It's not often you can milk a cow, decorate a pumpkin and learn about hunter safety all in the same day.
Visitors of all ages can take part in these activities and more, while learning about the importance of agriculture, at this year's Farm Discovery Tour.
The second Farm Discovery Tour of Morrisons Cove is a free event showcasing local farms and their products on Sept. 17 and 18. Eight farms are participating, each with special events for the family.
Friends Farm near Williamsburg, owned by John Fazinger and Christine Wise, will be one of the stops of this year’s Farm Discovery Tour of Morrisons Cove. Wise feeds goats and a calf at their farm.
John Fazinger frames up a new greenhouse at the Friends Farm.
Participating are Friends Farm, Mill Hill Farm, Clover Creek Cheese Cellar, The Idiehl Hunt and Royer Mansion, all in Williamsburg; Piney Creek Greenhouse and Spring Farm Greenhouse, both in Martinsburg; and JB Tree Farm in Alexandria.
The event is the brainchild of Christine Wise, who owns Friends Farm with her husband, John Fazinger. Wise devised the tour with the help of her daughter Rita Biddle after seeing a 15-farm tour in Frederick, Md.
"We started talking to local farmers, and we decided to put together a tour just in the valley. Last year we had 11 participating farms; this year we have eight," Wise said.
JB Tree Farm's opening weekend coincides with the Farm Discovery Tour. Evelyn Bookhammer, who owns the farm with her husband, Curt, said visiting families can decorate pumpkins and visit the 2010 Education in the Arts maze.
"We'll show them [visitors] how we design and lay out a corn maze. A lot of people are curious about how we design the maze and how we accomplish the finished product. It's very interesting," she said.
Bookhammer added that the tour is a good way for people to learn about the agricultural experience.
"Last year, it was moderately well attended, and people came that may not usually have visited, so I'd call it successful in that light," she said.
Those who stop at the farm will be able to take a hayride and visit the harvest playground.
Another stop on the tour will be Royer Mansion. Patty Hatch of Williamsburg, a member of the Friends of Royer committee, said the mansion represents the historical aspect of farming.
"A lot of people do not know that the iron industry needed farmers to feed their families and employees. Springfield Furnace was a plantation, meaning it was self-sufficient. It had everything available the workers needed - store, farms, grist mill (for flour), post office, etc," Hatch said.
Visitors to the mansion will see the Four-Square Garden, a replica of the Pennsylvania German garden that was at Royer years ago. There will also be tours and an exhibit of old photos.
"Friends Farm is close to Royer Mansion, so we try to help each other out by sending visitors to each other," Hatch said
At Friends Farm, those attending can see firsthand how food is grown. Guests can dig potatoes, learn from cooking demonstrations and visit the farm animals.
"I know that over the course of two days last year, at Friends Farm we had 250 to 300 people visit our farm, and several young families now bring their young kids just to visit the farm and the animals," Wise said.
Friends' farm market also has fresh produce along with jam, jelly, granola and biscotti for sale.
"People do not have a place to get connected to farms and these days are so far removed from farms," Wise said. "One percent of the population is farmers, and 99 percent of the people are not farmers."
Hatch said that the tour gives visitors an "up close" look at the agricultural business and the farmers an opportunity to teach about the "long, hard hours" they put in to create fresh products.
"I hope people take away that this is a beautiful farming community and a beautiful farming county and if people would support local farms in every way, hopefully these farms can remain here," Wise said.
Summary packets with maps and contact information will be available at all tour locations both days.
Information is also on the Farm Tour's website, members.localnet.com/~buyfresh/farmtour/index.htm.