Every year, I get multiple requests from families with kids to come visit the farm during lambing season. I say yes to nearly all of them, it’s fun to share the fun. I’m on vacation during that time, so it’s not difficult to accommodate visitors.

Some people come “just to see.” Others are seeking more of an education focus, sometimes for home-schooled kids. This year, a Girl Scout troop is planning to visit. Also, some FFA girls plan to come out and do some learning.

Unfortunately, since our sheep aren’t tame, strangers can only get so close before the sheep move off. I can walk amongst the flock while they are resting and they won’t even get up (unless I try to grab one, then they are on their feet and away in an instant!). But sheep easily recognize people and other animals, that’s one of their few mental strong suits;  so they maintain a flight distance of 50 feet or so with strangers.

BirthingOften these visits-with-kids feel anticlimactic, especially with younger children. We walk down to the field, the visitors inevitably push into the sheep flight zone, the sheep move off, and that’s that. We all stand there and ponder, well, there they are. Some visits are lucky, if the lambs are gamboling about, being cute. But other times, they are lazy, snoozing in the sun, and doing pretty much nothing.

Most visitors hope to see a birth happen. But odds are slim to none. Even I don’t see all the births, though I’m home most of the day during lambing and check them frequently. The ewes often show no obvious signs of labor, until they are making the last few pushes and a baby emerges. When singles are born, the whole session can start and finish in twenty minutes.

Bottle lambs are another matter. There is no greater fun for a visitor than to hold the bottle while an adorable lamb nurses vigorously and wags his tail. Bottle lambs can be cuddled and carted around, passed from person to person, and they’ll follow the tour group on foot. But not every year produces orphans, and for those years, I’m glad. They are a ton of work for me.

Chx3This year I put a rack of eggs in the incubator, timed so there will be brand new baby chicks to hold during lambing season. These are very popular with kids, an easy hands-on farm experience.

I’m thinking about ways I can formalize visits for kids, and make the farm experience both more fun and educational. Younger kids usually tire quickly of the subject. Once they’ve petted the dogs, viewed some lambs, chased some chickens, and taken things in for ten minutes, they’re ready to move on. But grade school aged kids are more keen to learn about farming, and more open to discussion and educational opportunity.

DuckNestA lot of my friends tell me the car ride home is filled with interesting conversation- about meat eating, life and death, animal welfare, and of course, birds-and-the-bees questions. Winking smileFor many, this is the first time their family or school group has really thought about where food comes from, or seen it first hand. So, it seems like a good opportunity to both educate adults, as well as the next generation of consumers and potential farmers and veterinarians.

If you have kids visit your farm, what kinds of activities do you do, and what things do you talk about?