I never considered myself a “city girl” until my family had the opportunity to visit Verdant View Farm on our recent trip to Lancaster, PA. It was incredibly hot that day and it seemed as if the sky was going to open up at any moment and downpour. The farm’s owner, Ginny Rank, first brought us into one of the outer buildings which seemed to be a storage cellar. Just looking at Ginny I could tell she was a strong woman who had lived through many stories. She was going to teach my kids about making homemade ice cream and not from a professional ice cream maker from Williams & Sonoma – this was the real deal! She was incredibly patient with all five kids and, since it was already the end of a long, hot day, this was no small task! As we waited for the ice cream to freeze one of the farm hands, Matt, came to give us a tour of the barn. Needless to say, my daughters fell in love with all of the barn kittens running around. Matt was extremely knowledgeable and, while he was showing us around, described his typical day – at work by 5A and doing manual work that would exhaust most people within an hour. Everyone got to pet one of the cows and then he showed us a baby calf that had just been born the day before. He explained how, for some reason, the mother had abandoned the baby and amazingly a steer had taken over caring for the baby. He also talked about another female cow that didn’t make it through the birthing process. It quickly became apparent to Greg and me that farmers have a much different perspective on life and death. They really do see it much more as part of the natural cycle of things.
Matt then took us on a tractor tour of the farm. He was so polite and knowledgeable but also extremely mature – I was shocked when I found out that he was only 24 years old. I have to admit that when I look around in Fairfield County at many people his age they’re extremely indulgent and self-absorbed. I’m not sure one of them could ever handle the work and lifestyle that Matt is accustomed to. This is what I want my kids to learn – hard work is a virtue and politeness counts! One of the highlights for my kids is that they got to actually milk a cow and, when the tour was done, they all loved the ice cream!
The next day we were off to the Amish Village. All of the kids were absolutely fascinated by the Amish from the moment we arrived in Lancaster. Shane Ackerman, the owner of the Village, was a wonderful tour guide and showed us some of the tools that are used even today to tend the crops and the kids even got to feed some very active goats (mom passed on this one!) Once again, this was an eye-opening experience for the kids as they got to sit in the one-room school house that services 1st – 8th grade. After that, some will go on to a trade school but others are off to work. They learned that the school room is arranged in order of age so that the older ones sit behind the younger ones to help. My daughter whispered to me that she wanted to give them money. When I asked her why, she explained that they must be poor if they don’t have TVs, cell phones, IPods, Gameboys or any of the other things she’s accustomed to. All of them were shocked when I explained that they actually choose to live without these accessories that our kids (and us!) consider natural parts of everyday life. This was probably the most important life lesson we all could learn – it’s not about “stuff.”
Both of these activities are great experiences for kids as well as the entire family!
Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.