We are fortunate to live on Anastasia Island in St. Augustine, where our child is growing up exploring sand dunes, collecting seashells and spotting gopher tortoises digging their holes. But it’s so nice to also be able to cross the bridge to the mainland and head westward into the woods and immediately be immersed in a different landscape–one that closely resembles that of my own childhood.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been on the look-out for immersive hands-on experiences for my beach baby. Here are a few of the fun farm experiences to mark on your calendar–most within thirty minutes of St. Augustine to a little over an hour away–that we’ve had and a few that are on our list to try out in the near future.
In May, we headed just past Palatka, FL to HNH Blueberry Farm to fill up a basket of blueberries. My toddler thought this was just the best thing ever! First, she ate about a pound of blueberries, and once her stomach was quite full, she finally started following my lead and filling up her bucket. For just $5, we had a really fun outdoor experience that continued to deliver joy from the kitchen by the handful for the rest of the week–and we even made our first pie together! (Note to fellow newbies: Buy a “pie ring” for the crust…)
I’ve recently also heard of Williams Blueberry Farm in Jacksonville that still had blueberries available for picking as late as June!
In June, St. Augustine families can go blackberry picking at Congaree & Penn farm. They have a wagon ride to the blackberry patch and children can fill up a small basket for $10 or a large one for $15. They also have a farm lunch available with their signature farm cider and other refreshments. Located in Jacksonville, FL, this farm seems to hold all sorts of fun events throughout the year and I recommend giving them a “Follow” online so you don’t miss out on more fun outdoor experiences.
Pet the Farm Animals
In April, we visited the FL Agricultural Museum for their free “Family Farm Day.” This place is amazing! After parking in the lot, a tractor ride will take you to the event. This is not a traditional museum structure–it’s farmland where they have moved a variety of historic homes with interiors set up for their period which you can tour. Outside, there are all sorts of farm animals for the children to touch, including donkeys, calves, chickens, chicks, bunnies, goats, and more. My toddler even got to take her first pony ride here! There are food vendors, music and lots of interactive booths for historic and educational purposes. There was even a little village with a family demonstrating a Timucuan encampment! They were very knowledgeable and full of fascinating information.
They also hold their “Farm Animal Adventure Fest” in late June. Keep an eye out for more fun family-friendly events at this venue!
This summer we also plan to visit Chandler Oaks to pet their farm animals. This elegant barn venue that is known as a backdrop for charming southern weddings also holds “Family Farm Days” on Wednesdays from 10 AM – 1 PM in June and July (closed July 4th). There’s a $5 admission, though children under the age of 2 are free. Not only does it seem like a picturesque place to snap some amazing photos of the kids, but they have plenty of fun things for the children to do such as arts & crafts, outdoor play equipment, wagon rides, and of course–animals to pet and feed.
Tour De Farms
In November, a friend took me along with her family to the “Tour De Farms” event, put on by Slow Food First Coast. This “farm crawl” lets you visit tons of farms in the Jacksonville/St. Augustine region. There were three routes you could choose from, each with 4-7 farms: East of the River, North by Northwest, and St. Johns River South. There is an easy map/booklet you can download to find the routes and farm addresses. We chose the St. Johns River South route and visited 3 of the 4 farms with 2 toddlers and one baby. We all had a blast!
The farms were completely different from one another and each had a totally different set-up and different activities available. One had lots of food you could sample and hay bales for the children to crawl on. Another had lots of produce they were giving away and had fabulous gardens to peruse on their grounds. And another had a hay ride, cocktails, music, and cooking demonstrations (with delicious samples of the end product afterward). It was the perfect fall activity! The kids got to see a lot of animals and produce up close and thought it was all just fantastic. I will definitely do this event again this year.
Rype & Readi‘s farmer’s market is known to most of us in St. Augustine because their market is in historic downtown near the San Sebastian Winery and the St. Augustine Distillery. They have lots of events held at the downtown market, but have you visited their farm in Elkton, FL? They have another quaint old farmers market on their property and fields with cows and chickens by their family home. The farm holds a lot of larger events, including an Easter Egg hunt in April, a Strawberry Festival and a Blueberry Festival in March, a Blackberry Festival in May, and a Watermelon & Cantaloupe Festival in June!
I recommend perusing PickYourOwn.org for an extensive list of other produce festivals in the nearby area.
In Green Cove Springs, there is a U-Pick Sunflower Field at Amazing Grace Crop Maze. This year they had a date in late May where you could pick sunflowers, and another date set in early June. Bring sunscreen, shears, and closed-toed shoes and take plenty of pictures! Sunflowers are $1 each. In October, plan to visit this spot for an incredible crop maze along with other fun fall activities such as jump pads, corn hole, duck races, haybale mazes, pumpkin patches, wagon rides and more.
In October, we visited Sykes & Cooper Farms in Elton, FL twice because it was that fun! We first went with a bunch of mom/baby friends and then went back with Daddy another weekend for a family day. There were tons of animals for the wee ones to pet, and the corn crop maze was awesome! There were different routes you could take, including a shorter, easier one for small children. Each bend in the maze had a little riddle or poem that completed a Halloween storyline. There were also tons of toys for the children to play on, such as multiple playhouses and slides, and several huge bouncy houses and jump pads. They also have a great selection of pumpkins to choose from to decorate your home with. The kids love examining them and picking one out!