CANTON - Looking at barn animals is fun, but learning about farm life should be a much broader experience.
Thats the philosophy at St. Lawrence Countys Extension Learning Farm, Route 68.
Formerly known as the Discovery Center, the 130-acre learning farm is revamping its mission, consolidating office space and expanding connections with area colleges.
Were trying to make the entire facility more experiential, according to Patrick T. Ames, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County. We want this facility to be a community resource for agri-tourism and agriculture education. Wed like to target all age groups.
Besides checking out a variety of farm animals, visitors now have the chance to see how grass and wood pellets provide a renewable energy source for the farms biofuel center.
A methane digester demonstrates how animal manure is converted into energy and heat. The farm also houses a weather station and a high-tunnel structure where vegetables grow during the off-season and the summer.
Were looking at the entire farm as an educational opportunity, Mr. Ames said.
New this year is a Farm Day Camp that will offer six weekly sessions, beginning July 2. Campers will try hands-on activities like working with pigs, heifers, lambs, dairy calves, poultry, goats and sheep. Theyll help harvest vegetables and learn about healthy eating habits, food preparation and outdoor cooking.
How many kids get the chance to pull eggs out of a layers nest? Mr. Ames asked. The camp is a new endeavor for us. Its exciting.
Archery, rocketry and outdoor skills like using a global positioning system will be part of the fun. Visiting speakers will make presentations.
On Thursday, 29 kindergartners from the St. Regis Mohawk School visited the farm and another batch is due there today. During their three-hour visit, the children had the chance to meet a 17-year-old Shetland Pony named Dexter.
He loves attention, and he loves children, Cooperative Extension employee Anita M. Morrill said. He also loves to eat. Thats why hes a little heavy.
Inside the large barn, community educator Amy L. Sands showed off baby lambs, chicks, pigs and cows.
Next, the group headed to the high-tunnel structure, where the children each planted their own bean or flower seed to take home. They learned about composting and how seeds germinate.
They also ate lunch in the farms classroom before boarding their yellow school bus for the trip back to Akwesasne. Next week, youngsters from Potsdam Headstart and Potsdam Centrals pre-kindergarten classes will make the trip. Children from Gouverneur Headstart are due May 22.
By the end of June, the extension plans to move its administrative offices from the Kennedy Farm, also on Route 68, to the learning farm. Although the farm is open to school groups, it wont re-open to the general public until construction workers finish renovating the office space. Guided tours can be set up by appointment.
The buildings and land previously used as extension office space at the Kennedy Farm will be leased by St. Lawrence University for its aricultural-based sustainability semester.
For more information about the learning farm or the Farm Day Camp, the Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County can be reached at 379-9192. Applications for camp are also available at: www.cceslc.com.