Each May in Lewes, Sussex County Cooperative Extension, 4-H and the Hopkins family (owners of Green Acres Farm, Delaware’s largest dairy operation) swing open the farm gates and welcome busloads of young students eager to discover what really goes on at authentic dairy farm.
Two gorgeous days provided the backdrop to an estimated 1900 youth, teachers and parents.
Unaccustomed to farm aromas, many young students arrived pinching their noses, but soon little hands relaxed and began to explore – holding chirping, yellow poultry puffballs, petting a young, well-behaved Holstein cow and peeking through a slatted fence to watch pigs snort, and sometimes sleep, in their pens.
It is an agricultural classroom without exams or textbooks. The experiential learning component of 4-H allowed students and adults to explore the many ways a family farm brings food to the table. Under the blue and gold tents, Extension staff offered entertaining and educational interactive displays, helping the young visitors make the agricultural connection to nutrition, safety and fitness. Sussex Master Gardeners provided a theatrical show and Extension staff directed bus traffic, assisted in the tractor rides and kept the lines to the popular milking tour moooving!
In addition to the herd of Holsteins and 4-H project pigs that are kept full time at the farm, 4-H volunteers brought in other animals that one might typically see around the farm grounds. Goats, small horses, rabbits, barn kittens, and a few ducks, delighted the students. Volunteers were assigned stations and filled curious minds with fun facts about the display animals.
In recent years the Hopkins family has added new playground features to their pasture to coincide with the opening of their Hopkins Creamery in 2009. Many climbed aboard a wooden tractor, milked a display cow the old fashioned way, savored complimentary cones at one of the picnic tables and poked their head through a farm photo prop.
The farm tour has been conducted at the Hopkins’ location for 25 years and Sussex County 4-H Educator Mary Argo has coordinated the last 16 of them. Argo feels at home with the hustle and bustle of the two-day event. “The weather was great, animals were perfect,” Argo says. “We are always delighted to partner with the Hopkins family for this unique educational opportunity for Sussex students. This was a picture perfect farm tour.”
Visit the Sussex County 4-H Flickr page for more photos of the event.
Article by Michele Walfred
Photos by Tammy Schirmer