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Benner’s Farm - Old Fashioned Family Fun on Long Island’s North Shore

LongIsland.com

Benner's Farm is a private, fifteen-acre, family homestead, first farmed in the 1700's.

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Children visiting Benner’s Farm in East Setauket, NY.

Photo by: Benner’s Farm

East Setauket, NY - May 31, 2018 - Imagine visiting a place where time stands still and our usually hectic daily pace is replaced by rhythms and textures of a family homestead. At Benner’s Farm in East Setauket, envision your family exploring the historic grounds, picking pumpkins from the fields, taking in one of their festivals, or enjoying one of their innovative and engaging educational programs. Feel the cycle of the seasons as you relax, meet friends or explore the farm at different times of year.  
 
At Benner’s Farm, perhaps you or your group will learn all about maple sugaring in February, or see baby animals being born in the spring, celebrate strawberries in June, send the kids to camp to be a farmer for a week, or take their haunted hayride and pick pumpkins in the fall. Maybe you just want to join their woodland friends and take a ride on the biggest swing on Long Island hung from the largest and oldest white oak in the Three Villages. All of this and more is found in the center of the island on the north shore at Benner’s Farm.
 
Benner's Farm is a private, fifteen-acre, family homestead, first farmed in the 1700's. Each year the farm provides thousands of people with a sense of what it was like to live on a small farm in years past. The Benners are the seventh family to farm this land, and have been farming organically since the late 1970’s in their family garden and fields of strawberries, in addition to also raising a variety of farm animals for self-sufficient living. Thousands of people come to visit Benner’s and participate in the many workshops, festivals and special events each year. 
 
Jean and Bob, and their four kids bought the farm in 1977. At the time it was Sleeping Beauty’s Farm and it was waiting for some loving hands to help it realize the possibilities of the broken down sheds and barns that were adorning its property. The pair set out to uncover the fields and woods that were overgrown with brush and saplings so that once more the farm could have a family that would live off of its land. In our first years at the newly re-christened Benner's Farm resurrected a garden and fields to grow strawberries and repaired and strengthened neglected structures from 1820. Early on they decided to make decisions that would serve both themselves and the property by following organic practices to honor and preserve the land and produce sustainable food. Ultimately, those decisions allowed them to educate others on their shared connections to the farm and soil.
 
Both are educators, and as they learned many things – including how to milk a goat or plant a garden – they began to think of ways to use this historic setting to develop innovative programs for children and adults by way of immersive and engaging educational offerings and public events.
 
First, classes from local schools began to visit the farm seasonally to see where their food came from. Soon, the farm opened to the public on weekends, leading to seasonal festivals to celebrate highlights of the year. A Little Store was added, and at about that time four-week courses that gently introduced kids to the farm became popular. Soon, kids’ workshops were exploring the many aspects of the farm and eventually adult workshops were added by demand. Summer Farm Camp and Spring Break Camp followed, allowing kids to be farmers for a week on a real working farm. And after their Event Barn was built, birthday parties, special events and weddings were added to the schedule.
 
Throughout all of these changes their homestead remains. The family’s food still is grown just as it has been for the other families that lived there since 1751; the goats still have to be milked, the strawberries weeded, pumpkins and garden plants nurtured and grown organically for their family and friends. But while they still respect the old ways, they are not tied to the past- a number of years ago, the family installed solar power on a new barn had built near the older barn, and those panels provide electricity and point out dedication to a sane existence. 
 
Following are some of the things offered at the farm.
 
Camps: 
 
Summer Farm Camp: Kids from 3 on up can be a farmer for a week and experience summer life on a real working Farm.
 
  • Explorers and Seniors: With a different theme each day, campers are busy learning about animals, plants and nature, history, science, crafts and food. Each week includes fun and games of all kinds, special guests, and creative endeavors. Our campers are assured of a wonderful and entertaining summer experience in a very unique environment. Eight weeks are available this year and every camper gets a special farm tee shirt. Snacks are provided morning and afternoon. 9 - 4 AM and PM sessions. See their website for more information.
  • Kinder Kamp group is specially designed for tots and early school-aged children.  Maintaining a 6:1 camper to counselor ratio with this group. This active hands-on program will surely delight youngsters as they experience and learn about the animals and plants of the farm. Crafts, snacks, music, and lots of fun will be had by all. Classes are small, so register early! Ages: 3 up to 6 years. See website for more information.
Spring Break Camp What better way to spend the Spring Break, than joining in the outdoor fun the family has planned!  
 
  • Kids start the seeds for their own gardens, watch chicks hatch from eggs, help with the farm chores care for the new little goats and lambs, play lots of games, make unique crafts, and enjoy tractor rides and woods walks. The days will fly by and the memories will last for years to come! 
  • Held during the Spring Break Recess, 9AM- 1PM - Snack provided, kids bring their lunch. See website for more information.
Weekday Programs
 
Mommy and Me, Farm Fun, and Down on the Farm are offered on Tuesday- Fridays in many time slots. They each meet for 4 weeks (one hour weekly).  
 
  • Mommy and Me is a popular four-week session introduction to farm animals for two and three-year-olds and a parent. Children are gently introduced to small farm animals one at a time with Mom or Dad right there. Using all their senses to explore the farm, parent and child will share their experiences and discoveries with each other. A snack, song and story complete the fun of each session.
  • Farm Fun is for young farmers ages 4 to 6. They'll meet and learn all about a different farm animal each week. In four one-hour sessions, the children will learn about life on the farm. In the fall they will learn how the farm gets ready for winter. In the spring the children will hold and feed baby animals, grow plants for their garden, and learn about spring on the farm.
  • Down on the Farm. Boys and girls in first through third grade will learn about farm life through hands-on experiences with animals, gardens and chores. In the spring our focus is on birthing and baby animals, incubating and hatching eggs, and planting seeds and growing food. Autumn time is when we will learn about the fall garden, the harvest, and preservation of foods. This active hour-and-a-half not only is fun, but fosters responsibility and group cooperation.
Workshops
 
Special Saturday Offerings provide hands-on activities, crafts and instruction centered on specific areas of the farm. They run on Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, include a snack, and require advanced registration. You can register for individual programs or for the whole series. For Adults and Kids.
 
Open on Select Weekends during the Spring and Fall
 
The farm is open to the public during the Spring and Fall.
 
Springtime is a great time to see the baby animals, ride the big swing, buy some plants for your garden, or just relax on the farm. During the fall their Haunted Hayride will thrill the kids and kids have pumpkins to pick right from the field. Check calendar for the weekends that the farm is open.
 
Special Weekends and Festivals
 
During the year their are a number of special weekends that highlight homesteading processes or celebrate seasonal events.
 
  • Maple Sugaring Days: Collect the sap, boil it down smell the fire, feel its warmth, and taste the syrup at the end of the day. Many scout groups are hosted during the week and Sunday are open to the public, Saturday from noon to four. Learn all about where your maple syrup comes from and other historical facts, and then have some pancakes with real Long Island syrup.
  • Mayday Celebration: Children and adults of all ages are invited to dance around the thirty foot traditional May Pole and return to a simpler time, enjoying an afternoon of storytelling, crafts demonstrations, live old-time music, Morris Dancing, good food, and more. This festival is a highlight for many Long Islanders who look forward to its simple, down-to-earth flavor. Highlighting the day will be all of the new spring baby animals that have been born on the farm, and of course the Great Swing will carry Festival visitors into the air.
  • Strawberry Fair: Strawberries! Chocolated, shortcaked, sundaed, waffled, jammed, and leathered! Add a historic farm, live music, great food, home-made fresh Strawberry Ice Cream and good company for an afternoon of down-home fun. Visitors will be encouraged to enjoy the BIG swing, new births, baby animals to hold and cuddle, and the gardens, fields, woods and trails of our 1751 historic farm.
  • Fiddle and Folk Fest: Featuring the best in traditional music, from Bluegrass to Blues. Many stages, great acts, meet the performers, workshops, jamming on the grounds, art projects, sing alongs, vendors, and a family contra dance to finish the day.
  • Harvest Fair: The pumpkin field will be open for your special Jack O’ Lantern. Musicians will delight the crowd with lively traditional music and songs. Crafts people will give hands-on demonstrations of many of the folk arts that constitute that Island heritage. Apple Cider demonstrations will be given throughout the day and an Autumn Farm Stand will sell produce and pumpkins. Seasonal treats and Haunted Hayrides area also available. 
Classroom and Scout Visits
 
The Benner family has made education an integral part of their farm since first arriving in 1977. School groups have been making annual trips to their homestead for 40 years. Their hands-on approach to learning makes history come alive for children. The sights and sounds of the farm and its animals, the gardens and flowers, spring babies and the autumn pumpkin patch will create vivid memories for students for years to come. Give them a call and schedule a trip for your class.
 
Colonial Programs
 
These unique programs provide an opportunity for children to experience first-hand some of the daily activities of colonial times. Benner's Farm has been bringing this program into schools for over 35 years, tying the program structure into our own pre-revolutionary farm's history with a special focus on the role that children played in colonial family life. There is also a variation offered on this program at the farm where they provide a farm tour as part of the day. Visits to schools in often available during the winter months to augment the curriculum.
 
Events and Parties
 
  • Birthday Parties: Birthday parties are planned for the age and interest level of birthday children from age 3 and up. Benner's birthday parties are focused on the farm animals. Tour the farm, stopping at each animal so children can experience each one using their senses. Children feed the sheep and goats hay, throw corn to the chickens, and have hand contact with all the animals that are safe to touch. In the spring, spend a special portion of the party holding the littlest farm animals, including bunnies, chicks, ducklings, in addition to bottle feeding baby goats, lambs or piglets.
  • Weddings and other special events: Benner's has begun holding a limited number of private events during the year. Think about the farm when you are looking to have that special occasion, reunion, party, or sweet sixteen.