CHENNAI: At The Martin Farm, Bengaluru, is where children can play with wriggling earthworms, squawking turkeys or slithering turtles.
About 22 species of birds have been spotted till date on this farm and more than 14 varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown.
This 32-year-old farm is open to visitors and a tour of it starts with meeting and feeding all the animals here. On a lower ground, which doubles as a basket-ball court, you will find geese, and pekin and muscovy ducks. Fifteen children, accompanied by their parents, are being taught how to differentiate geese from ducks. “Beaks of geese starts close to their heads whereas the ducks’ start a little below”, says Fiona Martin, who runs the farm.
She worked in the corporate world for 16 years. Now, Fiona works on the farm 24/7 and “loves” it. The farm was once for the family alone, but about seven years ago, it opened to public. About 20 km from the city centre and less than 10 from the IT-hub of Whitefield, it has been seeing a steady stream of visitors. There are callers from other states too.
Fiona shares a secret on how to get animals to come closer. “Don’t chase them, just stay and let them come to you,” she says. We run into an iguana, often mistaken for a chameleon.
Next stop is with a six-week-old guinea pig and then with fishes, snails and bugs in two small tanks built in the two-acre farm.
Children are taught how to safely feed animals. “Hold the bean in your palm with your hands wide open,” says Fiona. She tells parents to lead.
Brave now, children hold beans in their hands and run to the pony’s stable. Children mistake pony for a young horse and Fiona corrects them. A young horse is a foal, pony is a different species altogether – a smaller horse.
During the lesson, the eager pony Copper polishes off the beans. Copper shares his stable with goat Emilie and her kids Nibbles and Socks, and donkey Fay and her colt Oscar.
The gaggle now moves to meet the emu Feathers. Children are made to pluck small wild plants around his cage and throw them in. Feathers is picky, unlike Copper, and eats only the green shoots. The dry twigs are nudged out of the way.
Next stop is for young gardeners, where they are taught container gardening. They are given compost and soil, and those new to the whole experience shriek on seeing earthworm springing out of the moist compost. Fiona calmly asks them to mix the two and give them a short lesson on how compost is made. Meanwhile, few children have befriended the earthworms.
Children plant a tomato sapling in a pot, filled with the soil they’ve prepared, and take the plant and a few earthworm “friends” home. “All you need is a 4 ft by 4 ft space to make your own produce,” Fiona tells visitors. The space occupied by a fuel-guzzling SUV.
Registration fee is `150 per person. Couples without children are not allowed on the farm.