The Loveliest Little Farms to Visit with Kids

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Whether it’s close to home or when you’re exploring a new place, there is something magical about visiting a farm with children. Not only does it tell the story of the local culture, but according to Gail Melson PhDa leader in the field of human-animal interaction—it also gives kids an opportunity to learn about resiliency, empathy and real-world perspective. Turns, out, being an animal-lover matters. Enchanted by these real-world lessons and their own farm experiences, Maddy Darrall and Billy Macqueen created the sweet new Apple TV+ original series, Lovely Little Farm. The show is all about sisters who navigate daily life on the farm (including talking animals!) and the various lessons they learn. Check out the farms that inspired the executive produces’ sweet new series—from Nigerian dwarf goat farms in Maine to farms in the UK that focus on helping disadvantaged youth—these special spots are a must-visit on your next agricultural adventure. And the best part? There’s always something new happening on the farm—no two visits are ever the same—guaranteed.

Bocketts Farm, Leatherhead, Surrey
Lovely Little Farm creators Maddy Darrall and Billy Macqueen have been taking their kids to this award-winning farm for years. What began as a working sheep and cow farm, has evolved to include a ton of fun, family activities and family-friendly events. From chicks to llamas, there is, of course, loads of animal encounters to be had but there is also outdoor playgrounds, a young driver’s zone for tractor enthusiasts as well as trampolines and water balloon battles during warm, summer months.

Vauxhall City Farm, London
This local London city farm was started in the late ’60s and is where Macqueen still takes his grandson to visit the animals—they’re all here—from llamas and chinchillas to rabbits and sheep. What’s extra special about this spot is that it’s the closest to London (Big Ben can be heard from here!) and is empowering local communities to experience nature to “enhance their health, well-being as well as provide a range of educational, recreational and therapeutic activities.”


Hackney City Farm, London
This free-to-visit farm provides kids and adults the opportunity to get up close and personal with a range of farm animals, help plant vegetables, volunteer and join mini-farmer’s clubs as well as join classes like pottery (for a small fee).


Surry Docks Farm, London
Located on a former wharf on the banks of the Thames, this working city farm and charity welcomes the community to learn more about farm, food production and the natural environment. Add to that fun seasonal fairs, community projects, and, of course, animals galore make this a must-stop. Don’t miss the farm shop where you can purchase farm fresh eggs, meats and produce.


Kentish City Farm, London
The first city farm established in the United Kingdom, this 4.5 acre spot runs educational sessions on seasonal produce, a riding program (temporarily on pause due to railway construction), a wildlife pond, goats, sheep, chickens and geese, three horses, two donkeys, a couple of pigs named Wilma and Betty, a cow named Shirley, plus various small animals. And don’t forget to say hi to the two farm cats, Gracie and Mr. Grey.


Mudchute Park and Farm, East London
Part of the original London City Farms network, this community charity with a working farm, children’s nursery and a wide range of education activities is set within 32 acres of countryside in the heart of East London. Macqueen has fond memories of this special farm—when he worked next door, two of their two prize pigs escaped and snuck into the nearby superstore, clearing all the shelves of loaves and sandwiches and snacks. They caused such havoc it made the national news!


Jamie’s Farm
This farm-based organization focuses on helping disadvantaged 8-15 year olds in addition to hosting regular school visits. And according to Macqueen and Darrall, this farm has made such an impact on the lives of children and teenagers in the UK that it should receive every gold medal recognizing their contribution for making lives better. Jamie’s Farm is comprised of a smaller city farm called Oasis Farm Waterloo, as well as a four larger working farms based in Herord (Wales), Monmouth Wales, Bath (West England) and Lewes (South England). Jamie’s Farm acts as a catalyst for change, enabling disadvantaged young people to thrive academically, socially and emotionally.


Millers Ark Farm, South West England
Recently awarded a Traveler’s Choice Award, this is the farm where stars of the show actually live! Head over here to visit with Bif and Bop (the two goats that used to live in the house), Barbara (a gorgeous sheep), Little Lamb and the chickens—that all luckily call this farm home. They were guaranteed a forever life, and according to the executive producers, “No roasting tin for any of them thank you very much.”


Blackstone Clydesdales, Scotland
The Blackstone Centre was established to share the passion and knowledge about the Clydesdale Heavy Horses—a Scottish rare breed. Here, visitors can learn about their lives on the farm and witness first hand these magnificent animals. Located in southwest Scotland, Macqueen took his daughter Megan to visit this special spot for a holiday trip and it became one for the memory books.


Hall Hill Farm County Durham, North England
Darrall has visited this award-winning farm for children, with her two boys during a holiday trip and can’t recommend it enough. With over 700 acres to explore, kids will delight in the endless possibilities—from lamb feeding and rabbit handling to tractor ride and crazy golf, it’s a great day out for children.


Odds Farm Park, Bucks, South England
Odds Farm Park is approved by the Rare Breed Survival Trust thanks to housing and breeding rare animals—from ponies and donkeys to rabbits and guinea pigs. But that’s not all this farm offers—there is indoor play (great for rainy days!) and loads of outdoor play including an adventure fort, mini golf and a seasonal water play with water pumps, channels, streams and pools.


Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, Suffolk, East England
Located in the Suffolk countryside, Baylham House Farm is where co-creators Darrall and Mcqueen have spent loads of time with their families. Here you can spend the day getting up close and personal with the animals, picnicking (either bring your own or order from their newly-opened shop), and sit by the river to enjoy the local wildlife. What makes this farm extra special? It specializes in native breeds that were once common but are now very rare like White Park cattle, Greyface sheep (producing the heaviest fleece around) and Middle White pigs—historically raised in large quantities to supply London with pork. There is an entrance fee but each child receives a bag of feed upon entry.


Sunflower Farm Creamery, Cumberland, Maine
This small, Nigerian Dwarf Goat Creamery in located in Maine and while the creators didn’t get a chance to visit it in-person, they fell in love with the farm online—providing lots of laughs thanks to their adorable pygmy goats. In addition to welcoming visitors, don’t miss purchasing farm-fresh chevre and cajeta (available May through Jan.), attending a cheese class or simply learn more about why Nigerian Dwarf goats make great milking goats.


3 Reasons Why It’s Important for Humans to Have Animal Encounters

Dr. Gail Melson has spent her career studying the connection between humans and animals and can prove that connecting with farms and their animals enriches children’s lives in three distinct ways.

1. Children can see where their food comes from. This gives children a greater appreciation of the natural ecosystems in which plants and animals are nurtured and ultimately, how products show up in grocery stores and meals show up in restaurants.

2. Time spent in nature, in fields, meadows and pastures, has been shown to have calming effects both physically and psychologically, for both children and adults.

3. Nature sounds, sights and smells provide a rich sensory experience.

“When children observe and respectfully interact with animals, it provides them the opportunity to learn about the ways other creatures move, think, feel and live,” says Dr. Melson. Adding, “Such learning can be enhanced by adults who point out differences and similarities while, at the same time, giving children time and space to connect with animals. This process can help children develop ‘perspective-taking,’ the ability to imaginatively experience the world from a perspective different from one’s own. Animals, because they are other species, present children with the challenges of understanding very different (from themselves) ways of being.” 

Dr. Melson emphasizes that perspective-taking is a building block for developing empathy, the ability, not just to perceive, but to feel what another is feeling, that empathy is essential for a more civil and kind human community, but it also is important as a foundation for stewardship of the planet and our fragile ecosystem. She says, “Empathy is a motivator for learning and caring. In this way, when children develop empathy for other animals and for the natural environments essential for their survival, children are more likely to care about animal protection and welfare. Since children will grow up to be the future stewards of our planet, building perspective-taking and empathy toward all living creatures is crucial.”

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