Patterson Farm


One day, in the midst of a tour Michelle Patterson directs at her family farm, she asked the group of children a simple question: “What does a cow say?”

The answer was, “Eat more chicken.”

Cute? Maybe. But also very wrong. A cow says, “moo.” Always has and always will.
But children are losing out when it comes to learning about farms and what they mean to this country, something Patterson and others who promote agri-tourism are trying to reverse.

“That child had never had the experience of seeing an actual cow,” says Patterson. “We have a lot of educating to do. We want to change the perception of children that everything is just there at the grocery store … like the grocery store makes those tomatoes in the back of the store.”

Patterson Farm, a 1,000-acre, third-generation business in southwestern Rowan County, has been in the agri-tourism business for 16 years. In the last decade, farms have been going under at a rapid pace, says Patterson. “Farms have been sold to developers, and once a farm is gone, it’s gone,” she says. “We hope to keep farming sustainable for ourselves and others, and we hope we can inspire children to possibly make farming a career choice. It’s absolutely a good way of life.”

In 1994, Patterson Farm started its tours and entertained 400 visitors. Since then, the tours and programs have grown. Last year, 25,000 people visited, many of them preschoolers, elementary school children, scout troops, church groups and people from retirement centers. On the school tours, children pick strawberries in the spring, tomatoes in the summer and early fall, and pumpkins in the fall. They also ride wagons through the fields to learn about irrigation and soil conditions, are educated at a puppet show in the barn theater about the importance of farming, feed the farm animals and visit the farm-themed playground. In addition, they take educational activity books back to their classrooms, as well as the seeds they have planted and can nourish at home.

“Kids love hands-on activities,” says Patterson. “It’s a joy for them to come back and tell me how many green beans they grew on their plant.”

The new summer program, Learn and Grow Discovery Farm, involves children working on the farm, feeding animals, gathering (artificial) eggs, milking an (artificial) cow, and harvesting (artificial) strawberries and tomatoes. Kids take their harvest to the market, sort the produce into bins for sale and use Patterson Farm “bucks” for buying fruit or ice cream in the market.

Learn more about the Patterson Farm strawberry, tomato, pumpkin, farm history, geocaching, and dirt-on-dirt tours at