Dairy Princess Patty Bird, of Cache Valley, UT, had always wanted to marry a farmer. Enter newly returned missionary Bruce Lyman, farmer extraordinaire.
They met as students at Utah State University — on a hayride — and even though she had always wished for a farmer and he had a farm, for a year and a half she just wanted to be friends.
Then she finally let him kiss her and the rest, as they say, is history. After they married, finished school, and moved to Blanding, Bruce and Patty began to dream of the pitter-patter of tiny feet. At that point they couldn’t have imagined that one day they would have thousands of small feet running around their farm.
As all farmers know, everything begins with a planted seed. For Patty, her first experience with Farm Days came as she was lead teacher at La Sal and she accompanied the school to Lewis Farms, south of Monticello.
Patty loved the experience — everything from the petting zoo to sitting on hay bales and watching a movie in the cool, dark barn. The next year, the Ivins family hosted Farm Days just below Blanding, at The Field.
In her third year of teaching, at Blanding Elementary, Patty’s class became pen pals with Beverly Adair’s class in Monticello. That spring, Mrs. Lyman’s class invited Mrs. Adair’s class to join them in a field trip, which was held at the Lyman Farm, located just above the hem of Shirttail Corner.
The students enjoyed a hayride, blowing bubbles, flying kites, and a picnic. All of the kids had a lot of fun and, evidently, Patty did too, as it wasn’t many years before the Lewis’s and the Ivins’s, the Farm Bureau, the Beef, Pork, and Wool Council, USU Extension, the Future Farmers of America, a herd of volunteers, and elementary schools from the entire school district and beyond were showing up at Lymans’ Farm.
Major sponsors have included the San Juan County Commission, IFA of Cortez, oil pipeline companies such as Williams, CII, and Enterprise, Resolute, and area ranchers.
As Patty says, it gets better every year, though technically, that’s every other year, as it takes that long to plan and pull off such a huge event. This year’s theme was inspired by Rick Walton’s children’s book, Herd of Cows, Flock of Sheep.
In addition to the ever popular petting zoo (which is Justin and Stephanie Ivins’s pet project) Farm Days includes things like hoedown dancing, sheep shearing, horse shoeing, blacksmithing, rope tricks, beekeeping, water and soil conservation, pipeline safety, weed control, wildlife and taxidermy, spinning/weaving, a hay ride, farm equipment, the quilt guild, the National Guard’s rock wall, a D.A.R.E. officer, hay bale maze, painting, leather burning, a worm farm, foods from fry bread to ice cream cones, and storytelling.
Dozens of volunteers come over two days to educate children as to where their food and clothes originate, giving them an appreciation not only for present day agriculture, but for their forefathers, as they get inkling for the hard work that went into pioneer living.
Children are awed by the tub washer with the hand wringer, as well as fact that milk comes from a cow (versus a carton) and meat comes from animals (versus a package).
Other volunteers—including busy ranchers and farmers, such as Charlie and Kim Tracy, FFA and Sterling Scholar students, community members and Eagle Scouts—come days ahead of time to set up pens, transport animals, and do cleanup.
One example among many is Eric Grover. When he was eight years old, he demonstrated how to milk a cow at Farm Days. Now he is the Farm Bureau President. Bruce and Patty’s two daughters consider Farm Days as part of their legacy; they love the event.
While Farm Days gives Patty a chance to exercise her gifts of organizing large-scale chaos while befriending a crowd, one individual at a time, Bruce confides he lies awake nights worrying about the two day event.
Still, their first aid stations have gone largely unused, while everything else on their farm gets used extensively, from the cluster of porta-potties to their own home. And it’s not just busloads of school kids who come, either; guests include pre-schools and families, and visitors inhabit the farm from dawn until dusk.
Though Bruce had no idea what the following years would produce when he brought his new bride home to Blanding, he is very committed to what Patty has created.
“It’s important for agriculture to tell their story,” he says. “If people don’t understand how it all interacts—water and soil conservation, diesel fuel, wildlife and crops—pretty soon we won’t be supplying food to the world, we’ll be dependent on other countries to provide our food.”