For the last several years, I have had a slight obsession with sheep. After seeing them meander around the roads in Iceland, and watching their athletic ability when climbing mountains, I have been in awe at their strength and sweetness. After a winter stuck inside (not just with the weather but with a severe ankle injury as well, for more on that I will link my post at the bottom of the page) I was excited to see that a local farm event was happening. Prior to visiting the Fox Chase Farm in Philadelphia, I did not know that there were any farms in our historic city. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were hosting a sheep shearing day in late April, and was excited to check it out!
Fox chase Farm is located in Northeast Philadelphia, and it is a 112 acre working educational livestock farm. It is open to the general public on specific days for different events and festivities. They actually coordinate with the Pennypack Environmental Center for these occasions, and currently they offer Wednesday night open houses, a 4-H club, gardening, and opportunities for visitors to both enjoy the events and even volunteer if they are interested in that. Some activities are free of charge, or sometimes are a ticketed event that usually runs from three to five dollars a person.
If we look into the history of this farm, it is a one of the survivors of farms that existed in Eastern Montgomery County and Philadelphia in the 18th and 19th centuries. The farm credits its ability to stand the test of time in its ways to adapt with the prevailing culture at various times. Another interesting fact about it is that in 2005 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In its beginnings, the original farm had the name “Stanley” and dates back to when William Penn granted the land to William Stanley himself. After that time, it was passed to the McVeigh family who had the property for over 100 years and established a homestead. To this date, it has been farmed continuously since at least 1762. In the early days, this place was a working farm under a Quaker family, an institutional dairy farm when it was purchased by the Friends Asylum For The Insane, a gentleman’s farm to grow fodder for livestock and later beef stock, and finally the educational farm that we see today.
It became an educational farm after the City of Philadelphia, with help of grants from the Federal and local governments purchased the property for public lands. As of right now, the farm is operated by the Philadelphia School District on a long lease from the Fairmount Park Conservancy. I think that neat thing is that the school district actually employs a resident farmer and an on-site administer to schedule school visits.
Luckily, on the day that we went to visit, the weather was pretty mild. (In Pennsylvania and many areas in the Northeast, in the spring it tends to fluctuate a little with somedays getting to the freezing mark, while others may feel like the middle of summer. For this reason, when you visit the area, I suggest bringing a variety of clothing items that way you will be prepared for this. After April, we rarely get snow storms, but it has happened on occasion.)
As we walked on the path leading into the farm, we were immediately enchanted with the beauty of the area. It very much feels like an expansive farm on a country side, and you can tell that it is very well maintained and cared for. We noticed that there was a variety of livestock on the farm in addition to the sheep, such as cows, chickens, and goats. They had the indoor farm area open that day as well, so we did happen to encounter baby goats which were very sweet. In addition to the main event of sheep shearing, there were a lot of family and farm related activities available as well. They had potato sack races, crafts, hayrides, live music, a food truck, a bake sale, candle dipping, spinners and weavers wool carding, and even a Stone-Age tool making demonstration. This place really went all out, and it was a very lively festival.
While exploring the lands, we noticed a crowd gathered with excitement as the sheep shearing demonstration began. We actually were lucky and found a spot directly next to the sheep and goats by the event. The gentleman went over the process of sheep shearing with ease, and I was amazed how quickly he managed the whole process. I believe once he started to shear, he had taken off all the wool in less then five minutes. I did manage to get a photo of the wool after, and I must say, it looked beautiful. I think that the sheep also must have felt a sense of relief and lighter after as well. While the spring days are mild, the Pennsylvania summers can get quite hot, and I do not think that the sheep would enjoy keeping that thick coat on.
If you are traveling to the Philadelphia area, and want to learn more about farming, or even just having a fun day trip, I highly suggest checking out the Fox Chase Farms and one of their festivals. This may require a little planning before you go, because they tend to have their events on certain dates, so I will leave a link for their direct website so you can see what they are doing in the future. I think that this is a great place for families to visit, although I think anyone would enjoy seeing the gorgeous farm land and sweet animals.
Let me know in the comments if you have visited the Fox Chase Farm, and what you thought of it as well. I hope that you are having a wonderful day, and remember to click that subscribe button!
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-For Additional Reading
If you are traveling to the Pennsylvania region, and are interested in learning about its history, a really amazing resource is the book “Pennsylvania A History of the Commonwealth” by which is edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak. It is so informative, and reviews the history of our state, in addition to the geography, architecture, archaeology, art history, and even stories of folklore and folklife that are specific to this area.
I personally recommend this book if you are planning a trip to Pennsylvania, or even if you are just interested in learning about the state in general. If you would like to check it out, click on the link below!
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