On a brisk fall day, after a light rain had fallen, I bundled up my eight year old because I promised her that we would attend a fall festival known as Cows-n-Corn. In the past, we had gone to extravagant places and I explained that this would be a low-key, no frills event this time around. What surprised me was that sometimes the simplest things to do with children are what they enjoy the most.
What sets Cows-n-Corn apart is the fact that the festival is situated on a working dairy farm. I love establishments that focus on farm life, not just what fun things you can do in preparation for the harvest or for Halloween. A short drive from Manassas, Cows-n-Corn remains in a country state of mind. The property has been operated by the Leonard family since the 1930’s. Sarah Leonard, one of the family members, gives a wonderful history of how her grandparents bought the farm and carried on a family legacy. While being led slowly through the farm on a tractor driven hayride, educational tidbits abound. There are over 100 cows on the property including Holsteins, Jerseys and Brown Swiss herds. As only female cows produce milk, their male counterparts are sent to another local farmer. The farm grows corn, soybean, hay and pasture on the facility, which is used to feed the animals. The farm sends milk from their 100 Holstein cows to area Giant, Harris Teeter, Food Lion and 7 Eleven stores under the grocery store name or Marva Maid label.
As we passed the milking barn, we were surprised to learn that no cow has the same spot pattern. I looked closely as we were up close with the cows, even giggling when one cow was getting a back massage. My daughter described it best like the roller brushes when you go through the car wash. Our favorite part was seeing the two calves that currently reside in baby daycare. The babies are separated from their moms during the first six weeks so they can build their immune systems. They are bottle fed milk until they can eat solids. Cuteness overload!
Other animals on the farm include a pair of donkeys, chickens and a horse. Get up close and personal with a Brown Swiss cow on the property. Psst, we hear the cows love their ears scratched. Goats and sheep are also friendly for petting. In addition, little ones and adults too, can ride the cow train, hop on the moo bounce, take in a puppet show, climb hay stacks, crawl through tubes, get tangled in a giant spider web or enjoy wooden playground equipment. An added bonus was seeing freight trains toot by as the railroad tracks are behind the farm. If you have time, make your own butter and taste it over crackers. Not only do you get a workout, it’s neat to see how butter is made. We also saw an agri-farming group of students from a local university learning about farming practices during our visit.
The theme for this year’s corn maze is “Make it a Dairy Good Day.” The corn maze is divided into two sections. Depending on how long and how difficult you want the journey to be, it averages 20 to 40 minutes. We found the yellow route, which was the shortest, took us about 30 minutes. The terrain was quite manageable compared to other mazes we have been to.
Stop by the canteen and chow down on burgers, hot dogs and BBQ beef. An absolute must at a dairy farm is to get some homemade ice cream. We tried the vanilla and orange pineapple versions, which were generously sized at $3 a bowl. Enjoy your chow under the festively decorated picnic pavilion. Before you leave, visit the little gift shop with an animatronic scarecrow, cow themed souvenirs, honey sticks and McCutcheon’s apple cider. Cash and credit cards are accepted. Party ’til the cows come home because they do birthday parties.
Portable toilets are the only bathrooms available. A washing station is present, but I also suggest bringing sanitizer or hand wipes. Dress in layers because it can be cooler depending on the time of day and shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy are a good idea. The average age seen during our trip to Cows-n-Corn was 2 to 8. However, if you add the narrated hayride tour and the corn maze, I think older children would enjoy it too.
The 2015 fall season is from September 18 until October 31, 2015. Hours are Saturdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $10 for anyone over 3 years old. On Friday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. for $12.50, enjoy the farm, maze and hayride at night while noshing on a hot dog cooked over the fire pit.
Photos by Kathleen Molloy