Many of my favorite memories of playing with my children involve observing how they interact with the natural world. They love to feed and touch animals, have an innate desire to climb fences and jump off rocks, build things, dig in a garden and all those other great and (mostly) self-directed activities. Our summer trip to the Oliver H. Kelley Farm in Elk River, Minnesota, gave the kids the chance to do all of the above plus (perhaps) deepened their appreciation for modern conveniences at home.
The farm, owned and operated by the Minnesota Historical Society, transports us back to a time when a career in agribusiness was not the high-tech endeavor it is today. Guides in period dress are happy to dispense as much or as little information as you’d like about the animals, chores, cooking and harvesting done by the Kelley family when they farmed the land around the time of the Civil War. (Most impressive – farming was not native to Kelley; he was a “book farmer”.)
The kids plunged right into the chores (naturally – they weren’t at home, after all). Pumping heavy buckets of water, raiding the veggie patch for weeds to treat the sheep, sorting beans and stirring a pot of them on the farmhouse stove.
My 8-year-old son helped the farmers dig holes to fix a log fence. My 4-year-old daughter got up close to a pair of oxen and the 6-year-old fell in love with barn kitties nestled in the oats (up for adoption; there were broken hearts all around when we couldn’t take one home.).
We wrapped up our afternoon on the farm with a horse-drawn trolley ride along the bluestem prairie and the mighty Mississippi.
Expect even more to enjoy at the farm this year with their expanded visitor center.
Find all visiting hours, admission and contact information on Oliver Kelley Farm.