Mill Creek farm opens to visitors

By Bob Jackson

The farm will be open for tours on weekends through October.

CANFIELD — Four-year-old Caynia Brown and her 6-year-old brother, Cortland, couldn’t wait to get off the hay wagon and sprint into the horse barn Sunday at the Mill Creek MetroParks Farm.

But when they got inside, Caynia stopped cold in her tracks and looked straight up at the huge brown animal towering over her.

“That’s a bi-i-i-i-i-ig horse,” the little Youngstown girl said, her eyes also expanding.

Caynia and Cortland were at the farm with their grandmother, Barbara Brown of Youngstown. They were visiting during the farm’s “April Showers Bring…” promotion, which marked the opening of its spring and summer tour season.

“That’s what most of our visitors like to do when they stop out on the weekend, is visit the animals,” said Brenda Markley, agricultural programs manager.

Visitors to the 400-acre farm were treated to tractor-drawn wagon rides, where they got to take a close-up look at the Texas Longhorn cattle and other animals raised there, such as pigs, poultry, sheep, goats and rabbits. There were also fields where crops such as wheat, corn and pumpkins are grown.

Oh, and of course there was the horse barn, where children crowded close to pet Manny, the huge draft horse, and his equine friends Eddie and Mariah.

During the wagon tour, Markley explained basic farming techniques, such as plowing the soil to prepare it for planting, and fertilization to assist with crop growth. Markley said more than half the farm’s acreage is wooded, which is not tillable.

“We come every year, out here to the farm,” Barbara Brown said of herself and her grandchildren.

“They love it. It’s just keeping in touch with natural farm life, open air, things like that. It’s just one of Grandma’s little field trips.”

Kim Moff, an agricultural educator at the farm, said there seems to be a growing interest from the public in visiting the farm, located across from the Canfield Fairgrounds on state Route 46.

“I’m not really sure why,” Moff said. “I don’t know whether it’s because [people] are realizing what all we have to offer here, or whether they are looking for more things to do locally so they don’t have to travel with the economy the way it is.”

She said farm officials visit area schools each year and present programs about farming.

Those visits seem to have generated interest in follow-up visits from kids who have never been exposed to any part of the farming life.

“It’s amazing that some of these kids have never seen real animals, or things like a pumpkin or a piece of corn,” Moff said.

“The first things they ask are, ‘Is that real,’ and ‘Can I touch it?’”

For Lisa Gee of Sharon, Pa., Sunday’s tour was a chance to bring her young daughters, Isabella, 3, and Olivia, 1, out for a look at the animals.

Gee and her daughters were at the farm with Gee’s mother, Melinda Rivera, and sister, Melissa Rivera, both of Canfield.

“I told Isabella about it, and she went crazy,” Gee said, laughing. “She couldn’t wait to get here.”

And although she was a little on the shy side, Isabella said she couldn’t wait to find the bunny hutch and see the rabbits.

Moff said that’s right in line with the mission of the park district in maintaining the farm and keeping it open to the public.

“The main things we can do is help people learn what actually happens on a farm and where their food really comes from,” she said.

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