Talk with the Animals

Since I’ve been dishing out the advice to get out to farms and see how things stack up, I thought we’d spend the weekend actually walking the walk, squawking the squawk, and talking the… well, you get it.

So on Saturday, we went to a cool place called, literally, “Old Maryland Farm,” which is part of Watkins Regional Park, to celebrate the illustrious “Wool & Fiber Day.” This entailed watching a bleating sheep get shorn, peacocks, and a hayride. Maya was very impressed with the chickens — notice how well she obeys the sign!

For those in the DC-Maryland metro area, this is a worthy destination for families. Once the summer starts, there’s a carousel and mini-golf, as well as animals to see and a nice play area, all in the great outdoors. Campsites are also available.

But this location is more petting zoo than working farm, of course. So on Sunday, we traveled to outside of Frederick, Maryland, to a “Farm Day” for a dairy farm that does local CSA deliveries and produces mouth-watering ice cream, South Mountain Creamery.

It was a fun day, though the crowds were intense. A bluegrass band kept things lively, and there was the option to shake your way to a small, fresh amount of butter in a vial. The baby animals in the calves’ barn were the highlights for Maya.

In visiting the farm, I was struck by how natural it was to see cows on grass, of course, but I also noticed my total lack of competence to judge farm conditions in any detail. It looked like a humane and sensible operation, but in terms of whether such a visit would allow me to “vouch” for a farm’s food or products, I simply don’t know enough to judge such things. So much for my sage advice.

Still, it was lovely to see the enthusiasm for the celebration among loyal CSA customers and neighbors alike, and the condition of the animals was, by any measure, a far cry from the industrial farming systems that have garnered so many awful headlines of late. And of course, nothing beats real baby animals for a toddler (or a mom!).

What do you notice when you visit a farm? Are there indicators that would help a casual visitor to distinguish better and best operations?

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