Down on the Farm

  • Visit North Central

Peer into the underbrush along any back road in the region, and you’ll see aged fieldstone walls marking the edges of long-forgotten fields.

You’re in farm country.

The dairy farms that once dotted the local geography have dwindled over the years, but the ties to the region’s agricultural roots remain. They can be felt in communities all along the trail, and seen in roadside farmstands and farmers’ markets throughout the harvest season.

Sure, you can still see cows wandering in fields along the byways of area towns. And along with local goats, those cows earn their keep by providing the key ingredient for outstanding cheeses made at Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling and Westfield Farm in Hubbardston.

But that’s just the tip of the agricultural iceberg in Johnny Appleseed Country.

At Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, you can visit with a variety of familiar farm animals, from chickens and rabbits to sheep, goats and pigs. They’re sure to keep youngsters smiling when the family makes a trek out to the farm’s hillside orchards for a day of apple picking.

But “farm” also means much more than you’d expect in the communities along the Johnny Appleseed Trail. And the animals you’ll find at some of those local farms are a whole different breed.

What animals are we talking about?

Well, how about alpacas? You’ll find them at Harmony Hill in Ashby. Alpacas, which come from Peru, Chile, and Bolivia in South America, are raised for their fleece, which is said to be softer than cashmere and warmer than wool.

Down at Heifer International’s Overlook Farm in Rutland, you can see many of the animals that Heifer International uses around the world, including water buffalo, alpacas, llamas and traditional farm animals. You can also explore housing similar to those found in developing countries in which Heifer works, such as Guatemala, Peru, and Thailand. More than a farm, Overlook is an educational experience. Self-guided tours are available daily for drop-in visitors.

Of course, no matter which farm you visit, springtime means a bumper crop of the cutest, most cuddly baby farm animals.

For a different twist on the animal experience, stop by Davis’ Farmland in Sterling. It’s likely that you won’t quite recognize the farm animals you’ll see at Davis’ Farmland. They may resemble animals you’re familiar with — sort of. But the Farmland family is made up of endangered farm animals from around the world. These animals are likely to be more furry, or longer-eared, or a bit different in other ways from what you’re used to seeing.
Every year, farmer Larry Davis brings new animals to this dairy farm-turned-endangered species refuge. Take the pandas. No, we’re not talking about the cute, bamboo-chomping bears. Those aren’t farm animals! The Farmland Pandas are Panda cattle—with coloring to match their name.

There’s also a baby chick house where you can see eggs hatch and watch the chicks grow. And a koi pond with a waterfall to entrance visitors.

Davis’ Farmland is geared to kids — in fact, adults aren’t allowed unless accompanied by a child 12 years or younger.