A new kind of tourist spot: farm offers unique experience

Christine Swinson holds one of the baby chicks that children can see and learn about at Fieldcrest Farm.

A vast, green field stretched out before two plant nurseries, one chicken coop, a house and a rabbit hutch. A large, pristine fishing pond could be spotted down the hill, hidden between tall trees.

One of the nurseries was covered, with the transparent tarp filtering in the sunlight to nourish the wide array of flowers and plants on a bright, blue April day.

On the far end of the nursery sat a woman who was cradling a small, fuzzy chick in her hands next to a large, square container. The container was a chicken brooder where 26 baby chickens roamed freely and tweeted amongst themselves.

The woman is Christine Swinson, and as of March 1, she and her husband, Joe decided to share their pride and joy, Fieldcrest Farm, with their neighbors and the entire region.

Christine said the goal in opening Fieldcrest to the public was to promote agritourism and educate families and children about where their food supply comes from, as well as the “real joy” of being outdoors with nature and animals.

“My husband and I feel very blessed to have this farm, and to have raised our children here,” she said. “We’re hoping to share the bounty.”

Christine expressed her belief that people in the region take agriculture for granted.

“It’s just kind of an everyday way of life, but there are so many children or families where it’s not for them,” she said. “They don’t know what that experience is like to be able to get on a farm, walk around a pond and have that kind of family togetherness,” she added.

Educational opportunities at the farm allow visitors to learn about the needs and habits of chickens and rabbits, as well as the different types of nursery crops that the Swinsons offer at Fieldcrest.

Christine recently welcomed their first large group of children to the farm. She said the children were “really thrilled” to learn about her chicks changed colors and grew into different types of chickens, including Blue Cochins.

She also showed the children the two rabbits, or Holland lop bunnies, on the farm: Mopsy and Flopsy. While teaching the children how to feed them, hold them correctly and properly clean their cage, she also had the opportunity to dispel a widely believed myth about rabbits.

“Most kids believe that bunnies love carrots,” said Christine. “In actuality…what they like to eat is banana peels and apples.

“A lot of the children are very fascinated about that,” she added, noting that several of the children never had the opportunity to pet a rabbit or hold a baby chick until they visited the farm.

The Swinsons also taught the young visitors about the plant cycle and even allowed each child to “pot up” his or her own tomato plants to take home.

Christine said that the experience was the beginning of the children starting their own vegetable gardens.

She added that the children’s exposure to the variety of vegetable plants introduced them to healthier foods and compelled them to want to visit local produce markets.

In addition to farm’s flora and fauna, the Swinsons also utilize the 3- acre pond nearby for fishing.

“We do catch and release,” said Christine, adding that the farm provides poles and bait to interested children and adults.

Christine also shared that the pone exposed a majority of the children in the tour group to their first fishing experience ever.

“[It was their] first chance of baiting a worm and putting the poles in the water,” said Christine. “They really enjoyed doing that and looked forward to coming back to do some more fishing.”

Christine added that it was the Swinsons’ hope to give parents and children one-on-one quality through allowing them to fish together, pet animals together and enjoy the outdoors.

“If you take your child to fish, you can learn a lot from your child about what’s going on in his or her life that you’re not going to really hear when he or she is sitting behind a television or playing videogames,” she said.

The Swinsons aim to promote school groups, boy scouts and girl scouts who visit their farm by adapting and teaching workshops that relate to Standards of Learning and the curriculum through which scouts earn badges.

Christine also perked up when discussing a retirement community that showed interest in bringing their assisted living residents to Fieldcrest.

“They remember when they were younger,” said Christine on the assisted living residents. “They’re very excited about coming back to get those memories back of seeing the chickens again and being able to throw a fishing line in the water.”

For the fall season, the farm will offer a pumpkin patch, hay rides and glitter pumpkin painting to children and families.

Fieldcrest Farm includes a full-retail nursery and gift store.

The nursery consists of fruit trees, shade trees, nursery-stock shrubbery, perennials, herbs, azaleas, strawberry plants that bear fruit all season and a full line of vegetable plants.

The gift store sells the Swinsons’ homemade soaps and a line of environmentally friendly “Bolga baskets,” which are intended for farm markets.

Christine shared her excitement over her family’s decision to open up the farm to everyone.

“We hope our community embraces us, and that they want to come out and have fun,” she said.

Fielcrest Farm is located on 1340 Kino Rd., Tappahannock.

For more information about the farm, agri-tourism fees and fishing opportunities, call 804-445-5379 or 804-445-4424, or email fielcrestfarm@yahoo.com.

Posted on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 10:01 am