Bring Story Time Outside at the New Mount Hope Farm StoryWalk

Little ones can enjoy age-appropriate stories and crafts while adults sample the year-round farmers market at Bristol’s Mount Hope Farm.
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The grounds at Mount Hope Farm in Bristol. (Courtesy of Mount Hope Farm)

If snuggling up with a good book and a baked treat is your idea of a perfect fall day, then Bristol’s Mount Hope Farm has the answer to all your autumn appetites.

On Saturday, October 15, the farm unveiled its new StoryWalk on the historic Bristol property. The walk, a partnership between Mount Hope Farm and the Rogers Free Library, uses kid-friendly panels to tell a story so that children can enjoy a picture book while exploring the farm grounds.

The idea started with Ruth Maille, a local children’s book author who also owns Stumbling Blocks daycare in Bristol. Maille says she learned about the story installations popping up in schools and parks from a parent of one of her preschoolers.

“She mentioned they were putting in a StoryWalk at her school. I was like, ‘Really, what is that?’ I started asking her questions about it, and it kind of planted the seed,” she says.

StoryWalk originated in Vermont in 2007 as a way to get kids reading and outside. Though Bristol has had temporary installations over the years, Maille says it’s the first time a permanent StoryWalk comes to town.

She reached out to Mount Hope Farm, who in turn secured a grant from the Rogers Free Library to install a StoryWalk on their property. The process took more than a year, as the farm had to apply to the local Historic District Commission to ensure the StoryWalk wouldn’t alter the property’s historic character. In the end, all parties agreed the best place for the StoryWalk was in a grove of trees near the farm’s entrance.

“It’s nice to have that partnership between the library and us and Ruth,” says Brenda Turchetta, executive director at Mount Hope Farm. “We really just hope that it brings more families to the farm, more children, to give them the opportunity to be outside and read a book and do some activities. And then when they’re done, if they want to go talk to our goats and our donkeys, they can.”

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The new StoryWalk at Mount Hope Farm. (Photo courtesy of Carolyn DiFrancesco, First Fotos)

Turchetta suggests the best time to visit the StoryWalk is during the farm’s weekly farmers markets. On Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., kids can explore the property while adults shop from vendors such as Buns Bakery (for seasonal babka, pretzels and other treats), Hillside Mushrooms (grown in Little Compton) and Roots Farm (for all your vegetable needs). Turchetta says they’re also hoping to expand the offerings with story-related kids’ activities through the winter. At the moment, visitors to the farmers market can enjoy $10 paint-your-own pumpkins as a fundraiser for the farm’s new animal barn.

When they’re done browsing, she says, families can visit the animal barn and learn about the farm’s chickens and donkeys, among other critters.

“There’s this sense that we only do weddings, and a lot of townspeople have told me that. We’re so much more than that,” she says. “We are trying to enhance our family programming and get more young people here.”

The StoryWalk currently features Maille’s The Power of Kindness, a book inspired by her preschoolers during the pandemic. Beginning in December, staff at the Rogers Free Library will rotate the books monthly so that families can enjoy a new story every month. The panels also include kids’ activities to keep the farm’s youngest visitors engaged.

“I think that when kids can see it and experience it it sticks, versus sitting at a desk in school,” Maille says.

To learn more about the StoryWalk and Mount Hope Farm, visit mounthopefarm.org.

 

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Children check out the new StoryWalk during last week’s unveiling with local author Ruth Maille. (Photo courtesy of Carolyn DiFrancesco, First Fotos)

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