“For two hours every weekday morning in October, the vegetable farm is part theater, part zoo, part nature center. At 9 a.m. we get ready to greet our visitors—we open the stand, bring the tractors and trailers, pick greens, and stock the pumpkin piles. At 10 they arrive. The quiet parking lot fills and cheerful preschoolers swarm all over the pumpkins. The volunteer tour guides wait for their assignments. The first hayride gets loaded. The chickens greet the schoolchildren. The beet patch gets stomped. By noon, the parking lot is empty again. And the farm goes back to its normal, quiet, vegetable-producing ways.”
—Hana Newcomb, farmer, Potomac Vegetable Farms
Every fall, Potomac Vegetable Farms, a Northern Virginia farm devoted to sustainable agriculture, hosts hundreds of school children. Farmer Hana Newcomb volunteers at Potomac Vegetable Farms whenever she can, and those mornings are some of her favorite times. Last year, while leading a tour for four-year-olds, she recognized their teacher as her own preschool teacher. Surprisingly, she found out the same teacher had taken her on the tour when she was little.
The farm tours are a good way to give kids a taste of agriculture, while adding revenue for the farm. With only two percent of the U.S. population in agriculture, too few children know anyone who is a farmer. To visit a farm and leave with a little pumpkin, each child pays only a few dollars—but for the farm, these add up. Hosting tours is not for every farmer, though—you have to be comfortable with hundreds of kids stomping through the farm.
Potomac Vegetable Farms has run these tours for years. Kids go on the wagons and have a short, slow ride around a few fields and then go on a walking tour. They love animals the best – with pigs, goats, and a cow adding extra excitement to the day.
Farmers have a mission to teach everyone about the importance of eating local foods and supporting local farmers. Adults need these experiences too, because they are the shoppers and the cooks in their households. On most mornings, the kids’ chaperones learn just as much as the youths. In fact, many get to taste a beet just pulled from the ground for the very first time in their lives.