The sounds of squealing and excited children, chirping chicks and meowing kittens filled a barn at A&H Farm on Sunday.
Seven-year-old Olivia Shapkian, who held soft kittens, fuzzy bunnies, fluffy ducks and chicks, triumphantly declared her favorite animals at Baby Animal Days while visiting the farmstead south of Manhattan with her brother, Andrey, 7, and her mother, Nadia.
Kittens like Pepper, Panther and Pumpkin sat in a tub awaiting their turn to get cuddles. Olivia and her brother held the baby cats, but she said she had a different beloved animal in mind after holding all of them.
“I have (a cat) at home, so probably the chicken and the ducks,” Olivia said.
Nadia, a Manhattan resident, said this was a great experience for her children.
“They’re enjoying it very much,” she said, laughing while holding a baby animal.
“This is good for them to know where the milk and products come from,” she added.
Junction city resident Megan Bowen took her three boys, Cadin, 2, Jacob, 7, and Nathan, 11, to the farm. The family has three dogs at home, but the cuddling kitten wrapped Megan around its little paw.
“I want a (cat) now,” she said. “... They’re so sweet. I love them.”
A&H Farm hosted a sold-out event Saturday and attracted several more families Sunday in its last weekend of its third Baby Animal Days event.
“It’s so important, I think, for customers to connect to the farm,” said Andrea DeJesus, farm owner and operator. “And this is one way, a fun way to get them out here so they can connect to it.”
The most popular critters are the kittens and baby goats, DeJesus said. Families also had the opportunity to freely pet and feed goats, ponies and pigs in an open pen in addition to the babies.
“It’s educational, so they learn about farming,” she said. “They get to see a farm in action.”
With the babies, staffers hand customers their choice of animal to hold.
“If you don’t grow up in a farm setting, you don’t get to see them and see how they grow,” DeJesus said. “And this gives customers the chance in a safe environment to come out and hold them.”
Some of the kittens and rabbits live out their lives on the farm, DeJesus said, but some eventually get adopted out.
DeJesus is a Manhattan native and grew up on a farm. A&H Farm is in its 11th year of operation. DeJesus, her husband, Hugo, and their eight children work, play and live on the farm.
“It’s a family thing for sure,” she said.
The farm has bigger animals, like cows, along with apple trees and other vegetables and fruits growing.
“It’s great, spring on the farm,” DeJesus said. “Because that’s when most farms have their babies anyways.”
Last year, DeJesus canceled the event because of the coronavirus pandemic.
DeJesus said she thinks more customers are coming out to the farm as confidence grows among consumers as people get vaccinated and go out more during the pandemic.
“We’re very lucky we’re outside,” she said.