A blond-haired toddler giggled and happily shrieked as a black-and-white sheep nibbled at the dried corn kernels she offered in her tiny outstretched hand. Not 10 minutes earlier, she’d shied away from a black goat stuck his head through the fence to say hello, but now she couldn’t get enough face time; she carried handful after handful of treats to the animals jockeying for her handouts. Not quite 2 years old, she points at the farm animals in her myriad of books nightly, making the requisite “moos” and “baaas,” but she’d never petted or fed one before. I should know—I’m her mom.
Therein lies the beauty of Sunflower Farm in Longmont, where we enjoyed a morning of play in early October. City kids have been running on hay bales, stomping in mud pits, feeding farm animals, and learning about agriculture and farm life for more than a decade at Sunflower Farm, thanks to the hard work of proprietors Bren Frisch and her husband, John Roberts (known to visitors as “Farmer John”). The couple purchased the property in 2000 and raised their own family there. A Kahlil Gibran quote incorporated into the stone sign—“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”—sets the tone for every visit.
We explored the haven on the first day that fall temperatures swept into the metro area, cooling the air and sweeping in gray clouds. But the weather didn’t dampen our spirits. We couldn’t wait to start exploring the farm. You can feel the air of magic as soon as you get out of the car.
“There’s all these private, tucked away places,” Frisch said, as she showed us around the property, pointing out some of the farm’s residents: a small, snorting Hampshire pig; a friendly orange tabby cat named Milo; a hen with her string of tiny chicks trailing close behind. “She just brought the babies out of the nest,” her fourth clutch of the year, Frisch explained.
There’s also Shrek the donkey, lots of goats, and a black-and-white llama named “Osama” who protects a posse of sheep in his same enclosure. A slew of fowl wander the property: chickens, of course, but also peacocks, guinea hens, and Tom, an 8-year-old turkey so tame he lets children stroke his soft feathers and marvel at the warmth of his bumpy skin.
When youngsters tire of the animals, there’s no shortage of entertainment.
There’s a big sandbox, complete with toys, in the bottom of an old silo. Helmets are optional for the low-to-the-ground zip line. Swaying bridges connect multiple tree houses. There’s even an old Cessna 310 plane where children can play the ultimate make-believe pilot games. Or they can check out the tractor before climbing atop giant square hay bales. In the summer, children can jump and roll around in a mud pit and cool off in the sprinklers installed just for them.
For the first time the farm will stay open through the fall and into the winter. There will be sledding and Bobcat rides. Or visitors can cozy up near daily bonfires to roast marshmallows. Plus, there will be plenty of new furry friends to meet.
“December and January is when all the babies are born. It’s a really magical couple of months here,” Frisch said.
The farm, located at 11150 Prospect Road, is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. The space has been undergoing a “huge reorganization” over the last few months as they work with the county to restructure, Frisch said. As such, only a limited number of tickets ($10 each; kids under 12 months are free) are sold in advance through the website; no tickets are sold on site. It’s well worth the advance planning required.
Caramie Schnell is a freelance writer and editor based in Denver who has written for Vail Luxury Magazine, the Vail Daily, Parent’s Handbook and many other publications.