May 2017
Farm & Field

Family Farm Day

Education - Outreach - Fun

 

What began as a small group of farmer friends has led to a large farm day for families. The spring event draws hundreds of children and their parents each year.

The goal of the Tennessee Valley Women in Agriculture today is educating others on small farming and how to get their products into farmers markets, said Margaret Mazikowski, one of the farmers. The group is a 501c3 corporation.

"We hope to eventually give out grants to youth to start farms and gardens," she said.

When she got started in farming, she didn’t know who to talk with to sell eggs at farmers markets. Her farm also features blueberries and grass-fed beef cattle.

This year, the Tennessee Valley Women in Agriculture hosted the 5th annual Family Farm Day in April. In the center of the arena at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center in Huntsville was a petting zoo featuring a few alpacas, several horses, a cow and her calf, a number of ponies, a few donkeys, five goats, some rabbits and a pot-bellied pig.

Almost 40 craftspeople and other vendors lined the sides of the arena. They included Plunder Jewelry, Damsel in Defense, Steeped Tea, Fused Glass, Boutique Clothing, Aunt Polly’s Cheese Straws, Amy’s Healing Hands, Piper & Leaf Tea, and Dirt Road Blessings. A number of agriculture-related children’s games were available, including barrel racing on stick horses and a toy duck pond.

A small group of children and adults take a look at the horses in the petting zoo.

 
   

Happy Trails Therapeutic Riding Center introduced passers-by to their work. The New Market business uses horses and horseback riding to help those who are disabled.

According to staff members, "Folks with all sorts of challenges … can benefit from horseback riding and other activities with our gentle equines. The student interacts with the animal by grooming and playing communication games with it. The activities foster physical health, independence and self-confidence."

The curriculum used at Happy Trails was first developed for riders with autism and has been modified for use with people who have other disabilities.

A silent auction featuring items from all the craftspeople and vendors benefited Merrimack Hall in Huntsville and the population it serves − children and adults with special needs. Arts education is a central focus for this population.

Also on display were the Master Gardeners of North Alabama; the Huntsville Search Dog Unit with a bloodhound, a German shepherd and a black Labrador Retriever; a HEMSI ambulance for youngsters to explore; and a John Deere tractor and Huntsville Police Department cruiser to inspect.

Program Specialist E’licia Chaverest greeted the public with information on Alabama A&M University’s New and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program. Through the university’s Small Farmers Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Program, the school serves a 21-county target area including Blount, Walker, Madison, Cullman, DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall, Morgan, Limestone and Calhoun, among others.

Mazikowski said the TVWiA members live in Gurley, New Market or Huntsville, and own one to 10 acres. TVWiA includes Screaming Goats Dairy Farm, 3 Girls Farm, Alchemy Farms, Margaret’s Lotions, TV Youth in Agriculture and Z Farms.

Mazikowski is especially proud of Leigh Caroline Breyer, who represents Screaming Goats Dairy Farm. She said she’s watched Breyer "come out of her shell" and seen her grow into a confident, industrious young businesswoman in just five years.

The operation today has 50 LaMancha goats including 21 kids. Breyer, who is only 15 and is homeschooled, sells the soap at farmers markets, including one on Thursdays in Madison County at Grace Point Baptist Church. While one variety comes unscented, customer favorites are Lavender and Rosemary, and Lemongrass and Peppermint Eucalyptus. She also markets the soap at University Pickers in Huntsville.

"My mom mentioned the idea of having a business. I bought a few goats. Ms. Mary taught me how to make soap," Breyer said.

She didn’t foresee her tremendous success until she discovered her love of goats. It shot off from there.

In the future, she said, "I would love to continue with goats. I’d also like to be a goat judge."

For more on the Tennessee Valley Women in Agriculture, go to their website at www.tvwomeninag.weebly.com or visit their posts on Facebook at FB.me/tvwia.

 

Maureen Drost is a Huntsville-based freelance writer and retired newspaper journalist. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..