Snuggling baby rabbits, feeding a goat and discovering that eggs don’t come in cartons are a few of the many things that city children (and adults) learn during a tour at Morning Sound Farm.
The farm, located a few kilometres south of Sanford next to the La Salle River, was once the site of a cattle feedlot. The wooden pens and buildings are still standing and owners Chuck and Danea Lawrenson use them in their farm operations and tour.
The couple bought the property in 2004 with the idea of using it for tours as well as their own farming activity. Three years later, they opened with help from Danea’s parents Peter and Marilyn Goertzen who ran tours at their farm near Kleefeld, Man.
It was there that city boy Chuck, who grew up in Winnipeg’s Southdale neighbourhood, met Danea.
"I decided in high school that I wanted to be a farmer, so I married a country girl," he joked.
The Lawrensons’ children, Mercer and Celeste, the oldest of six, are now fully involved in working with their parents as tour hosts. From May to the end of July, school buses filled with students as young as pre-school, and carloads of families pull into Morning Sound Farm’s driveway. A full tour runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a break for lunch, rain or shine.
"This is the first year that we haven’t had to hire outside help," Chuck said.
Mercer, 16, Celeste, 14, Heath, 12, Avril, 10, Phoebe, 7 and Takis, 5, are home-schooled and helping to feed the animals and run the tours becomes part of their learning process.
"You learn public speaking and how to work with people," Mercer said.
He’s responsible for running pony rides and letting visitors pet goats, chicks, kittens and puppies.
"Little girls go crazy when they hear about the kittens," he said.
With a dream of operating his own sustainable farming operation one day, Mercer has already bought haying equipment and gets municipal permits so he can cut hay from along the top of dikes in the area.
Celeste takes a group of up to about 30 for a hay ride into the pasture where her passengers can see some of the family’s cattle.
"It’s great to see so many people and know how to answer their questions," she said.
Chuck usually shows visitors the family’s miniature horse and draft horse, then discusses how the two breeds vary and how each is used. He also hand-shears a sheep.
"We give them a piece of wool to take home," he said.
He helps people milk a goat, as the family keeps dairy goats for milk and cheese.
Danea shows her group how to feed chickens and talks about how eggs are produced.
"Sometimes you get more questions from the adults," she said. "People want their kids to see where their food comes from."
She leads people through the feedlot’s cattle chutes so they can see a cow with her calf before ending her part of the tour in a barn where rabbits and other small animals are kept.
"There’s a real appreciation for getting the kids to handle animals up close," she said.
When the school year ends, the farm’s guests come from daycare centres and summer camp programs. Beginning on Canada Day, the Lawrensons are holding Family Farm Days on Saturdays in July from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Information on Morning Sound Farm is available at http://morningsoundfarm.com