Most people don’t have the opportunity to experience a real farm. This is what I set out to do with this next bucket list item. The experience that many people have with farm animals is contained to either the petting zoo or the state fair. I wanted something more than that. I wanted to see a real farm in action. I wanted to feed the sheep and talk to a real farmer.
If one doesn’t know a farmer, this task can be difficult to orchestrate. While petting zoos are common, I wanted to visit a real farm. This is where I turned to Google and found Local Harvest. This is a great website that allows you to search for local farms either by state or by zip code. When you’re looking to visit a farm, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
Protocol for visiting a farm:
– Call the farm ahead of time.
It’s important that the farmer know that you’re coming to visit. Farmers are very busy, so you need to find a time that works for both of you. It’s not a good idea to just drop by. Remember that the farm is both a business as well as a home.
– Park in certain areas.
Ask the farmer where you should park.
– Wear appropriate clothing.
Make sure that you dress for the weather as well as for the terrain when you visit the farm. You will probably get dirty, so wear clothes that you don’t mind getting mud or manure on. Also, closed-toed and comfortable shoes are a must.
– Follow the farmer’s instructions at all times.
Animals can be dangerous and unpredictable. Make sure that you follow all of the instructions of the farmers when you approach any animals at the farm. The farmer knows his or her animals best and can best instruct you on how to approach as well as feed them.
I kept all these things in mind when I arrived at the farm that day. I wanted to make sure to have the best experience possible and not alienate the farmer in the meantime. Thankfully, it was a warm spring day as I pulled in. The farm was as you would imagine. The red barn was across the street from the house. Behind the barn, I could see large fields dotted with white and I knew that I’d spotted the sheep.
Louie gave me a tour as soon as I got there. We first walked to the shed behind the house where he kept his equipment before crossing the street to the barn. Not only did he keep sheep, he also had cows, chickens and pigs. He was a true farmer at heart, his blue overalls hung off his frame and while I hoped it was gum, it may have been tobacco that he chewed as we went along.
While feeding the sheep was my main goal, he told me a few things about sheep as we walked into the pasture past the barn. I was glad I wore shoes that I didn’t care about getting dirty because it had rained the day before and the field was muddy.
– Sheep mostly eat clover, grass and forbs.
Sheep aren’t usually fed by hand, but instead graze the fields of the farm. They tend to be pretty picky eaters, but will adapt to what food grows in their environment.
– Grass is not their favorite.
Since Louie knew that I wanted to feed the sheep while I was there, he stopped to pick some larger leafed plants. He explained that the sheep preferred these plants over grass, if possible.
– Sheep are pickier than cows.
The sheep will eat the more nutritious plants in the pasture first before eating other plants. Cows are much less picky.
– Sheep will graze up to seven hours a day.
Sheep prefer eating when it’s cooler. They will graze early in the morning and late in the afternoon. They don’t usually eat after darkness has fallen. They also prefer to stay in groups when eating.
As we approached the flock of sheep, I paused. I had expected to feed the sheep through a fence, but they were far out in the field. Louie took me right over to them and I took a deep breath. He handed me the leafy greens and took me over to one of the sheep that had picked its head up as we approached.
Louie told me to just reach toward him with the food and wait for him to come to me. I did as he instructed and the sheep pulled the greens from my hand. I pulled back quickly before smiling. The day at the farm is an experience I will never forget.