In rain and in sunshine, Sussex County 4-H held their annual two-day farm tour at Green Acres Farm in Lewes on Wed. May 9 and Thurs. May 10. The dairy farm, the largest in Delaware – milking 550 cows three times daily, is owned by the Hopkins family, longtime 4-H supporters who have opened their barn doors for agricultural education for the past 26 years.
Wednesday’s rain didn’t dampen this year’s exploration as more than 700 children, visited the farm’s many attractions, such as Pig Alley and Calf Lane and a tractor ride. Sussex County 4-H focuses this agriculture education outreach for students in preschool to grade two. Students register through their schools. Each preregistered student received a free cone from the Hopkins Farm Creamery, which opened in 2009. Students, well-prepared in slickers and rain boots of many colors, confirmed that ice cream tastes as good in the rain as it does in the sun.
Thursday’s total neared 1,000 youth. Wednesday’s rain had left a few mud puddles for the pigs to play in, delighting the students who watched them frolic in the soft, gushy Delaware soil. In all, an estimated 1900 visitors in all, including teachers, parents, chaperones, Extension staff and 4-H and Master Gardener volunteers, attended the farm tour on both days.
During the tour, students, who leave the bus pinching their noses, eventually forget the farm aroma and begin to make the connection between the family farm and the final food product – usually referred to as ‘farm to fork’ in this case was ‘farm to cone!’ Teachers and students have an opportunity to meet the Hopkins family; Walter and his wife Jenny; son Burli and wife Allison; and the next generation of Hopkins farmers, 4-H’ers Michael, Jacob, Grace and Luke who can be seen throughout the tour comfortably hanging out with the pigs, lovingly tugging on a cow’s ear and sharing their farm experiences with visitors.
Burli and dairy farm manager Bob Geiman offered tours of the modern milking process. School children observed firsthand the all the teamwork efforts that go into producing healthy, nutritious and safe food.
Under blue and gold tents Cooperative Extension educators provided additional learning, including exhibits on corn and corn products, healthy beverages and the importance of exercise. A popular puppet and people show, the Adventures of Peter Rabbit in Farmer McGregor’s Garden was performed numerous times by volunteer Master Gardeners.
Local 4-H youth members brought their project animals, providing a talkative tom turkey, horse, sheep, goats, ducks and rabbits for young students to interact with and pet. UD Poultry Extension provided a chick hatchery and baby chick display, the inhabitants of which are now taking a much needed rest after being gently cupped by 1700 little hands.
Any area school or daycare center up to the second grade are invited to attend, with registration opening in late January before the May tour. The event is free.
For more information about the Sussex County 4-H Farm Tour contact the 4-H office at 856-7303.
Additional photos and videos of the farm tour may be found at 4-H’s Flickr site: www.flickr.com/sussexcounty4h where photo sets for both days can be found, or visit Sussex County 4-H on Facebook.com/sussexde4H.