Stone Barns Center brings farming to families
The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, an 80-acre nonprofit working farm and educational center in Pocantico Hills, has a special commitment to making the world of farming accessible to families and children.
The center hosts a number of public programs for adults and as well as those designed to bring the youngest farmers into the fold.
"It's really about trying to connect them to where their food is coming from," said Shaina Robbins, the public programs director for the farm.
In teaching children about nutritious foods and responsible ways to grow it, instructors put a major focus on engaging all of the senses and making the experience uniquely memorable. And entrusting kids with real tools and real tasks empowers them with self-confidence, pride in their accomplishments and a deeper respect for the journey foods make from the farm to the table.
Here's a sampling of ways to experience that journey at Stone Barns:
Hands-on egg collecting: Kids will get a kick out of entering a fenced area where chickens are free to roam, then climbing onto a small stepladder, reaching right in among the clucking hens and gathering fresh eggs into a basket. During this program, guests ages 2 and up will learn about the life of a hen at Stone Barns, including why it's healthier for both the chickens and the farm to house the fluffy fowl in special chicken coops on wheels, or "egg-mobiles." After collecting the eggs, there's hand sanitizer available and a washing station nearby. The 45-minute session, held Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and noon, is $10 for all ages and $9 for members. A ticketed adult must accompany all children.
Story time: Families with kids ages 2 and up are invited to gather at the Farm Store on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. for a free half-hour story time. After meeting, the group will follow a staff member to a shady spot on the farm for an outdoor reading of a children's book.
There's a farm market on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. "Wildman" Steve Brill leads foraging tours on Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m.
Outside of the set programs, which must be reserved in advance, visitors are invited to take a self-guided tour. Prior to arriving at the Stone Barns Center, download the Stone Barns app or click on one of three 30-minute walking tours from the website; you can also pick up a hard copy showing walking tours at the visitors center.
After a program, tour or event, grab a bite at the Blue Hill Café, which offers sandwiches, salads and more. The fresh-picked flavors will knock your socks off and kids will have a new appreciation for what's on their plates now that they know what it takes for the food to get there.
If you're looking for a high-end meal, the on-premises restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, brings freshness and regionality to new heights. Fruits and vegetables take center stage, but if you are a fan of what is called "nose to tail cooking," you've hit the jackpot. The prix fixe farmer's feast -- $108 for five courses, $148 for eight courses and $208 for 12 courses -- may well be one of the finest dining experiences of your epicurean life.
Farm hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday year-round. Public program days and times vary; visit the website for the complete schedule of programs and events