Red Barn offers glimpse of farm life

Farm Forum

Growing up in the big city, Brenna Scanlan knew next to nothing about farming.

“I remember clearly one time when I was little I went to a farm and bottle-fed a lamb, and I thought it was the greatest experience ever,” she said.

That memory stayed with the Rochester, Minn., native, inspiring her as an adult to make sure city kids like her got a chance to experience life on the farm. She ended up marrying country guy Brian Scanlan. They bought a farm in Hayfield, Minn., in 2004 with the dream of turning it into a place children could visit and learn what farming is really all about.

“This was our joint idea together, because it seemed like this was missing in our area,” Brenna said.

To make their dream a reality, Brenna ended up leaving her job as a banker and Brian got rid of his landscaping company. The two set to work transforming their farm into a kid-friendly haven, complete with farm animals, pedal tractors, a playground and an educational barn. One year ago, they opened Scanlan’s Red Barn Learning Farm.

Since then, school groups, daycares, scout trips and the general public have streamed to the Hayfield farm for the chance to get an up-close look at farm life. Rainbow School director and teacher Cat Thisius said the trip proved to be a big hit with the school’s preschoolers. While visiting the farm, a group saw two baby goats being born.

“Preschoolers are very tactile learners. They like to see it. They like to do it. They like to hear things, and I think being out there in the farm environment they got so much more out of it being out there than just talking about it in the classroom,” she said.

On a recent afternoon, a crowing rooster and gobbling turkey provided the farm’s musical score. Barn kittens eager for attention circled a visitor’s feet. Curious pygmy goats sporting curled horns strolled up to the fence as people walked past.

Running the farm is a true family affair. The Scanlans’ three children – 7-year-old Wesley, 5-year-old Paisley and 2-year-old Conley – all do their part to help out. That includes daily chores. Brenna also makes sure to give children visiting the farm a chance to help out, whether it’s using a hose to fill up water dishes or brushing the ponies.

“It’s a great family-friendly business. Our kids can experience and learn as we go as well. To share that with these other kids and families is very rewarding,” Brian said.

The farm will be open every day through Oct. 31 as it kicks off “Fall Festival on the Farm.” Visitors can pick pumpkins, check out the farm animals, climb into the silo and jump into a corn-kernel pit. The educational curriculum will be focused on the the story of the harvest, with children following the journey of “Kernel” the corn.

“They are going to understand what happens to the corn when it comes out of the field and where it goes and what it does for the world. I think people just think you eat it, but it’s made into all kinds of things, ” Brenna said.

In the end, the Scanlans hope children leave the farm inspired to learn more about agriculture. And maybe, just maybe, some will decide to pursue it as a career.

Brian added, “As someone who grew up farming as a child, it’s great to hear another kid say they want to be a farmer.”