Dora Ann Hatch, Van Osdell, Mary Ann | 11/1/2007 8:47:50 PM
Learning comes to life at Papa Simpson’s Farm in Arcadia.
Entering its fifth year of business, the farm specializes in educational and fun-filled field trips for schools, churches, nursing homes and other organizations. Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter community rural development agent, helped Jerry Simpson diversify his working dairy farm and add value to his business.
"Most small businesses don’t make it to their fifth anniversary. In fact, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only 44 percent make it past four years," Hatch said. "And this farm continues to grow."
In addition to Hatch’s assistance, Simpson received help from other LSU AgCenter agents and specialists in aquaculture, forestry, horticulture and agriculture. They provided expertise in pond development, tree identification, row crop production, vegetable and fruit tree planting and animal science.
"This worked for Papa Simpson because of his personality and drive," said Hatch. "He loves children, and he loves the farm."
Young visitors use their five senses on the farm. They ride on a sheltered cotton trailer full of hay bales to see the animals, pet and bottle feed baby animals, milk a cow and plant a crop. They also learn what products each animal provides.
The tour ends at a maze of hay bales laid out to form the outline of Louisiana. A picnic follows.
The tour’s dialogue had input from teachers.
The topics and activities are adapted to children’s ages and comprehension levels, and they’re structured to meet the requirements of the Grade Level Expectancy curriculum of Louisiana, Simpson said.
"We reinforce the vital link between what’s happening on the farm to the daily lives in what children eat, drink and use every day," Simpson said.
The farm has been in Simpson’s family for generations, and he wants to keep it that way. His wife and three daughters help conduct tours for 10,000 visitors a year.
"He (her father) didn’t need me every day in the beginning," said daughter Summer Simpson Bourn, who has been leading tours for four years. "Now he needs me every day. Weekend activities have increased a lot."
During a tour, Bourn pointed out male and female animals, the sounds they make and how many babies they have.
"The pigs stink. I’m sorry," she said as she viewed children holding their noses.
Then she asked, "What do we use a pig for?" Items she listed included hair, makeup and paint brushes as well as heart valves.
She reminded the children about Three Billy Goats Gruff at the goat area and "Charlotte’s Web’s" Wilbur at the petting area.
The horse section includes a wagon, where Bourn explained how those animals were once used for transportation. She said donkeys were like shepherds, protecting herds.
Bourn explained that all of the cows can’t be named. Farmers tag cows to help keep records of a sick cow, who its mother and father are and how many babies it has had.
Mary Hart, a teacher at Calvary Baptist Church School in Shreveport, said she enjoys bringing her kindergarten students on the field trip because "they see how a real dairy farm works and can picture that."
Hart’s group included 23 children and 20 adults. Grandmothers along for the tour often said, "That’s what I used to see at my grandmother’s."
Cissy Winderweedle of Monroe was on her second trip to the farm with her granddaughter Samantha Rea Wall, 5, who was on her third trip.
"I like to watch the little kids who never get to touch an animal. This is good exposure for city children to country life," Winderweedle said.
Other visitors said the visit to the farm is good exercise. The children walked from area to area and had an opportunity to plant corn.
Papa Simpson’s fall highlights include a pumpkin patch, and winter offers Christmas with the Critters, this year on Dec. 7-8. Spring features an Easter celebration, and summertime activities include fishing and day camps.
The farm is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until dark. Tours are $8 per person. More information is available by telephone at (318) 263-2383 or (318) 278-0883 and on the Internet at www.papasimpsonsfarm.com.
The LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Tech Department of Rural Development assisted in marketing efforts.