By Eileen Ogintz
SHELBURNE, VT. (Day 2 of 4) — They are baby lambs. “Please pet us!” says the sign on their pen at the Shelburne Farms Children’s Farmyard near Burlington, Vermont where there is also a cow, goats and the fanciest chicken coop I’ve ever seen — home to 60 chickens. Kids are encouraged to go in and get the eggs, gently putting them in a basket. They can dress like farmers and play games matching animals.
Shelburne Farms began as one wealthy man’s vision of a place he could breed world-class mares. Dr. Seward Webb built a sprawling mansion on Lake Champlain.
Today, his house is a beautiful 24-room inn overlooking the lake and known for its farm-to-table food and the farm. One of his descendants, Alec Webb, is president. The farm is a respected not for profit focusing on education programs to encourage sustainability and to encourage and inspire children to live responsibly in the 21st Century. “Education is our biggest crop,” says Webb.
In 1972, the farm, which had fallen in disrepair, was turned into a non profit by Dr. Webb’s heirs with the intent on focusing on education and sustainability.
To that end, there are miles of hiking trails, a working dairy and prize winning cheese making operation, acres of vegetable gardens, beef and sheep operations, poultry honey and mushroom production. Shelburne Farms has been voted a top day trip for Vermonters and it’s easy to see why; visitors should make a stop here too.
There are activities all day in the Children’s Farmyard—everything from a Chicken Parade, the chance to milk a cow or brush a goat, round up the chickens or help with farm chores. There is even a “people “pen” for kids to see what life might be like for animals. All of the animals have names—Ariella, the Brown Swiss cow; Blossom, Feta and Raison the Goats, Penelope the donkey among them
Kids visit with their families and their schools; there are workshops for teachers and online curriculums and special activities like the Farms 36th Annual Harvest Festival Sept. 29 and special family programs to learn Orienteering, for example, the chance to learn old-fashioned farm crafts like spinning wool or dipping candles and workshops for adults.
I can’t wait to return and stay at the Inn (think stepping back in time with historic furniture and delicious food which makes the most of what the farm produces.)
Any kid who thinks eggs come in a carton should visit.