Frequent visitor Laura Downs likes to bring her kids to the farm by O1taKo9

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									       History Lives at Howell Living History Farm
       By Robin Ervin

        HOPEWELL - Within minutes of turning off Route 29 onto Valley Road, the
long, scenic, gravel road transports visitors back in time to 1900 and to The Howell
Living History Farm.

        The squeals of happy children ring across the farm, as they run up to the fences to
pet sheep, chickens or pigs. Other children and their parents are in the vegetable garden
savoring snap peas they pick off the vines. The farm offers educational opportunities as
well as family fun. Visitors can help the farmers plow the field with horses; feel the
warmth of newly laid eggs as chickens cluck at the feet. Pigs oink and grunt as they roll
in a mud hole or eat at the trough. Sheep poke their heads between the rails of the fence
as though begging to have their heads scratched.

        It’s no wonder that the Howell Living History Farm is one of the most popular
tourist destinations in Mercer County.

        The farm dates back to the 1830’s and has changed hands many times, but it has
always been a working farm. Over the years it has been used in almost every type of
farming. The last owners were Charles and Inez Howell. Upon the death of Charles, Inez
bequeathed the land to the Mercer County Park Commission with a letter asking that the
farm be used as a place where children can have hands-on experience about what it was
like to be on a farm in 1900. The farm has stayed true to Mrs. Howell’s wishes and now
60,000 visitors a year, (25% of them children), experience what it is like to hold a
chicken, pet a pig or eat a vegetable straight off the vine.

         One frequent visitor, New Hope’s Laura Downs remembers coming to the farm a
lot as a child and now she likes to bring her kids to the farm.
         Downs said “The kids love to pick the snap Peas from the garden, touch the
animals and watch the hens lay fresh eggs. I love the farm atmosphere. It’s especially fun
here on Saturdays because there are lots of events for the kids and the staff is just great.”

        The farm has two children’s programs to help expose and teach children about
farming through safe, fun, hands-on activities. One is Hatchery, a half-day program for 3-
5 year olds and the other is Farmhands for older children ages 10-12.

        An example of a Hatchery activity is pounding and dyeing wool harvested from
the farm’s sheep with Kool-Aid that, when dry, becomes a butterfly for the kids to take
home. The Farmhands program has children collecting eggs, feeding the animals,
scrubbing water buckets, shoveling manure and doing general farm work.

         Area resident Denise Collier often brings her two kids to the Hatchery day camp
for arts and crafts.
 “We like to come here frequently because the kids really enjoy the activities.” Collier
said
        Normally the food grown in the garden is used by the cooks in the farm’s kitchen
but with the building closed for renovations, the gardeners are growing a ‘tasting garden’
this year. The vegetables grown are the basically the same kinds that were grown in 1900;
carrots, peas, garlic, tomatoes and cabbages. Sampling one of sweet peas, one finds that
the pea pod is firm, sweet, juicy and full of flavor. A canned pea can only dream of such
flavor. It’s not stringy and the whole pod can be eaten except for the tiny flower on the
end.


        One might ask, “How does one bring 19th century farming to the 21st century?”
Pete Watson, director of the Howell Living History Farm answers, “While we have all
the advantages of modern technology that 19th century farmer didn’t have, we only use a
minimal amount of modern technology. We’ve used horse plowing here for over 20 years
instead of tractors. The improvements we have made are what we think the 19th century
farmers would have done if they had the technology. We use modern veterinary care for
our animals and sometimes use hybrid seed as well as heirloom seed to boost the
harvest.”

         Watson states, “We run this farm as an outdoor educational facility. It’s very
hands-on. We encourage people to try things like horse plowing, water pumping and
such. During school class trips, we have each child take a turn at pushing the plow, the
farmer still controls the horses, so it’s safe and the children love it. Our garden is
pesticide free so people can eat off the vine without washing it first. Farming is done on a
realistic scale at the farm in front of the public, not behind the scenes. Since we get a
higher volume of visitors than a farm in the 1900’s would get, we need a small army of
volunteers to staff the farm. Our volunteers help fix the fencing, carpentry work, help in
the garden and other things. Volunteers are always welcome weekday, or weekends”

        Watson continues, “We get asked questions all the time about farming techniques
by other gardeners and farmers. What makes this farm so relevant is that the more we
can explain the historical techniques that worked well back then and still work today,
like crop rotation, the better it is for the community because it creates better informed
growers and farmers. ”

To learn more about the Howell Living History Farm visit www.howellfarm.org

								
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