It takes a special place — and a special person — to host a whole crew of children and their parents for an afternoon.
On April 4, more than 200 kids and parents attended Family Farm Day, sponsored by Nature Rocks Homer and hosted by Mossy Kilcher and Seaside Farm.
Kilcher began hosting the annual event after a conversation with Carmen Field, chairperson of Nature Rocks Homer, a group of community members trying to help kids reconnect with nature.
Kilcher said that she would love to have families come visit her farm for an afternoon. And so they have, for the past five years.
Seaside Farm is a 40-acre-spread located five miles out East End Road. The farm is currently home to three horses, 25 chickens and a small herd of cows, which includes four shaggy red and white calves.
“I just love to lean against the fence and watch the cows eat,” said Kilcher, who’s owned the farm since 1976. She adds that there’s just something about farm animals — how they help support their owners, like the chickens giving up their eggs or cows bearing calves that will be sold.
Growing up on a homestead with farm animals, Kilcher said she has always loved being around them. She feels they are good for a person’s well being and knows they make a difference in people’s lives.
Kilcher said it was unbelievable how excited the kids got about being allowed to play in her haystack. That, and getting to tour the fields in a trailer pulled behind her husband Coni’s three-wheeler.
Along with feeding the big animals, sitting on the farm tractor and building forts in the hayloft, kids were also invited to hunt for eggs.
Many little hands carried a fresh egg home from the farm, and the chickens, let loose to socialize, were thanked with handfuls of scattered feed.
Four of those little hands belonged to Kevin Wilmeth’s daughters, Sabre and Dee, who have attended the event multiple times.
The Wilmeths moved to Homer about six years ago, and go to nature events like other families might go to the movies.
“We’re fortunate it’s been a part of our everyday life,” said Wilmeth, of getting outside as a family.
In past years, Wilmeth said his girls would be fascinated with farm day, but observers only. Then, after they got home they would talk incessantly about the event. He realized that even though the girls weren’t joining in with activities, they valued the time at the farm. So he kept taking them.
This time was different.
“Our girls came alive this year, and they were all in,” he said.
The investment of going to the event paid off for him, as the girls fed animals and hunted for eggs.
Of Mossy Kilcher’s involvement, Wilmeth has nothing but praise.
“She’s fantastic,” he said. “You definitely get the feeling that she is welcoming everyone as if they are her friends and family for the day.”
Wilmeth said Kilcher doesn’t just put on the event, she puts into it as well.
“We’ve always appreciated that,” he said.
In past years, Carmen Field said there have been 100-150 people at farm day. The beautiful weather on Easter weekend seemed to draw extras this year, although there were only about 30-40 at any one time.
One little boy, when he arrived, announced to Field that he wore his overalls for the occasion, because he was coming to a farm.
Field says that Nature Rocks Homer is simply trying to promote 20 minutes a day of kids getting lots of vitamin “N” — Nature.
“I grew up outside,” says Field, who spent her youth barefoot on the shores of Lake Michigan. “When I wasn’t eating meals, I was outside.”
She notes that there is a lot of research showing the benefits of unstructured playtime outdoors. Kids learn how to solve problems, adventure and study new things, to list just a few of nature’s benefits.
“Kids are happier and healthier and smarter when they connect with nature and get outside,” she said.
Toni Ross is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.
Outdoor activity ideas
Compiled by Carmen Field
of Nature Rocks
Go fishing — or watch fishermen; collect treasures — bring a container; fly kites; host an outdoor tea party; climb boulders; go tide pooling; make forts, tree houses and huts; build a sandbox; build a swing; climb a tree; play games like tag, capture the flag, foxes and hounds; feel and identify things outside with eyes closed; collect natural items; play with bubbles; take photos; go camping; host a trash collecting party; go on a scavenger hunt; make natural sculptures or mobiles; watch or track wildlife — birds, moose, etc.; press flowers; draw or paint outdoors; have a picnic; feed birds; garden, plant, water, harvest; visit a farm or neighbor’s garden; examine bugs or plants with a magnifier; walk through or jump in puddles; hunt or watch butterflies, bugs or spiders; exercise with kids – hike, run, walk, bike, etc.; go exploring at night; count sounds; look for frogs;keep a nature journal; build with muck; pick berries; dip aquatic animals from a lake; volunteer for outdoor events.
Research on kids, nature
American children spend an average 7.5 hours per day or 40 to 65 hours a week with electronics of some type.
Fewer than one in five children walk or ride a bike to school.
Childhood obesity has increased from 4 percent in the 1960s to 20 percent today.
Children have less time for unstructured, creative play in the outdoors than ever before in human history — a decline of more than nine hours a week over the last 25 years.
Tips for getting kids outside
Encourage group play outdoors
Create or join a family nature club
View nature as an antidote to stress
Find nearby nature or create vacant lot/ wild zones
Trade technology for outdoor activities — fishing instead of playing video games
Invite the flora and fauna into your life with bird feeders, bat houses, gardening
Share your childhood stories/memories of special outdoor time
Revive old traditions — ice fishing, growing/canning