“Why is that big house here on this farm?”

As I left my office in the old farmhouse yesterday I was surrounded by children here for a school tour. They looked to be six or seven years old and had arrived by bus from an inner city school. They had taken a hay ride, picked their apples, visited the animals and were happily preparing to head back to Boston.

I was greeted with big smiles and that question as I came out the door. My first impulse was to explain that I was working in an office in the house but that wasn’t really an answer. “Because farms always need a place for the farmer to live.”

I couldn’t get the question out of my mind. I’ve tried to think of how children learn about farms if they have never seen one. We sell many farm/animal related books in the farm store. I looked through them and found only one that had a picture of a house and it wasn’t mentioned. Devan, our garden manager, related a similar story that occurred when she was running a garden project with low-income pre-schoolers a few years ago. Shown a plant bearing yellow wax beans she asked the children if they knew what they were. The resounding reply “french fries”!

When my first grandchildren were little I was living in Boston. I remember their awe and delight when they first entered the subway or climbed aboard a city bus with me. They were fascinated by all the people and loved to stand on the subway, trying to maintain their balance as the train swayed along the tracks.

I wonder if these children’s visit to the farm, seeing apples growing on trees rather than a supermarket display, watching animals live in the barnyard and encountering a farmhouse will alter their perceptions as much as visiting the city did for my grandchildren.