Pick-your-own farms never fail to delight young ones, but these select spots around the country go above and beyond for back-to-the-land family experiences that are worth the trip.
By Meryl Levin
The mission here is to help folks young and old gain a better understanding of where their food comes from, so Stone Barns Center invites visitors to explore -- and eat! Families can guide themselves around the property with the help of downloadable tours, a handy app, or a fun scavenger hunt. Kids can also sign up for one of the organized hands-on workshops offered every weekend: egg collecting, gardening, and cooking -- with fresh ingredients they harvest themselves.
Pocantico Hills, NY, stonebarnscenter.com
Staying on a farm is cool, but cushy? It can be, if you opt for the luxurious accommodations on this organic farm specializing in southwestern crops and fragrant lavender. Choose between the historic inn -- designed by famed New Mexico architect John Gaw Meem -- and the farm rooms, built to resemble a dairy, but with modern interiors. Stays include a farm-fresh breakfast and the opportunity to tour and lend a hand in the fields. Choose the Little Farmers package for special treats and a kid’s menu at dinnertime.
Albuquerque, NM, lospoblanos.com
Leave the iPads at home for your trip to Kinnikinnick, near the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Staying here is like traveling back in time -- accommodations are cozy, well-appointed platform tents with picnic tables and views of the rolling fields. Find just-picked provisions at the farm’s honesty shop and prepare meals on the tent’s wood-burning stove. Help out around the farm by day; relax by lantern light at night. Kids will love the simple old-school pleasures of tree swings, straw mountains, and courtesy bikes.
Caledonia, IL, kinnikinnickfarm.com
Animal lovers will appreciate this fiber-focused farm: their sheep and goats are never eaten. The flock is raised on a natural organic diet and kept happy as can be. And twice a year, in spring and fall, their fleece is sheered and spun (by a local mill) into gorgeous yarn. Budding knitters and crochet enthusiasts can not only visit the farm (on the first Saturday of every month, and on sheering days) to cozy up with the animals, but can also join the farm’s yarn CSA, which entitles you to a share of the bounty.
Palmyra, VA, fiberfarm.com
There are plenty of reasons to take the scenic drive to this goat dairy on the Pacific coast. Feast your eyes on the idyllic California hills and rainbow-colored garden of edible flowers. Head to the farm shop for their award-winning chevre, ricotta, feta, and fromage blanc -- or unexpected goat-milk products like lotions and soaps. Fall in love with hundreds of adorable baby goats (come during baby season, February to June). Or get the full experience with a two-hour hands-on tour that starts at the goat and ends with the cheese.
Pescadero, CA, harleyfarm.com
Kids are not only welcome at this postcard-perfect New England farm, they are the focus of many of its facilities and programs. Younger visitors will love the small-animal feeding program and the llama lounge, where they can meet and greet friendly animals up close. Parents will be impressed with the farm’s learning center, including an interactive discovery room, and drop-off educational programs (for ages 3-5) every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year. To round out the perfect visit, there’s a playground, duck pond, and house-made ice cream.
Keene, NH, stonewallfarm.org
Sign up for the Family Farm Weekend at this biodynamic homestead and you’re in for a seriously hands-on experience. Parents and kids can milk a cow or goat, make cheese, churn butter, cultivate the gardens, harvest crops, grind grains, feed the chickens -- the list of opportunities (chores) goes on. But while you’re working hard -- or not, all activities are optional -- you’ll also be well fed. Cooking is a major focus for these foodie farmers, and weekend guests are encouraged to get their hands dirty in the kitchen as well as in the fields.
Philo, CA, philoapplefarm.com
Nestled in lake country less than hour from Minneapolis, this family farm is an ideal place to while away crisp autumn afternoons. Start with a tractor ride into the orchards to pick your own apples, then head back to the barn for fresh cider and donuts, local foodstuffs, and handmade crafts. Kids will enjoy the farm animals and haystack, while parents can sample another draw: wines from the on-site vineyard. (Tasting note: Minnesota is at the same latitude as Burgundy, France, and the Russian River Valley, California.)
Waconia, MN, deardorfforchards.com
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