Swan Bay Folk Art Center
This past winter, my family and I were lucky enough to discover Swan Bay Folk Art Center, located in the heart of Port Republic, in Atlantic County. The small, family run farm, has been in business for the past 25 years, operating on land that has been owned by Gary Giberson’s family since 1637. Gary and his wife, Niki, open the sheep farm to the public on several occasions throughout the year.
In February, “Lamb Celebration Day” is held, where everyone is invited to meet the newborn lambs. Children have an opportunity to hold the babies for photos at this free event, that is enjoyed by all.
The public is invited back in April for shearing day, where the sheep get their new haircuts for the warmer months, and professional shearer, Hoyt Emmons, explains the process while he works. The sheep don’t dislike the process. They are positioned in such a way that all four feet are off the ground and they are in a sitting position, where they become very relaxed.
My children learned many “fun facts” this year on shearing day! We were surprised to learn that as much as 15-20 lbs of wool can be shorn from each full grown sheep! We also learned that once all the sheep are shorn, they no longer recognize each other, because not only do they look different, they also smell different. The young lambs have to figure out who their mothers are before they can nurse, because a sheep will not feed a baby that is not hers. Very Cool!
Once shearing is done, all the sheep get their hooves trimmed (NOT their favorite part), and they get their worm vaccines. Sheep under one year old do not get shorn, because their wool is not long enough and they need it to keep warm.
As we ventured around the farm after shearing, we also had the chance to meet the family’s chickens, in a coop across the yard from the sheep; check out the coy pond; and my son’s absolute favorite part… play in the outdoor “garage”, a 1931 gas station replica, where Gary has restored 2 antique trucks that are available for photo ops!
This little farm was the perfect day trip for my family, small enough for the kids to venture around with some freedom, but enough to see to keep them busy for a couple of hours. Niki and her daughter Megan were very friendly to all of the guests, and also full of information on the animals as well as the process.
Aside from these free annual events, Swan Bay Folk Art Center also offers basketry and felting classes, quilting and doll making classes, Boy/Girl scout outings, field trips and birthday parties. Also, in the farm store, available for purchase are homemade jellies and jams, candles, wool hats and other accessories, hand woven baskets, and of course, hand died skeins of wool from the farm’s very own sheep.
Admission to the public is only on select days. Keep checking our Atlantic County Calendar of Events for their events. Admission is free, but donations are also accepted at any of the public events. If you are interested in learning more about Swan Bay Folk Art Center, follow them on Facebook, or check out their website at www.handsonhistory.com.