The school bus pulls up to its destination: Edison’s Dairy Farm. Mr. Belding’s second-grade class begrudgingly files out, with Zack and A.C. chasing each other like bats out of hell. Kelly and Lisa hold hands as they step down, immediately going for the flowers by the fence. Jessie files out with a small crowd of other quiet, uninterested kids. She looks through the pictures printed on the itinerary sheet while Screech smiles up at his teacher.
“Oh, boy. Yes, Samuel?”
“Where are the chickens?”
“The chickens are in their coop, young man.” A man in plaid and overalls walks up to the crowd by the bus. “My name is Ben, and we have a big day ahead of us. Now, who can tell me where pork comes from?”
Jessie’s hand shoots up, and he calls on her. “Steak?”
Ben shakes his head with a smile. “That’s a nice try, but no. Any other guesses?”
A boy named Kenny raises his hand, and Ben calls on him. “Fish?”
“Not quite. Does anyone else want to guess?”
When the others look around each other rather than guess again, the farmer chuckles and gestures for them to follow. He leads the kids and Mr. Belding to a pig sty. The bovines are rolling around in mud and filth, causing the children to giggle. Lisa, though, watches from a distance. She doesn’t want even a speck of dirt on her new Tommy Girl overall dress.
“The boys are called boars, and the girls are called sows.”
A teenage girl in matching plaid and overalls walks up to the sty with a tray of cube cheese samples. She offers them to the kids, who greedily accept.
“Hi, Y'all. My name’s Jackie. This cheese you’re eating is special. Does anyone want to guess where it comes from?”
“Does it come from hamburgers?” A.C. asks without raising his hand.
Jackie giggles. “No, it’s not hamburger cheese.”
“Does it come from strings?”
Zack asks this time, also not raising his hand. Mr. Belding reprimands him and A.C. on this fact, and Jackie declines the idea of the cheese’s origin. No one else guesses, and she asks them to follow her to a fenced-in area. About ten or twelve baby goats roam around, and Jackie opens the little gate, so the kids can play with the kids. As expected, Lisa stays behind, dusting off her dress on the other side of the fence. Ben joins her at the edge.
“Don’t like goats?”
“They’re too messy.” She frowns.
“Ah, so they are. How about you get a head-start on your classmates for the next activity?”
“Will I get dirty?”
“I don’t think so.”
Lisa hums to herself and then nods. Ben points out the pumpkin patch next to them and asks her to pick out her favorite pumpkin. Lisa nods and runs over. Zack and A.C. are chasing each other when a kid runs into both of them, knocking them down. The boys giggle, and Screech tries to straddle a goat. Before long, the children are being corralled from the pen and asked to choose their own pumpkins like Lisa’s. She’s found an almost completely white pumpkin the size of her head. Zack and A.C. run to the larger pumpkins so they can climb.
Screech sets out to find the most distorted pumpkin, while the girls tiptoe as if the plants are out to attack them. Once all the kids in the class have selected their pumpkins – with A.C. and Zack rolling a large gourd between them – Ben and Mr. Belding begin a math lesson. They add, subtract and divide. Screech cracks his pumpkin open to eat it, which Ben stops.
“Instead of eating raw pumpkins, how about we make some apple cider?”
The kids cheer in confirmation, so Ben and Jackie lead the school-goers into a blacksmith barn. Off to the side, there is a pile of apples ready to be made into cider and pie.
“Alright, darlin’s.” Jackie grins. “Y'all can choose. Either make cider with me or make horseshoes with my daddy Ben.”
Lisa, Screech, Kenny, Kelly and a few others from class – Olivia, Ozzy, and Cory – decide to make cider with Jackie. This leaves A.C., Zack, Jessie and the rest – Howard and Simon – to make horseshoes with Ben. Both activities take around two hours to complete. The kids enjoy more goat cheese with their newly made cider and play a round of horseshoes. After their lunch, Jackie has disappeared, and Ben leads the second graders to a large solar greenhouse. A significant diversity of vegetables is growing inside, and Ben allows the kids to take an assortment of ripe veggies with them, in a biodegradable baggie.
After discovering how to tell if each veggie is ripe and collecting the ones decided on, Ben takes the crowd to the wire cages. The dozen kids separate between the hens, the roosters, the drakes and the ducks. Ben explains the differences and which ones lay eggs. Once all the fowl are placed back in their roosts, Ben moves over to the rabbit cages. Lisa completely forgets about not getting messy, so she can fall to the ground and play with the hyperactive bunnies. It takes a long time to drag the children away from the tiny long-eared creatures.
Once they leave, another farmhand named Orville steps up to take them on a short tour on the mechanics and machinery of the farm. He allows the kids to climb on the tractors and plows as they move down the line. After a selection of combines, the crowd reaches the far end of the barnyard. There is a herd of cows and grown nanny goats. Orville sets up fourteen stools, leading two cows over for him and Mr. Belding. He then corrals a dozen goats to standing posts for the children. Orville teaches Mr. Belding and the second graders the finer points of milking their animals. All the goats have names around their necks, and the children have fun. Small buckets are filled within an hour, and Orville pours the milk into two separate buckets – one for the cows and one for the goats – and places them on a wagon. Ben drives up on a rusty tractor with a wooden trailer tugging behind him.
“Who wants a hay ride?”
The children cheer, climbing onto the hay in the back at once. As Orville drags the wagon of milk back to the pasteurization machine they had passed, Ben starts singing Old Macdonald Had a Farm. The kids join in with enthusiasm; Mr. Belding chimes in much less willingly. They ride back to the front, the long way. Once the song has reached cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, horses, and ducks, the tractor reaches the front of the farm. A large bedsheet covers one side of a barn wall, facing the children on the trailer. Jackie arrives with two freshly baked apple pies, and Ben helps her cut it. He then grabs a great many environmental cups for the newly freshened milk. Ben, Jackie, and Orville pull over bales of hay to join Mr. Belding and the bayside second graders in watching Charlotte’s Web with apple pie and milk.