Full of furry animal friends that you can interact with, this farm not only offers great farm products, but the opportunity to learn about farm animals and how important they are!
What has 5 sheep, 7 goats, an assemblage of chickens of various breeds, a gaggle of geese, 6 ducks, a rabbit, some barn cats, 2 horses, a pony, 5 dogs, and a cow? No, this is not a small zoo, it’s Country Critters Farm in Sterling, CT. A small farm that focuses on the preservation of endangered livestock and education, Country Critters is the slow build and brainchild of Bailey and her parents, tucked away in the woods of the Quiet Corner.
When Bailey’s parents got the property, it was a good place for dogs to run- the only animal they had at the time, but they didn’t imagine it would turn into a backwoods menagerie. Amid the shade of the trees hides gradually constructed bungalows built by Bailey’s Dad, Mark, and loving decorated by handmade signs from her mom Sherri. Altogether they create an aura of an animal sized old western town center, complete with Saloon.
This is done with intention, not just for the comfort of the animals, but to create an inviting and engaging place for the educational tours that Bailey leads through the farm to groups of kids: Girl Scouts, 4-H-ers, Boy Scouts, home-school groups, etc. When the kids walk in, there are signs to encourage bravery, open fence lines so they can see the animals they are about to encounter and well-worn paths to lead them through their farm adventure.
As Bailey walks the farm with me, you can see that she is a born educator- she easily recalls information about each breed: why they are so unique and endangered, where they came from, and their history. She is, unknowingly, reciting the history of a deep agricultural past that used to be common knowledge to folks all over the world that lived closely alongside the animals that provided for them. And in the sharing of knowledge and history, she paves the opportunity for the next generation to love and care for them, by letting kids pet the feathers, scratch the wool, or caress the fluff of her animals.
It's a little ironic she is exposing children to rich agricultural heritages as she and her parents don’t have any immediate family history in agriculture. In fact, Sherri in the distant past, was quite nervous around animals herself! And yet, as Bailey found her way to her school’s FFA program, she began to see another world that none of them thought would be theirs. She started with a single lionhead rabbit she began breeding, but thought bigger when it came to her Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) final project for FFA. While other folks were focusing on projects with animals they could readily find around them, Bailey began researching and discovering the fascinating and diverse world of Endangered and Heritage breeds. She learned how to preserve genetics, where to find certified breeders (which can be all over the world), and how to raise and protect these valuable species.
The end results was the diverse and beautiful collection of animals that reside at the farm now. Of course, there are other things happening- she grows and sells vegetables at her farm stand, has a cottage license to sell delicious baked goods, has plenty of eggs, and puts out other goodies that are products from her animals.
Bailey’s not done however. They are currently at capacity on their farm, so to keep doing this work, her and her parents are on the lookout for the next piece of land to move the operation to. A house for her, a house for them, and LOTS of land for the animals to explore, roam and live out their lives with lots of love.