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A lot more than just fun in the sun

A lot more than just fun in the sun | Cape Cod Life JULY 2016

Hard Workhealthy food: Cranberry Sunset Farm of Marstons Mills gives young people a taste of farm life

A sign posted on a fence at Cranberry Sunset Farm may provide insight into the mission of those who work there. “There is something about the outside of a horse,” the sign states, “that is good for the inside of a man.”

Staff at the Marstons Mills farm strive to help children, including some with developmental disabilities, learn life skills by working with and riding horses. Since 2006, an integral part of the farm’s mission has been its Farm Life Program, the goal for which is to help youngsters build their self-confidence and self-sufficiency, and learn some tips on nutrition.

“Our goal is to try to maximize a child’s future,” says Leslie Ballotti, the owner and manager of the camp, who doubles as a pediatric nurse. “We set goals for each child,” Ballotti says, adding that staff members are in close communication with the campers’ parents during their stay to ensure the youngsters’ needs are best. If a child is prone to roaming, for example, he or she will be matched, one on one, with a staffer who will stay with them.

The Farm Life Program is held on weekday mornings for eight weeks throughout the summer. The campers arrive by 9 a.m. and their day begins with a quick game or nature walk. Then they get right to work on a variety of morning chores, including working in the farm’s organic vegetable garden and cranberry bog and tending to the animals.

The farm acquired the bog recently, Ballotti says, and it has provided many opportunities to help teach the campers about hard work and healthy eating.

Ballotti says the vegetable garden is also used as a way to talk with the campers about healthy eating and lifestyles. Campers pick herbs, which will be used to make sun brewed tea; they also harvest mint and lavender which can be used in the farm’s homemade ice cream. In camp, Ballotti says meals and snacks feature nutritious foods, and candies and sweets are off limits.

During the week’s many activities, an emphasis is also placed on teamwork and the campers’ social development. “We do a lot of cooperative play,” Ballotti says, referencing team scavenger hunts and carriage rides led by the farm’s miniature horses. “If they win,” she adds, “they win as a team.”

The camp session ends each day at noon, at which point the farm commences its afternoon riding program. Though separate from the Farm Life Program, providing horseback-riding opportunities is another big part of Cranberry Sunset Farm’s mission, and lessons can be taken throughout the year.

Cranberry Sunset Farm is located at 1964 Main Street in Marstons Mills. For more information, visit

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