A healthy hobby: Local farm acts as learning centerPublished 10:09am Friday, April 26, 2013
Family looks to teach students, locals with their farm operation
On a long, boring stretch of highway, a clean white fence and eye-catching barn pop into view. For those who are looking, it’s pretty obvious they’ve just found the Red Barn Learning Farm. It’s a kid’s dream. Adults? They’ll also enjoy it.
Turkeys, ducks and chickens mill about just behind a 3-foot-tall fence. They could simply hop out and flutter away, but they’ll stay. They enjoy it, too.
Brenna and Brian Scanlan bought the rural farm on the south side of Highway 30 near Hayfield in 2004. Brian grew up on a farm just down the road, and Brenna grew up in Rochester. But they shared a vision.
“We bought it in 2004 because we both wanted a hobby farm,” Brenna said, who had a yearning for farm life. “I always loved it when I visited people’s farms.”
Now the farm is their hobby, their home and their full-time gig. For Brian, it’s all common ground, as he grew up nearby on a hog and cattle farm. For Brenna, it’s a long way from sitting behind a desk at a bank, and that’s a good thing for her.
“Every day is chores, morning and night,” she said.
So with boots on and a group of cats eagerly squirming around her feet, Brenna walked into the red barn that doubles as a learning center. Here, kids don’t sit at desks or in chairs. They get straw bales. Inside the barn, the Scanlans house chicks and ducklings and some of their merchandise. This summer, they’ll even have Friday night movies in there. The Scanlans are ready to open their hobby to the public for good.
“It was more of a trial thing,” Brenna said about opening last October. “We sold pumpkins and had family out. This year is more of our official season.”
The Red Barn Learning Farm lends itself to field trips, and two homeschooled groups visited the farm on Wednesday for two-hour tours. Brenna talks, listens, answers questions and lets the youngsters get up close to the menagerie of animals, which include sheep, three kinds of goats, chickens, turkeys, geese, pigs, pot-belly pigs, rabbits, cows, donkeys, ponies and llamas. Youngsters can plant and pick items in the garden, as well.
“We just kept brainstorming,” Brenna said about adding activities. “What could we do that we like to do?”
This farm is far from a big-time, corporate operation and is an easy day’s transition for some visitors who don’t get to see livestock up close. As Brian puts it, the farm “gives them a little taste of the country life.”
To add to the experience, the Scanlans have plenty of themes planned through the end of October, when they close for the year. This weekend is goat weekend. The Scanlans have invited other goat enthusiasts and participants, including a woman who will talk about goat milk soap and demonstrate how to milk a goat. The next weekend, May 4 and 5, the Scanlans will hold their grand opening with extra activities, local dealerships and agriculturists.
Though all the hard work of building the pens and enclosures is complete, the Scanlans still have more plans for the future.
“We’ve got a lot of other little activities we’d like to do,” Brian said, and mentioned a pedal tractor course will soon be in the works. “Now that the main part is done, it’s fun to just add things.”
Yet the Red Barn Learning Farm may forever maintain the tranquil, small-farm feel. One gets that feeling as a fainting goat moved toward the fence, clamoring for attention.
“Our goal is not to commercialize the place,” Brenna said.
For more information about Red Barn Learning Farm, hours of operation, admission, to book tours or find a time to visit, go to www.red barnlearningfarm.com.