It was a rainy day in Vermont, which put somewhat of a damper on our plans to hike, bike, kayak. Outdoor enthusiasts are in good company in this state, where nearly every car sports a cargo rack with recreational equipment. Fortunately, there’s lots of ways to have rainy day fun when the weather refuses to cooperate with your adventure plans.
Although we usually avoid tourist traps like the plague, we considered our rainy day options and settled on Shelburne Farms. This 1,400-acre working farm and National Historic Landmark is situated along the shores of Lake Champlain in Shelburne, Vermont, just a short drive from our campground. But this farm does much more than just growing vegetables and feeding animals. It’s an educational campus that hooks up with schools and environmental groups to teach people about sustainable farming methods in an area filled with 1900 era history.
If you read my recent article about finding free samples in Vermont, this is where my love affair tiny handouts began. The Shelburne Farms gift shop had about six kinds of cheese, two kinds of cheese spreads, six kinds of jams, and four kinds of mustards to load onto crackers and fill your belly. Since we signed up for a tour of the farm and had some time to kill, we were able to feast on samples and stay dry while we waited.
Although the farm tours usually set off in an open-air wagon, we were piled into a green school bus because of the rain. Tours cost $11 per person and depart four times throughout the day to see the historic buildings, landscape, cheese factory, and experience yet another sampling of cheese. Our tour guide definitely knew his stuff and told us about the rich folks that used to live here and run the property before it became a non-profit organization.
Since it was a Saturday, there was no one making cheese, but we did get to see the farm’s cheese-making operation. It seemed that some cheese had been left out over the weekend, which I sure hope wasn’t by mistake.
After about an hour and a half, our tour wrapped up and we were free to wander about the ground and hiking trails. The pouring rain deterred us from doing much hiking, so we sought shelter in the Children’s Farmyard. There were plenty of sheep inside the barn to stare at and let stare back at you.
The barn also had a walk-in chicken coop, where visitors were encouraged to watch their step and get to know their feathered friends up close and personal.
Perhaps the highlight of the farm experience was milking the cow. When I was a kid in rural Illinois, I once attempted to milk a cow at a county fair. Instead of taking on the job like a champ, I fearfully squealed and hid behind my parents at the sight of an udder. My boyfriend, however, milked this cow like it had never been milked before. Milk squirted into a tin bucket and all was right in the world. I took my turn as well and had much more success than in my previous attempt. There were a handful of kids in line to squeeze the udders, so we had to put on our patient hats and wait our turn.
After thoroughly washing our hands, we stopped back in the gift shop to load up on a few more samples of cheese for the road. As we chewed and pretended to browse the merchandise, our tour guide tipped us off on a great spot to hit up next: Shelburne Vineyard! From history to cheese, wine, and udders, I’d definitely recommend Shelburne Farms for a great way to spend a rainy day in Vermont.