfortunately that particular winery stopped letting customers visit and pick grapes, but hopefully we can find others that still support programs like that!
3. CSA veggie/fruit subscriptions
I would especially love to do a farm stay at a farm where we buy our veggies. There are many local CSA (“Community Supported Agriculture”) programs that allow you to pay a subscription fee to a farm, and receive a box of veggies and fruits once a week.
Charlie says: I like fruits and veggies!
CSA programs can fill up pretty quickly though, which I find kind of stressful. I wasn’t sure where to find a good CSA, but then I discovered a website that helps you find CSA-like programs that deliver to stores in your local area. It’s called Farmigo.com, and sounds like a great stepping stone to signing up for a full-fledged CSA program!
CSAs are a wonderful way to get lots of veggies and fruits for your family, and also teach your kids about where food comes from. Plus you also support local farms and farmers!
Does your LO like animals, farms and the great outdoors? Would you consider a farm stay or a CSA?