We set aside our morning to reach 2 or 3 farms before an early-afternoon appointment. We chose a region, aimed for the farthest-reach farm on the map, and set out. It was about 24 miles away and just beyond Orting, a town with which we were unfamiliar. Along the way I illustrated for my family the wonder of food production. While our potatoes seem to appear magically in the supermarket, they began their lives months ago as seed potatoes planted in spring soil, watered, weeded, and tended until they were dug up, brushed off, weighed, bagged and distributed.
We arrived at Tahoma Farms in good time, ready to explore. We pulled into a driveway, past a house, and into a small dirt parking area. Preceding the farmstand were table displays about local farms. The usual propaganda was there: buy local, eat local, choose organic, etc. Of slightly more interest was how this particular farm was converted from a former dairy farm, and further, was part of a non-profit effort to maintain land for farming.
Assuming that this stop was only about buying produce and reading literature, we picked out a small pumpkin for purchase and took it to weigh. At check-out, we noticed a single page scavenger hunt which invited us to roam the fields. I'm not one to venture out on someone's property without invitation, so I was grateful for this worksheet that allowed just such activity.
My daughter led the quest, identifying the crops and asking good questions about what she saw. We walked to the north boundary, west to the river, and back through the chicken coops to the parking. For her efforts, she was awarded an additional pie pumpkin of her choosing. She was, of course, thrilled!
With this farm adventure done, she was eager to move to the next farm - a larger event just off the main road and featuring hay bales shaped into Halloween creatures, plus the promise of a corn maze. We recognized the name as a large provider of produce available at local stores, and we thought it a good idea.
This "farm" couldn't have been more different. Instead of a small driveway, they had two large roped-off parking lots, complete with flag-waving parking attendants and directional arrows. (Throughout, their attention to organization was well done.) We parked and headed for the entrance, where we were greeted by a smiling woman dressed in a pumpkin suit and handing out glow-in-the-dark spider rings. We passed the mini-donut vendor and candy apple case when Helen saw a sign pointing toward pony rides. Who could resist?
Imagine, however, her dismay when she found the 6 ponies tethered to a wheel, offering rides for $5. Just beyond that were rows of pumpkins, free from vines and dirt, arranged in tidy rows, and creating backdrop for an interpretation of a scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, complete with wardrobe and formica Aslan.
Behind that was an assortment of miniature ponies and goats, named and parading up and down an elevated feeding/showing platform. One goat in particular had enlarged udders, so I asked if she recently had kids. No, she was a milking goat. I remarked surprise and asked if this was a dairy farm, too. No, the attendant admitted, she was on loan for the display, as were the other animals.
Next we played with pumps set to pull water from a tank and race rubber ducks down drainpipes. We enjoyed several races, dumping duckies down rivers into a vat filled with other duckies. This was next to a "kids' activities" barn. At right was a table for coloring pages. Further down was a house of baby chicks, followed by a bunny barn, then a quail house, a chicken run, and a rooster pen. Given the lack of egg-laying facilities and further fowl, I would guess these were also on loan.
We followed signs to the pumpkin patch, where many families were filling wheelbarrows with large carving pumpkins. I was again disappointed to note absence of any sort of vine or other farm-fresh indicators. I recall a friend telling me that pumpkins are often "bussed in" for pumpkin patches, but I assumed that would more likely apply to farms in an urban setting.
Finally, we walked up to the corn maze and read the signage. $6pp on weekdays. $8pp for adults on weekends, $6 for kids. While it might have been entertaining , I felt $22 was too steep for the family budget. We left the farm, having made a single purchase of a $1 bag of popcorn.
I was disenchanted by the activities offered. Certainly, I understand that such events cost money and are an opportunity to turn a profit. What bothered me, however, was that I was under the impression this county-sponsored event was going to be an educational opportunity; a time when farmers could show the public their operations and further appreciation of the necessities they produce. This particular "farm" could only be described as a carnival, which was not how I intended to spend the morning.
Perhaps the foods in our larder do just "magic" themselves onto store shelves...