Fall Farm Sprouts 2018 – Weeks #7-8 Tuesday AM

We are all quite familiar with the variable Michigan weather and winter came on quickly for us this year. We observed the farm change over the fall as we transitioned from shorts to snow pants. We saw a range of weather conditions this season and as we overheard a parent state last week, “You know Farm Sprouts will be out there…” despite gusting wind, intermittent rain, and cooler temperatures. We follow the saying, “There is no bad weather, just poor choice in clothing” when it comes to our philosophy on heading outdoors. On a farm, there is work to be done regardless of the weather. The animals depend on us and the chores don’t end when the weather turns. Despite the conditions, we had a wonderful time on our wagon rides! We very much appreciated the opportunity to connect with our families. It is through struggle and adversity that we grow as individuals and as a community. Some of our best adventures and stories come as a result of striking out in challenging weather conditions. We’ll need to come up with a book list revolving around the theme “stuck in the mud,” especially pertinent for those in the Tuesday afternoon group!

During our seventh week, we made homemade applesauce using a variety of apples, including Gala apples from Tollgate. Farm Sprouts enjoyed the process and the yummy smell in our classroom. They worked at the farmer’s stand, selling pumpkins, honey, and apples. Outside near the old orchard, we finished our tree cookie project, pounded pumpkins and leaves, and explored gravity with our apple ramps. We read the story, Henry’s Map by David Elliot, before heading out on our very own “animal mapping adventure,” which took us to our animal barn and chicken coop. We visited the animals, marveling at a chicken’s balancing abilities. It turns out Farm Sprouts also enjoy balancing!

Finally, we arrived to our last week of the 2018 fall season. Farm Sprouts shared their favorite memories with the support of our Wonder Wall. They worked together to create a mural map of the farm, inspired by a mapping line of inquiry which wove through the season. They ground corn, part of the process for making foods like cornbread muffins. Under the pavilion, Farm Sprouts worked as bakers with corn and cooking utensils in the sensory bin, pressed apples with our cider press, and revisited our bin of animal coverings, which was of much greater interest following a season of thinking about how animals prepare for winter and now feeling its arrival in the air.

For our harvest snack, we munched on cornbread muffins and enjoyed apple cider, a special treat. The majority of Farm Sprouts loved the muffins! We baked them in mini muffin tins and included one pepita on top. ¿Qué es una pepita? Read here to learn more about these tasty and nutritious additions!

Corn Muffin Recipe: http://www.cookusinterruptus.com/sweet-potato-corn-muffins-4136-260.html

The squash in our muffins came from our C.S.A. program. Interested in joining next year? Registration for the 2019 season opens for the public on November 23rd! Visit the website for more details. The majority of the produce for our harvest snack was sourced right from the farm. And the maple syrup? Well, that came from our Tollgate Sugar Bush and some of our very own “Sugar Sprouts” helped harvest the sap that became the syrup last winter. Farm Sprouts know where their food comes from!

We closed the day by reading Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston, just two days before the first snow blanketed the farm. The time spent visiting with families was the perfect ending to the season!

“We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. And to take good care of it, we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.” – Wendell Berry

We would also like to add that as a part of our responsibilities as citizens of this planet, we also feel we must strive to do our best to care for and love each other. It is through communities we can connect and make a difference. Certainly, Farm Sprouts is the result of the input, support and efforts of many, many people, including our families, Tollgate staff, greater MSU Extension staff, and greater community members. Thank you to all who contribute to making this program possible. It’s making a very big impact on our smallest citizens, who in turn, will someday make their own big impact (if they aren’t already doing so).

This blog post is dedicated to Luisa. The Tollgate Farm community is rooting for you.

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Farm Sprouts – One Season Ends, Another Begins

The fall season of farm sprouts has just wrapped up. Our fall season invited us to investigate how plants and animals prepare for winter. Farm Sprouts developed scientific thinking skills as they observed the many changes taking place around them.

We were busy harvesting apples, pears, peppers, sunflower seeds, and more. Farm Sprouts also observed, raised, and released three monarch butterflies found on the Tollgate milkweed, now on their journey South to warmer climates! There is never a shortage of work and fun to be had on the farm in the fall! Visit the Farm Sprouts Blog to read more about our adventures.

Although the fall season has come to a close, we look forward to the winter Maple Sugaring season of Farm Sprouts, to begin in February. Farm Sprouts will have the opportunity to work alongside our maple sugaring volunteers in the Sugar Bush this winter to harvest and produce Michigan’s first agricultural crop of the year: maple syrup!

Preschoolers will explore some very big concepts, including tree physiology, mathematics, engineering, pressure, and evaporation, all while developing an appreciation for our land, resources, and community. Registration opens on November 17th! Visit the Farm Sprouts Website for dates and details.

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Tollgate 4-H Club to be at Light up the Night Novi

The Tollgate Farm 4-H Club will be celebrating the holiday season with a farm stand sale at Light Up the Night Novi on Friday, November 30th. The event will take place at 6:00 P.M. at the Novi Civic Center. Ring in the holidays at Novi’s family friendly tree lighting event.

Santa will be arriving early in the evening to help light Novi’s Christmas Tree. Kids young and old are welcome to visit with Santa and enjoy the family friendly activities offered at this popular annual event.

While there, stop by the 4-H club’s stand to pick up unique, local, handmade stocking stuffers, treats, and teacher gifts. We will be selling goat milk soap, made from Tollgate Farm goat milk. Also available are peppermint bark, snowman soup, candy cane reindeer, candy cane ornaments, fruit leather and more. Sales of these items support the activities of the 4-H club at Tollgate Farm.

Click here or more information on Light Up the Night.

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Farm Breeding Season

Fall is always an exciting time of year on the farm. Apples are harvested and pressed into cider, winter produce is collected from the fields and stored, and animals are preparing their bodies for winter and also for having babies!

Tollgate breeds their sheep and goats each fall in order to have babies in the springtime for many programs such as 4-H, Spring Break Camp, Spring Into Farming field trips, and Sheep-to-Sweater programs. The gestation period of sheep and goats is only 5 months! This year we are planning on 5 female goats and 8 female sheep being pregnant over the winter, and birthing as early as February and ending mid-April. This is always such an exciting time, but of course, it is not an exact science. While we hope for the best, sometimes the process does not always go as planned, but of course it is a great learning experience as are many of the happenings that go on at the farm.

In addition to lambs and kids (goats), we will have chicks too! Our embryology program is a neat way for kids to learn about the chicken life cycle, and their chicks come back to the farm to grow up to lay the tasty eggs that we sell here at Tollgate. Stay tuned to the birthing announcements in the early Spring months!

We are also looking for adults interested in volunteering to help care for the animals. If this is something you would like to inquire about, please contact Animal Care Coordinator Nicole Simmons at simmo221@msu.edu.

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Night Hikes on the Farm

This fall, MSU Tollgate Farm hosted our first fun-filled night hike. The Halloween-themed program took place on Friday, October 26th and had about 20 attendees. The event allowed people to see MSU Tollgate Farm after hours, when the property is normally closed to the public.

An educational leader guided the group on a hike through the woods where guests got the opportunity to learn about nocturnal life on the farm. During their exploration around the farm, participants also roasted s’mores, drank cider, and picked pumpkins.

Continuing on this trend, Tollgate plans to host a series of these events that offer educational and recreational opportunities for visitors to venture the farm at nighttime and explore fascinating natural science topics. These events will be open to the public and will particularly appeal to scout groups, families, and anyone with a thirst for knowledge and adventure.

Each hike will incorporate different themes fitting to the month or season. We are looking forward to scheduling these night hikes in months to come. Please see our event page for further details and keep an eye out in the newsletter and on Facebook for upcoming dates.

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