KINGSTON TWP. – A fresh coating of snow and brilliant sunshine seemed made to order for the winter festival starting Saturday on the grounds of the nonprofit educational dairy farm known as The Lands at Hillside Farms.
Its four-day WinterFest, which continues today and will resume next weekend, features barn tours, tractor rides, Alpaca fiber-spinning demonstrations, educational lectures, kids' games and homemade food. We're trying to diversify and create more opportunities for the public to enjoy the place, said Chet Mozloom, executive director of The Lands.
As always, the public was invited to walk through the barns and interact with the animals. The farm in Luzerne County's Back Mountain area is home to a variety of dairy cows, oxen, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks and donkeys.
During the winter, all but the beef cattle are kept in the barns, said Doug Ayers, chairman and president of The Lands' board of directors. The beef cows like lying in the snow, he said. They stay outside by preference.
On any given day, visitors might be lucky enough to witness the birth of a calf or the milking process, the latter of which takes place daily from 6 to 7:30 a.m., then again 12 hours later. It's a typical dairy schedule, said Ayers, pointing out that an average of 50 to 60 cows are milked each day. It's the real thing, not a demonstration, he said.
These cows have a wonderful life, said Ayers, adding that the average lifespan for a Hillside cow is 10 to 12 years, and that commercial dairy cows live roughly three years.
These cows here die of old age. They are fed grass and fresh water and get plenty of exercise, he said. Other cows never even step outside.
More than 350,000 people visit the sustainable, working farm each year, said Ayers. The hundreds of volunteers as well as regular staff and the community make it work, he said. This place belongs to the people. Our goal is to get people out and enjoy the locally made products and learn about a sustainable method of living.
Mike Ruggere, of Dallas, brought his toddler son, Gio, to the event for some winter fun. Accompanied by his friends Matthew and Jennifer Hoover of Dallas, and their 2½-year-old daughter, Gia, Ruggere said everyone had a great time.
They liked sitting by the fire and petting the animals, he said. It's something you can do with the whole family. It's inexpensive and the kids love it.
WinterFest will continue today from noon to 4 p.m. and next Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $1. For more information, visit: www.thelandsathillsidefarms.com or call 696-4500.