Thursday, October 14, 2010

City to Country

So I started the following post more than two weeks ago but it seems I never have time to sit down and finish it. I thought it was still worth posting and hope you'll consider putting it on your calender for next year.

This weekend we had a blast at Scott Co. City to Country Tour, sponsored by the University of Minnesota Agricultural Department. When I first suggested that this might be a fun activity for our family to do I heard a slur of complaints; "We live on a farm, why would we want to go and tour someone else's farm?", "That sounds boring", the complaints go on... I finally managed to convince them and we headed off to our first stop. First I should tell you that the City to Country Tour is a self guided tour, consisting of three different farms in Scott County that focus on different aspects of agriculture. This year the farms included a pumpkin/squash grower, a market sheep producer and a dairy farm. The tour provides members of the community the opportunity to tour local farms and demonstrates the importance of agriculture and the rural character of Scott County through demonstrations, hands-on activities and educational displays.

First stop, Bartens Pumpkins, owned by Fran Barten and family.

The front yard was a mass of orange. Pumpkins in every size and shape. Gourds galore! The tour began with several different stops along a winding path. First we learned about the benefits of having a rain barrel. FYI, you can get one for yourself for only $75 through the Scott Co. Soil and Water Conservation Department. Then we heard about the benefits of home canning and growing your own garlic.

By the way, if you live in Belle Plaine you might have seen a picture very similar to this one in the Belle Plaine Herald.  I was wondering why the guy next to me was so interested in taking pictures of my kids and then he identified himself as a photographer for the Herald.  When Joshua saw his picture he said, "I'm famous!"

Another really fascinating endeavor this family has managed to master is mushroom growing.  They are growing beautiful Shitaki right in their backyard.  They have these logs propped up and a simple irrigation system that provides the equivalent of one inch of rainfall a week.  Each log has several holes bored into it in which they inject mushroom spores.  They then cover the hole with wax and in as soon as three days they can be eating these beautiful mushrooms

I don't remember the other variety of mushroom they are growing but the spores are layered between "slices" of logs and the mushrooms grow right out of the sides.  Amazing!

They also had a small apple orchard and gave really great advice for pest control without spraying and using harsh chemicals.  We were able to sample fresh honey from their bees and see where they keep their hives.

The second stop on our tour was a sheep farm.  We saw the cutest donkey there and were able to watch a man shear a sheep in record time.  As you can see the sheep isn't as impressed!

Stop number three on the tour was a dairy farm.  The little calves were so adorable.   One even sucked my thumb!

We learned the importance of buying local to support our local farmers and then got to sample some yummy cheeses from Bongards Creamerie in Jordan and topped it off with a milkshake.  

We all had a blast and definitely recommend taking the tour with your family next year.  Every year three different farms are featured so who knows what we'll get to encounter next year.

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