Every farm is different and it might be hard to know what to expect and how to behave when you’re in a setting you’re not used to. When we have guests at our farm, here are some basic pointers.
Schedule your visit with us. We're usually working and often have deadlines that we can't push off ... the girls need to be milked on schedule, new plantings need to get in the ground quickly, fruits and vegs need to be picked before they rot, hay needs to be in the barn before rain, etc. We love having guests who enjoy what we've worked so hard to create, but we often need to plan for it. Sometimes short notice is fine, sometimes it's not especially at impossibly busy times of year and we need to put it off a little. Please let us know before you come by!
What should you wear? Well, it’s a farm, not a yard or a park or hiking trail. There will be poop and dirt, probably mud and possibly snow depending on the season. Footwear is definitely an important consideration. I would recommend NO sandals or flip-flops or shoes of that sort at any time of the year. If you want to mix and mingle with the animals, I would recommend firm close-toed shoes. If it’s muddy, I recommend rubber boots with comfortable socks. Make sure the boots won’t rub your skin raw at the top from walking around, which is something people sometimes overlook. (We do NOT keep a supply of boots or alternate footwear for guests ... sorry!)
As for the rest of your clothes, that depends on what you will be doing. If you want to touch the animals, I wouldn’t wear special or delicate clothes. Jeans or other long pants are always a safe bet. If you’re here to pick fruit, it’s probably in the summer or fall so loose long sleeves will be cool and offer a little protection from the sun. Wide-brimmed hats are also good on sunny days. If you’re unsure, please ask. We will gladly try to help you stay comfortable and be prepared.
Disconnect a little. We don’t usually have our phones or cameras out, but when we go someplace new, we understand the appeal of documenting it in pictures. For those who love to stay connected, I would advise disconnecting a little for safety and an improved experience. Our animals are familiar with us and interact positively with us. If we introduce a stranger, they are most likely going to be a little shy and leery (except the goats and horses). Holding a device between you and the animal is a strong signal to the animal to not interact with you. That is, unless they are one of the mischievous ones. In that case, it’s something to bite, lip (and slobber), or investigate. Tours with attentive visitors versus plugged-in visitors are usually longer, more detailed, and more meaningful. Our guests who disconnect have a much more memorable and rewarding experience.
Watch and listen to your hosts. This is good advice on any farm. Pay attention to what your hosts do and follow their instructions. For example, if I go into a pen to feed a ram while you’re visiting and I tell you to wait outside, wait outside. If my ram, who can weigh well over two hundred pounds, views you as a threat, he can really hurt you - break bones kind of hurt you. But, he’s okay with me and I know what to watch for and where my exits are. Another example would be when feeding animals. Perhaps I’ve given you some chopped apples to feed our horses. I show you to feed them out of a dish or from a flat hand. Guests usually start following directions, but they will get comfortable and lax. You don’t want to have your finger bitten! Also, if you see the host isn’t doing something, ask before you do it. For example, chickens seem like something that needs to be chased. If I’m not chasing them, which I shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t be chasing them unless you ask first. I will probably tell you no because it’s terrifying to my chickens and they very likely will stop laying eggs for several days.
Children are welcomed if you supervise them. I love having children at the farm. If they are not from this environment, it’s like an entirely different world of wonderful things to see, learn, and explore. It’s also a world where they don’t know what’s acceptable and not. Parents or guardians, please be responsible for any children you bring to keep them safe and animals safe from them. If you ask (or I offer) to hold a lamb and I hand you a lamb with her legs and body supported, it is important to provide the same support when you hand the lamb to your child. For some reason, it sometimes happens that the lamb ends up hanging oddly and half-strangled so a small child can hold it. The lamb learns to fear children and visitors. Also, children may not recognize that things are dirty. I will allow my children to lay in freshly spread straw, but I have had visiting children stretch out in soiled straw. I think they just don’t realize what they’re doing ... I may just be a prude, I suppose.
Be aware of different dangers. It’s not the same as a yard or a park or a hiking trail. It is not childproofed or handicap accessible (sorry!). I will point out dangers that I see as potential problems, but I see dangers every day and may not think to mention ones that seem obvious. Avoid the back end of all horses and cows, even little ones, as they can kick. That includes keeping your children safe. It also really hurts when they step on your toes and they will keep standing on them even when you scream because they don’t feel your foot. We use electric fences you probably won’t enjoy touching ... I try to remember to turn them down when visitors come, but my mind is sometimes slippery and I forget. Don’t push on the head of any type of animals that can grow horns (goat, sheep, cow) as they have a reflex to push or head-butt, especially goats. It's cute when they are little, but makes them dangerous. Our dogs are protective of our farm and they do not have a lot of regular exposure to small children. If your child would like to interact with the dogs, we should be there to let our dogs know it’s okay. We support children learning how to interact with strange dogs and our dogs love authorized attention.
Where should you go? If you visit us, we will guide you around and let you know where to park. If you’re coming to pick fruit, we will tell you which ones are available. The farm dogs should be put away or tied up so they won’t bother you. Feel free to ask questions, but sometimes on U-pick days we are too busy to offer tours ... but sometimes we're not!
Be prepared for farm things. Our farm animals have odors as does their manure. If your children make comments or ask questions about a smell, we will probably let them know what it is. It’s a normal part of keeping animals and children seem to have a natural curiosity about manure. It's okay with us, even quite funny at times. It's the same thing with breeding animals. If you feel uncomfortable with this, please warn them beforehand. If there is a male who is interested in a female, we usually let them know they want to breed or are breeding, which means we should have new babies in the spring. Hopefully that's not too much information. If they ask more questions, I'll probably look to you to get your reaction with regards to sharing more.
Feed the animals, but only when instructed. If you see a bin of grain, it may be tempting to reach in and feed animals or toss a fallen whole apple to a cow, but it can cause problems. Too much grain can make our animals extremely sick, even to the point of dying. Excited and eager animals may accidentally swallow firm fruits or vegetables whole and choke on them. We've had both problems occur. However, if we give you food and tell you who it’s for and how to feed it, have fun feeding! It’s usually a very fun part of the visit and a good way to lure shy animals over to you. We try to have feeding opportunities because it is so much fun for visitors and the animals.
Outside non-human companions are NOT allowed on the farm. If you have a service animal, please talk to me before coming. While I don’t want visiting animals harassing my livestock or bringing in disease, my main concern is to keep your companion healthy and alive. Our dogs’ nature is to protect our farm from predators and your dog is a predator whether they seem like it or not. Our dogs are willing to fight wolves and bears, and they can win, which may involve killing such trespassers. We don't want your pooch to be injured or killed. Please don’t risk their safety by bringing them to the farm!
Enjoy your visit. We allow tours of the farm so our guests can have fun and connect with our animals and environment. Please feel free to ask questions, relax, and enjoy your time here!
Wife to Brandon, mother to Tess and Liam, farmer, entrepreneur, cook & baker, nurse, and accountant who loves to try new things, travel, and work toward greater self-reliance.