The next best activity after singing Old McDonald a gazillion times is escaping the city to experience the real thing outside. Think about all these cute piglets, chickens, goats, and cows waiting to be admired! Want to go beyond sheer exultation and be hands-on? At any these Bay Area farms, you can throw your own little barnyard bash and watch your kids milk cows or goats!

Slide Ranch
Named because of its position on a green pasture overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Slide Ranch is a popular Marin day trip to take kids for a fun farm day. This educational dairy farm offers programs and events to show kids where their food comes from. For the preschool set and a gentle first farm trip, look for Family Farm Days on the farm’s calendar. On these days, kids get to pet chickens in their coop, explore the vegetable and herb garden, cook some food, or card wool. Most importantly, kids get in line to milk a goat and they love it. No age is too young to learn proper milking etiquette. By the way, events sell out fast – get on their mailing list!

2025 Shoreline Highway
Muir Beach, Ca

Hidden Villa
At the foot of the Santa Cruz mountains in Los Altos Hills, Hidden Villa combines an organic farm with miles of wilderness trails. While you can walk around the farm on your own, the public programs are the real draw for local families. Whether you come for a campfire or a preschool series, there’s always something going on. The “Cow Wow!” programs are just the thing to let your child come real close to Cleo the dairy queen. Kids also learn about cow feed, cow care, and milking techniques. Check the online calendar for future dates. Like Slide Ranch, getting on their mailing list will avoid disappointment.

26870 Moody Road
Los Altos Hills, Ca

McLelland’s Dairy
It’s no wonder so many dairy farms are located in Marin County – sunny skies, ocean close by, and miles of rolling ranch hills, this is cow heaven! Families love to go to the McLelland Dairy farm tours but the real treat comes after the cow milking part – people swear by the supra-delicious taste of the European butter! Owned by the granddaughter of the people who started the farm, McLelland Dairy opens the farm for regular farm tours from spring to fall each year (2012’s last tour is on October 28th). After kids arrive, they meet and pet baby calves, then head to the pasture where they can see the cows grazing. The fun begins when Dixie the cow arrives for the milking demonstration. Everyone gets a turn and kids as young as age 2 have tried their milking skills! To contrast hand-milking with modern techniques, the group moves on to the milking parlor and finishes with a tasting of the much-acclaimed European butter. Yum! Sign up online here.

6475 Bodega Avenue
Petaluma, Ca

Full House Farm
If your kids are ready for a full-on farm immersion, head north and relax a weekend at Full House Farm where guests get treated to a complimentary farm tour with a goat milking experience to boot. Top the tour with a tasting of yummy goat treats such as chevre or vanilla iced goat bites (ice milk), lavender vanilla ice cream, or creations such as a homespun cheesecake with goat chevre and goat cream topped with lemon curd or blueberry sauce.

1000 Sexton Road
Sebastopol, Ca

Does this sound like an activity your kids wouldn’t mind getting their hands dirty for? Know of any other farms that offer the chance to milk cows and goats? 

— Laure Latham

photo credit: woodleywonderworksMark Kauzlarich, Sandy Bar Ranch