Activities to acquaint children with agriculture abound at the Henry Miller Farm during the Merced County Spring Fair.
This 7,200-square-foot agriculture display is a tribute to Merced County agriculture and was inspired by the 19th century Los Banos rancher Henry Miller. Miller was known throughout the area for his annual springtime celebration on his ranch. The Merced County Spring Fair and many other community activities during fair week continue the springtime celebration tradition.
The Henry Miller Farm, free with fair admission, contains a variety of farm and exotic animals, gardens, educational displays and a ‘hands-on’” area for children’s activities.
Henry Miller Farm coordinator Kat Lightsley said one of the highlights of the ‘hands-on’ area this year will be an authentic hand-crank cream separator that can be kid-operated to demonstrate how cream used to be separated from milk.
Dairy cows are part of the animal display that also includes pigs, sheep, goats and rabbits. Baby chicks will hatch in an incubator during the fair. Exotic animals will include a camel, buffalo and a zebra.
“There will be lots of baby animals for children to see,” Lightsley promised.
The garden demonstration on the farm is always popular with the public, she said, because it gives them ideas to take home and try in their own gardens. This year volunteers have planted an herb garden to show types of plants that can be grown in a home garden. A “pallet garden” will show how a small space can be used to grow vegetables and flowers. Lightsley said that a special garden section will showcase the use of repurposed items as planters and garden decorations.
Work on this unique display began weeks ago when San Luis High School students and clients in the Stable Living program began setting up displays and gardens. This is a popular activity for the students who must earn a place on the Henry Miller Farm team during the school year. San Luis High School teacher Karen Ellington’s students have been involved with the display since 2006. Students chosen to work on the farm must have perfect school attendance, good grades and participate in an agriculture class.
Their work on the farm before and during the fair teaches them about problem solving, and gives them job and living skills. Ellington said the students spend weeks planting, setting up animals’ pens and making signs in preparation for the fair. During the fair they tend to the animals and lead tours of the farm.
The Henry Miller Farm is a great opportunity for San Luis High School students and Stable Living volunteers, said Fair Manager Ron Brandt. The high school students’ hard work makes it possible for the younger children to learn about animals and food production. The students who volunteer their time and energy to bring this unique experience to the fair should be commended, Brandt added.