Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Dairy Farm

For years, my little preschool made an annual trip to a local dairy farm. The school would close for the day, and the entire campus (students and their families) would make a pilgrimage to what seemed like the middle of nowhere (it was actually about 20 minutes away, but it felt like a whole other place). Once there, we would spend the day learning about cows; what cows eat, how much milk cows gave, how they were rotated on the farm, and, my favorite part of the lecture, about cow magnets. This farm also had lots of other farm animals the children could pet and feed, a pumpkin patch where the kids could choose their own pumpkin, and a hay maze. It was always a fun day.

The first time I went was about eleven years ago, and the dairy sat amongst several other dairies. It was challenging to figure out which one was the the one we wanted. And then, as each year past, I watched as civilization got closer and closer to the dairy. Soon, it didn't seem like the dairy was isolated. The subdivisions crept closer and closer, and the dairy farms became fewer and fewer. One year, there were huge spray painted signs underneath the giant billboards advertising "Houses from the low $200,000" that said "Dairy farms surround this neighborhood! Dairy farms come with strong odors and noisy animals. Please consider this when making your home purchase." 

The following year, the freeway took us right to the dairy. A CVS Pharmacy was right across the street, and our dairy was the only dairy left in the area. It was surrounded on all sides by cookie cutter houses. It made me sad; although I am all for progress, this dairy had been in the same place, run by the same family, for close to 30 years. I was sad that it looked like that wonderful family owned business, that had meant so much to my own children as well as my students, would have to make room for yet another cookie cutter subdivision. And, just my humble opinion, Phoenix has plenty of those.

About 6 months after that visit, Dugan's Dairy Farm closed. I was sad for the family. The newspaper accounts of their future after the sale of their farm didn't sound happy.

A couple of years past, and quite by chance, I stumbled upon another local dairy farm. It had just opened up for tours, and was touted by a newspaper columnist as a must visit place for young children. Excited, my colleagues and I loaded up our own kids, and took them on a recon mission to check out this farm. Would it be as special as Dugan's? Would it be kid friendly? Would they present the information in age appropriate fashion? Could they accommodate school groups? It was with high expectations we visited Superstition Farm for the first time.

And we were not disappointed! Our children loved the experience, and I booked a field trip for my class for the following school year. It was awesome! The owners were hospitable and open and treated our students with kindness, letting them hold rabbits, chickens and baby chicks. They got to feed goats and horses. There was a hay maze and as fun bonus - a milk bar! How the kids loved finding out that there was more to milk than chocolate!

This year, Superstition Farm was kind enough to host our entire school as we attempted to resurrect the annual visit to a dairy farm tradition. The kids all learned and experienced so much. It has been over a week, and they are all still talking about it.


"I got to climb on the tractor!"

"I got to drive a tractor" (in his imagination...)

"I have never seen so many cows in my entire life!!"

"Cows eat clothes seeds!" (cotton seeds)

"Lime is my favorite kind of milk!"

"I held a chicken and it was heavy!"

"I didn't know cows and bunnies were friends!"

How lucky that these kids got to experience just the smallest bit of life on a farm. I am fairly sure that this experience will be one of the few things they remember about preschool. My fourteen year old still remembers her first trip to the dairy farm, when she was three.

(Special thanks to the family at Superstition Farms for a wonderful time!)


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