It's full-force fall on the farm

Oct. 23, 2013 @ 04:10 PM

Fall is happening.

Children shrieked and tumbled Wednesday in the crisp air and warm sun as they made their way through a bounce house, corn and hay mazes and a petting zoo at the Johnny Wilson Farm in Sawmills.

They wore T-shirts declaring their allegiance to their schools or child care centers or churches, layered over chunky sweaters and Minnie Mouse mittens and striped knit hats to guard against the wind.

The farm has been a fall destination since Olivia Ford and Clay Wilson, the fourth generation of the Wilson family to work on the farm, were kids. Their dad told them he would find a way for them to pay for college, that he wouldn’t just pay it for them, Ford said.

So Clay and Olivia sold pumpkins in the evenings and gave tours of the farm on weekends.

Now, anywhere from 500 to 800 people make their way through the farm on weekends in September, October and November. About 100 people do the same each weekday, Ford said.

On Wednesday, younger kids toddled through the hay maze and the cattle-corral maze (both are just what they sound like). In the petting zoo, they got eye-to-eye with animals that also were youngsters – the miniature donkeys were 3 years old, the calves 2 months, the lambs 7 months and the piglets 3 months.

They bumped through most of the farm’s 63 acres on a tram pulled by a tractor. The tram passed by horses and cows and a grinning basset hound. It passed stacks of pallets and the spikes and cylinders of farm equipment, the kind of functional sculpture that dots all the parts of America that still plant and grow.

The tram paused, and each child chose a golden delicious apple from a basket, grabbing it with two hands and biting full-faced past the yellow skin.

They rustled through the corn maze, which was planted in mid-June. Each year Clay Wilson draws it all out on paper, and then the maze is cut through the field by hand.

Each child selected a pumpkin, grabbing onto that rubbery flesh and bristly stem that feel as much like October as anything can.

And even after all that – after eating farm-grown fruit and running hands through the animals’ fur and crunching through dry crops – one child still asked, turning to his mother, “Where’s the farm at?”

He was young, used to the “farms” of picture books, red-painted barns with sloping eaves.

But this place the kids tramped through was a farm – and it was fall.