FarmPark offers hands-on learning

KIRTLAND -- Lake FarmPark isn't your average, everyday petting zoo.
In addition to petting the furry heads of a bevy of barnyard beasts during a visit, guests will also actually learn something at this cultural center devoted to farming and country life.
Set on 235 picturesque acres in Kirtland, about 90 minutes northwest of Youngstown, Lake FarmPark is "a little bit of science, a little bit of history and a lot of fun."
The park lives up to its motto famously.
Where else can one learn about hydroponics (the science of growing plants without soil), see how pioneer wives made a loaf of bread or milk a cow the old-fashioned way - with just five fingers and an empty pail?
What to do: A visit starts at Lake FarmPark's spacious, beautifully landscaped visitor center where guests can find out what events are taking place at the park that day and at what time.
During a typical day at the park, the schedule of events may include demonstrations on how border collies herd sheep, how horses are trained or how cheese is made.
In addition to routine daily events such as these, special seasonal events are scheduled all year long.
For example, Aug. 3 and 4 is the Vintage Ohio Wine Festival; the Fall Harvest Festival is set for Sept. 22 and 23; haunted hayrides are slated for October; and Christmas light displays will dazzle visitors Dec. 1 through 23.
In May, visitors can see sheep being sheared and then watch the wool being spun into thread. If they happen to be around on the day a mama sow decides to give birth to her piglets, guests are welcome to stick around and see them come into the world.
In fall, the park's three-acre cornfield becomes a corn maze where one can tell someone to get lost, and all year long, the park's replica of Stonehenge illustrates how the ancients kept track of time through the ever-shifting patterns of light at sunrise and sunset.
Park's growth: Lake FarmPark opened in 1990 and is part of Lake County's Lake MetroParks 27-park system. Since its inception, the park has grown and now accommodates about 185,000 visitors per year.
The facility is home to about 50 breeds of farm animals, including some types that are endangered, and in addition to common farm critters such as cows, chickens and pigs, park visitors can expect to encounter everything from alpacas, to turkeys to angora rabbits.
Those who are curious about farm animals but leery over the idea of stepping in a cow pie can relax. Despite the large population of messy barnyard beasts, the grounds are immaculately clean and well-maintained.
Out and about: To get around the park, hitch a ride on a horse-drawn wagon or tractor. Plan to spend a minimum of about four hours because there's a lot to see and do.
A caf & eacute; is on the premises in case visitors get hungry, and there's a gift shop for souvenir hunters. For those who want to bring their own lunch, a 250-seat picnic pavilion should more than suffice.
Plant life: For visitors who are most interested in the leafy green side of farming, there are three greenhouses, several acres of vineyards and numerous vegetable, herb and flower gardens on the premises.
Inside the park's greenhouse, visitors can taste hydroponically grown tomatoes and cucumbers, watch the inner workings of a beehive or walk through a tunnel that duplicates what it look likes under ground, from an earthworm's point of view.
Kids will love the sculptures of giant tomatoes and the hands-on science experiments the greenhouses offer.
Although the park is an ideal destination for kids and thousands of school children tour there each year, the park offers something of interest for every age. Young or old, who wouldn't be curiously tempted at the prospect of grabbing a pail and milking a cow?
XLake FarmPark is open all year and is at 8800 Chardon Road. Admission is $4 for kids ages 2 to 11; $6 for ages 12 and older; and $5 for seniors. For more information, call (440) 256-2122 or (800) 366-3276.

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