I grew up on a farm in north central Iowa. We gardened, raised cows, participated in 4H, chopped firewood, rode bikes to the river to skip rocks, and spent most of our spring, summer, and fall days outside. Our family farm was home to my mom and dad, me, my 3 sisters, and at one point or another, cows, pigs, chickens, farm cats, and a black lab. The town where I went to school was about 15 miles away and on the bus ride to school, we drove past farms where sheep, horses, dairy cows, and even ostriches were being raised.
Being around farm animals and experiencing “life on the farm” has never been a big deal to me, so I have to admit that when I first heard about Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, I was skeptical.
Could a place like this really give “city kids” a good idea of what life on the farm is like? (I mean, let’s be honest, it is located next to a mammoth soccer complex and you have to drive by at least 1 Babies ‘R’ Us to get there …) Growing up in the heart of farm country with miles of fields, looming barns, animal sounds 24/7, and the smell of manure in the air, I didn’t think so. In my mind, I pictured Deanna Rose as a small barn with a few cows and pigs, maybe a goat or two, and approximately one million whiny, sweaty children trying to get a quick peek at the animals before getting shuffled back to the car by their parents.
One particularly beautiful Saturday morning earlier this month, I started to long for spring on the farm. I wasn’t in the mood for a walk to the park or for kicking a ball around the backyard – I wanted to do something to remind me of spring back home. I convinced my husband (who grew up in Iowa and was also skeptical of this “city-farm” destination) that we should go check it out. Upon arrival, we knew we were in for a treat!
We arrived just after 9 a.m. (Saturday hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.), so there were plenty of parking spots and the line to get tickets was very short. Admission was only $2 per person (it’s free on weekdays!) and there was a big red barn to greet us when we got there! We veered to the right as we entered and saw chickens, a rooster, pygmy goats, a dairy cow, and baby cows within the first 15 minutes of our visit! I will let a couple of photos speak to the remainder of what we saw and did, but wanted to share several things we LOVED about our first visit to Deanna Rose:
• The people are awesome. Seriously, they are the friendliest staff/volunteers on the planet. Everyone at Deanna Rose makes you feel welcome, like they are truly glad you came to visit.
• It was clean. There was no garbage or clutter. Walking paths were swept clean. The landscaping and gardens (which were barely blooming when we visited) were very well manicured – I can’t wait to see it all in full bloom! There were multiple hand-washing stations (to use after you feed the animals … or eat an ice cream cone!). And let me tell ya … the restrooms are the cleanest restrooms on the planet AND they have multiple baby-changing stations – hooray!
• It is accessible. The walking paths are wide and there are no stairs to climb so the entire complex is stroller and wheelchair friendly. There are also plenty of spots to inconspicuously ditch your stroller on occasion, out of the way of other guests, so your child can get up close and personal with the animals. In addition, there are lots of benches, bench swings, and chairs to take breaks and relax along the way.
• It is affordable. Admission on weekends and holidays is only $2, and on weekdays, admission is free! Bottles to feed goats are only $1 and there are food machines along the way that only cost 25 cents for a small handful of corn or pellet feed for other animals. Bring plenty of quarters! The other activities (horse rides, wagon rides, fishing, and more!) are also inexpensive. Even the gifts in the gift shop and the concessions are reasonably priced.
• It really is like a real farm! There are people shoveling manure. There are people wearing lacers and Carhartts (all of my fellow farm kids know what I’m taking about). There are all kinds of animals in barns and pens, just like they would be on a real farm. There are antique tractors (display only), multiple barns, and playgrounds designed to look like farm buildings, equipment, etc. There are people sweeping, weeding, planting, and hauling dirt in wheelbarrows. While we were there, it felt so much like a farm, I honestly forgot that Babies ‘R’ Us is just around the corner. 🙂
• It is great for kids of all ages – adults, too! Babies can enjoy the breeze and sunshine and watch/listen to the animals. Toddlers (my daughter is 18 months) can feed baby goats with bottles or toss out corn for the chickens. Kids ages 3 and up can ride horses. Older kids can learn and read about farm history, animal facts, and life on the farm. Kids and adults of all ages can take a wagon ride, go fishing, take a pedal tractor for a spin, and play on one of several playgrounds.
• You can see everything on one visit – but you don’t have to! It’s loosely organized into what I would call 2 “loops.” When you go in the main entrance, you can either go right or left, and you’ll eventually loop back around to the entrance area. On our first visit, we took our time on the loop to the right, not even knowing there was another entire section to visit! We kind of rushed through the second loop, so I wish we would have saved it for another visit. Good thing it is the kind of place that you will want to visit again and again!
Have you visited Deanna Rose? What are some of your tips and “must-sees” for any first-timers out there?