Fall on the farm

Written by Peyson Shields, Photos by Shaun Cloud
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Crisp air, warm-colored leaves and shorter days encompass the fall season. While the weather turns cooler, DFA members are still hard at work, wrapping up harvest, preparing for the new year and for some — helping others enjoy what fall has to offer.

These DFA members welcome the public to their operations each year to learn about dairy, agriculture and the joy of having a good time on the farm.

Preston Farms 

“We can do that!”

That’s what Jerry Grabarek and his family thought after visiting a corn maze in Lancaster County, Pa., in 1999. So the Grabareks took a shot at their own on their operation, Preston Farms, in Preston, Conn.

“The first year, we just eyeballed it,” Jerry says. “The second year, we set out a grid and it went so much better.”

For 17 years, the Grabareks have picked a theme, done some math to determine the grid for their seven-acre corn maze and then created their design by hand with a weed whacker. While the preparation for the maze is no small task, the whole family, including Jerry’s wife, Deb, and son, Matthew, lend a hand.

“Matthew comes up with the theme and runs the corn maze,” Jerry says. “Deb is good on the design side — making our grids and ad materials.”

This year, Matthew thought up the idea of “Area 51.” And while the corn maze started spooky, they now open up the maze at night on weekends and visitors find their way out with flashlights.

The Grabareks also open up their operation to local schools to educate students about dairy. They start in the parlor, where Jerry does a milking demonstration and answers questions about the dairy. Then, the kids check out the maze, grab some lunch and get a hayride to the pasture to see Preston Farms’ 48 registered Holsteins and a handful of Brown Swiss.

“Everyone around here is three generations removed from farming,” Jerry says. “We get to show them what farming is all about.”

Gunter Farms

When a teacher asked if her summer school class could come out and learn about dairy, Lloyd Gunter didn’t hesitate.

“When the students came out, we gave a tour and talked about our dairy,” Lloyd says. “We also had them plant some pumpkin seeds.”

By fall, those pumpkins were ready to be harvested. His daughter, who is also a teacher, had her students come out and pick them. From there, Gunter Farms Pumpkin Patch was born.

Lloyd, along with his son, David, milk 80 Brown Swiss cows in Conway, Mo. They host several schools each year and incorporate the dairy in the field trip. Whether the kids are playing dairy-related games in the barn, milking a fake cow or listening while Lloyd educates them about dairy and shows them a calf, the farm is a main focus.

“We are so far removed from being raised on the farm,” Lloyd says. “This allows us the opportunity to educate children on where milk comes from and that dairy farmers are good stewards of the land.”

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