CONTRIBUTED BY LUCY B.
A Jugendfarm (sometimes also called a Jufa) is usually a place meant to give children experience with farm animals and also to teach them about nature. Generally there are programs to educate kids, opportunities for guidance, fun features like pony rides or animal petting, and also a chance to work and learn about animal care. The idea is that as children grow up in more urban settings, they may not have the chance to come in contact with nature and animals.
The Jugendfarm is usually organized by volunteers and sometimes has a paid staff. Since the idea is to include children of all families (rich or poor), typically they are free (government and charity funded), although donations and membership are encouraged. Our local Jugendfarm is designed for kids about 6 years old and up, but luckily for us, they have pony riding specifically for kids under 6 two days a week!
Older children pitch in by caring for the animals in the form of cleaning, brushing, feeding, and yes, shoveling droppings. On our last visit, I watched a girl about 10 years old follow the ponies around with a shovel for a full hour while the younger children rode, but when she was done, she climbed on a gorgeous horse and had a great riding lesson. I really enjoyed seeing the kids clamor over who would get to brush out the donkeys and who would feed the goats. I think they come away from the experience with a very positive attitude towards work and rewards.
If you go, plan to walk around a working farm, albeit on a small scale. This means you should wear hiking boots or otherwise sturdy shoes, and water resistance would be a plus here. Expect to traverse mud, animal droppings, yard waste, gravel and puddles. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a bucket and scrub brush waiting at home for your shoes.
Our local Jugendfarm offers birthday party opportunities, including “stick bread” dough, weenies, and a big campfire to cook them on. You can also bring your own food (I would totally bring smores supplies). There was a bake sale going on when we visited, with coffee for the grownups. During school holidays, they offer childcare to school-aged children (registration required). Since our local Jugendfarm offers pony rides and I’m helmet-crazy, we brought bike helmets for the little ones. They were not required, but why not add a little safety?
Overall, it made a great visit that was virtually free, and memorable, and a nice chance to see animals outside of the zoo.
Here are a few examples of Jugendfarm websites. They will pretty much always be in German.