STANLEY, NY — Plenty of time is spent working on a farm. Fun on the Farm provides a look of everyday farm life to those who don’t.
Lightland Farms hosted the 14th Fun on the Farm, which has run for 26 years. The biennial event welcomes farmers and non-farmers to spend half a day touring a working farm that doesn’t ordinarily offer tours to visitors. Farms in Ontario County, New York take turns hosting. For the special day, workers from many different farms don a designated “Fun on the Farm” volunteer’s t-shirt and pitch in, as farmers often do, to help their neighbors.
Events such as Fun on the Farm provide more than a pleasurable outing. While visitors nibble samples, listen to vendors and ride the emceed wagon ride around the farm, they learn more about the source of their food — and why agriculture is important.
A family-oriented event, Fun on the Farm features a farm animal petting zoo, straw bale maze, wagon rides, pedal car race and activities such as crafts, cabbage bowling, hay bale tossing and grape stomping. Vendors promoting honey, maple syrup, apples, milk and other local products help keep the community knowledgeable about a lifestyle from which most are a few generations removed.
Melinda Rodas, co-owner of Stoney Ridge Maple in Farmington, discussed the merits of maple syrup with passersby who paused to taste syrup and look at her bottles, candies and pancake mixes. Like other vendors, Rodas eagerly offered samples and brochures to help them better appreciate and understand her agricultural product.
During the emceed wagon ride tour of the farm, visitors also heard expert presentations at stops along the route such as from Karl Czymmek, senior extension associate with Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Science Department of Animal Science. Stationed by a manure tanker, he explained the value of manure to farms in naturally and economically enriching the soil — a concept many in the community don’t consider when they share the road with a farmer hauling a manure tanker.
Other stops on the route for the fleet of seven hay wagons included the bunk silo, manure lagoon, and the free stall barn, where curious-looking cows raised their noses to sniff outstretched hands.
Visitors could also meet and pet a horse, sheep, chickens, a peacock, pigs, and goats that area farms lent for the day, since Lightland raises only dairy cows.
Dozens of sponsors, including producers, agricultural vendors and educational organizations, support and present at Fun on the Farm.
Children in 3rd and 4th grade were given the opportunity to visit the farm Friday, Sept. 29 for a special preview field trip.
The Lightfoote family has operated Lightland Farms since 1852. The fifth generation currently operates the dairy.
Julie Maslyn, one of the event’s organizers, said that for a cool, overcast day, the attendance of about 3,500 was pretty good. But it’s not all about numbers.
“We judge our success a little differently,” she said. “Crowd size is important of course because we are trying to reach out to our friends and neighbors and educate and entertain them. Our success is also in the amount of volunteers that we were able to recruit for the day — over 350 — and number of school kids educated the day before, 980.”
She advises other counties interested in hosting a similar event to consider the biennial schedule, so farms won’t have to provide the money, time and services annually. Even though the farm host changes, the other farms in the county still help a lot.
It also helps to maintain a core of 10 or so people who perform the majority of planning and delegating. Stick with people who are good at what they do.
“For us, the same person is in charge of getting our volunteers fed on Saturday,” Maslyn said. “The same couple has been in charge of loading wagons and counting people for years.”
She added that to recruit helpers from each farm, it doesn’t hurt to provide free food and an event t-shirt, either.
Maslyn said that successful fundraising is key to providing the event which charges nothing for parking, admittance, games and some food items and food samples.
Fun on the Farm raises $14,000 in donations from area businesses, organizations and educational institutions. Many donate services or products as well, such as single-serving cups of applesauce from Motts in Williamson, juice samples from Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, and slices of pizza provided by Canandaigua Savings Bank.
“If you are just getting started with an event like this in your county, don’t be discouraged,” Maslyn said. “This event has changed a lot since the first one, even the first few. The ability to change with the times, and follow what works has added to our success.”