Sunday, March 5 was a spectacularly sunny day for the Bower School Farm’s “Winter Birth Celebration.” Decades have passed since my previous visits to that educational working farm in Bloomfield Township. Back then when I was a firefighter/medic for Bloomfield Township Fire Department, the farm was in our emergency response area. I was delighted to have attended their special event and looked at it as a homecoming; after all the farm is my old “friend.”
If the photos in today’s Wilder Side of Oakland County nature and trails blog catch your attention and encourages you to visit, read on and mark April 15 on your calendar – Bower School Farm’s spring opening day.
The farm’s detailed website should answer all your questions about the farm, including visits, special events, summer camp, community classes, volunteering and fees. Their website includes this statement. “As a non-profit organization, our public funding through the BHS general fund supports teaching and learning activities for the K-12 schools. Additional activities are made possible by the generosity of our visitors and funded through user fees, memberships, donor support, and the sales of our farm-fresh products. Recreation, family, and special events are core to our mission as we build a sense of belonging and “place” for all who enter our gates.”
I would describe my visit as both fun and informative. When something is fun, more facts are absorbed. Here’s how Bower describes itself: “Welcome to YOUR local farm! Owned and operated by Bloomfield Hills Schools (BHS) since 1967, the Bowers School Farm has been a place for schools and our community to gather and celebrate agriculture. Now, more than ever, food, farming, and the outdoors are essential to healthy living and harmony with the world around us. With over 93 acres of forest, fields, gardens, and barns, there is always something new to explore.”
Their website is as welcoming as the staff I encountered during my visit: “We welcome every visitor to discover and wonder in the world around them by partnering with our community to provide fun and enriching experiences. Now, more than ever, food, farming and the outdoors are essential to healthy living and harmony with the world around us.”
As soon as I parked my car and walked over towards the big red barn, I felt a welcoming feeling of calmness; perhaps a sense of belonging as well. I smiled when I saw a trio of turkey vultures soaring high above the farm; perhaps a scent attracted them. I’ve always been a fan of turkey vultures in the waning weeks of winter when they begin reappearing. A small woodland at the edge of the farm field adjacent to I-75 might even serve as a roosting site for the vultures. I suspect it’s also the perfect habitat for a great horned owl. Chickens beware!
I chatted briefly with a few staff members after showing them my event ticket and then started my explorations with the chickens, having been lured that way by their clucking. As visitors to the farm will quickly see and hear, chickens and egg production are a significant part of the farm’s operation. They were fun to watch as they walked up and down their doorway plank to their coop. A small door closes in the evening, which is a very good idea. A chicken meandering at dusk is a tempting meal for great horned owls and other predators as well.
In addition to the chickens and bright white turkeys known as Beltsville White turkeys, the farm is home to sheep, horses, cattle, goats and pigs. Some were grazing in the pastures during my visit, while others were in their stalls. The rather social pigs seemed pleased with human visitors and sniffed at the back of my hand. I scratched behind their ears in a return gesture. Rabbits were a big attraction for children and there was a setup in the barn that allowed small children to be up close and in direct contact with them.
I must confess something that might seem a bit strange: I spent most of my visit just with the chickens. Why would I do that? Well, I’m planning on raising a few hens this spring to have fresh eggs. And while researching, I learned something about chicken I never would have guessed. “There are more chickens in the world than any other bird. In fact, more than 50 billion chickens are reared annually as a source of food, for both their meat and their eggs. Come observe the mobile chicken coop, and learn about how they are raised and the whole (poultry) process! After, buy some fresh farm eggs at the Farm Store.”
A visit to the Bower School Farm is more than a fun time, it’s an educational experience. The authenticity and warmness of this small-scale working farm in Oakland County are admirable and connect visitors from the general public and school student groups to where their food comes from in hands-on, memorable ways.
During spring, the farm’s gardens will add to the learning and teaching experience. Megan Isabell, the farm’s learning expedition leader, summed up the celebration this way, “The Winter Birth Celebration was created to bring our community together to engage in the wonders of our birthing season, which has not always been an opportunity we’ve been able to provide. It was a privilege and joy to see so many new and returning guests and share with them this experience.”
The Bower School Farm’s website includes these two insightful statements. “As a non-profit organization, our public funding through the BHS general fund supports teaching and learning activities for the K-12 schools. Additional activities are made possible by the generosity of our visitors and funded through user fees, memberships, donor support, and the sales of our farm-fresh products. Recreation, family, and special events are core to our mission as we build a sense of belonging and “place” for all who enter our gates.” “Education happens within the context of the larger community. Our approach extends beyond the four walls of the classroom to help ensure students are engaged in meaningful exploration and excited to learn!”
Before leaving the farm, I posed next to a mural on the side of the barn where visitors can compare their heights to the farm animals, a fun way to end my exploration. You might wonder when the best time to visit Bower’s Farm is. The farm has the answer for you: “Bower’s Farm has something to explore each season!”
Jonathan Schechter is the nature education writer for Oakland County Government and blogs about nature’s way on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.