History, Culture & Community Can All Be Found at Western MA Agricultural Fairs

Agricultural Fairs Celebrate and Preserve Local Culture

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Agricultural fairs, primarily established by agricultural societies for the purpose of agriculture promotion, science and education, celebrate New England history and local culture in communities all over western Massachusetts throughout late summer and early fall.  These generations-old traditions of agriculture, self-sufficiency, and resiliency in rural communities afford families opportunities to participate in intergenerational community-based traditions while offering a myriad of entertainment and learning experiences through the lens of culture and food.  Read the rest of this entry »

Local Agricultural Fairs Showcase Rich Local Heritage

Multidisciplinary Learning Opportunities for Children

It’s almost agricultural fair time!

Much more than a midway and a ticket-per-ride miniature amusement park, Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs honor the generations-old traditions of agriculture, self-sufficiency, and resiliency in rural communities. A tradition for many generations, agricultural fairs showcase the unique skills and talents specific to rural life in western Massachusetts – and in doing so, fairs offer families the opportunity to not only celebrate local culture, but to actively participate in preserving it. The exhibition halls at agricultural fairs are always filled with locally grown fruits and vegetables, homemade and home-preserved canned goods, handmade quilts and clothing, and beautiful photographs, paintings, and crafts created by local artists. With many exhibition categories reserved specifically for youngsters, exhibition halls offer families the opportunity to share their own work, projects, and produce with others – and the opportunity to share the active role that they have in preserving local culture.

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Let Them Grow: Pulling the Chicken Chore Card

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Keeping Chickens with Toddlers

Chicken CoopHaving chickens is rewarding in many ways; they connect us directly to the food chain, give us a sense of belonging to the land and allow the children to take a hands on approach to caring for animals. Having chickens in or backyard brings the farm to us. It gives us the familiar rewarding feeling that hard work can bring. This sense of accomplishment is tri-fold to a toddler!

We have just recently begun the art of animal husbandry at our family day care, and my toddlers love chickens! When they pull the chicken chore card, they are so excited, becoming focused and eager. The chicken chore is combined with the compost chore, since the compost area is nearby. We usually have four chicken and compost helpers per day. With the proper preparation is in place, I have found caring for chickens to be extremely easy and rewarding for toddlers. Read the rest of this entry »

What Does a Trebuchet Have to Do with a Farm?

Farmyard Tails: Feche la Vache!
By Jennifer Bennett, HF Contributing Writer

New spring lambs at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA.

Little lambs at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

As I sit at my desk, I find myself looking outside at all of the beautiful flowers and buds. I can hear the birds singing and the peepers peeping. And yet, I am still having a hard time realizing that all of the snow is really gone. I know it is crazy, but it is true!

The Spring has been quite a whirlwind of activity here on the farm. Our little lambs are growing fast. All of the animals are out on the pasture, and they just can’t seem to get enough of the good stuff. Our first set of chicks who arrived all fluffy and tiny on April 13 have more than doubled their size and grown nearly all of their true feathers!

All this and a summer camp to plan! This year summer camp sessions here at Red Gate Farm are almost all full! It looks to be a wonderfully fun summer of camp.

And, let us not forget the garden! All of the potatoes and brassicas (brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage and broccoli) are in the ground. There are some greens coming right along as well. The beloved tomatoes are looking wonderful and vigorous in the greenhouse along with their buddies – peppers, eggplant, and basil! We could not have done it without our wonderfully hard working volunteers and the great kids from our Sprouts program and the Tree of Life.

All winter and into the spring, we have welcomed many children during our day programs. The Farm Leaders, a group that I now teach, comes once a week. They are a great group of kids with wild imaginations. We have taken on some very cool projects, as well as some very useful ones. One recent activity consisted of learning about levers and catapults and building a model trebuchet.

‘Fire in the hole!’ was heard echoing through Apple Valley here in Buckland, MA, as students tested out their trebuchet that they named (in the historical tradition) ‘The Tre-Bu-Z.’ The whole group worked hard over the weeks days to learn about the physics of trebuchets, they ultimately modeled their design after an old French plan they learned about from the television series Nova.

The trebuchet worked beautifully and was able to throw objects such as a golf ball, matchbox car, and, of course, a ‘diseased’ toy pony ala 12th century castle siege! To all you Monty Python fans, I say, “feche la vache!”

One parent asked me, “What exactly does a trebuchet have to do with a farm?” Great question! In learning about the physics of catapults and trebuchets, we also learned about the different types of levers. This knowledge helps us understand how the big barn was built and assists us when we have jobs to do around the farm, such as repairing rock walls, moving big logs, and other challenges that may arise. Farm Leaders will be ready for the challenge!

Every day is full of pleasant surprises here on the farm. The other day, on a hike with a group of students, one energetic and animated boy got to the top of the hill well ahead of the group. When we arrived he was quietly gazing out over Apple Valley. We all tumbled into the clearing and he exclaimed, “Oh, you ruined it!”. Unbeknownst to us, this boy, who is normally always on the go, had been basking in the silent beauty of the place. It seems that everyone who spends any time here, can find themselves a special little bit of peace and tranquility.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer BennettJen is the Program Coordinator at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. She lives in the woods with her husband, two teenage daughters, a trusty dog and a frisky cat. A gardener for much of her life, Jen enjoys cooking with her harvest, canning and preserving foods. She sees nature as her home and can be found outside during all manner of weather. A graduate of Goddard College (BA with an emphasis in Ecological Education), she is at her happiest when she is able to share her love of farming and nature with children and adults alike. Her column, Farmyard Tails, shares events and explorations that happen on the farm while educating children about farm life.

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