A maze’n Farmyard allows children hands-on interaction with many kinds of animals

Three-year-old Rylee Dorantes, Rice, holds one of the puppies in the animal barn. Rylee came with her grandmother, Jessica Gould of Rice, who said the A maze’n Farmyard is a great place to get children closer to animals of all kinds.

By EMILIE THIESSEN, Staff Writer
emilie.thiessen@ecm-inc.com

Paul and Sheila Haag believed the gap between consumer and farmer continues to grow, especially when it comes children. As farmers, the Haags wanted to remedy that.

“Kids now don’t know where an egg comes from,” Sheila said. “They don’t know where their milk is coming from … they don’t know their food is coming from farmers.”

For the couple, A maze’n Farmyard was the remedy.

Now in its eighth season, A maze’n Farmyard offers children the chance to experience life on a farm for a few hours while having fun and learning a bit (though most children may not even realize it.)

Located just a few miles west of Eden Valley on Hwy. 55 on 14 sprawling acres, the very kid friendly farm has a little something for everyone,  said Sheila, who co-owns the farmyard with her husband.

Visitors can get direct interaction with many different animals in the barn, head up to the second floor hayloft for some agriculture education, take a ride down the giant slide, play a family
game of mini golf on the nine-hole course, stroll through the complex, 20,000 sq. foot maze, or release any unused energy in the newly constructed bounce barn, which features five
inflatable bouncers.

The animal barn at A maze’n Farmyard is where children can have one-on-one contact with many different animals.

Families can cool down with a relaxing train ride through the pumpkin patch, she said, or get a bite to eat at the food trailer or snack shop.

Since opening eight years ago, Sheila said they have continued to expand to meet demand and hopefully to attract more customers.

“We try to add one new thing each year,” she said.

From the beginning however, the Haag’s main goal was to connect children with farm animals they don’t generally get to interact with, especially with the farm animals that provide the kids with food. The couple got the idea after different schools started requesting tours of their personal farm to get kids closer to farm life.

Sheila loved the idea, but wanted to maintain some privacy at home, so the couple decided to build A maze’n Farmyard on their 80-acre property just a few hundred feet from their home.

“Our big push is agriculture education,” she said. “We just want to make it known where the food comes from and that the farmers have worked very hard all these years.”

Jessica Gould of Rice brought her 3-year-old granddaughter, Rylee Dorantes, to the farmyard. Gould said she had been wanting to get Rylee closer to animals she may not have been as
familiar with.

“She hasn’t really seen farm animals before … I think this place is a perfect opportunity for kids to interact with animals,” she said, adding that Rylee’s favorite part of the farmyard was the pony rides and the puppy and kitten rooms in the barn. Gould said she was able to show Rylee the life cycle of a chicken — from egg all the way to full-grown chicken — something you just can’t get every place.

Visitors are able to enter the chicken barns and check for laid eggs, which they then place in a basket to be collected at the end of the day. Activities like this really set A maze’n Farmyard apart from other places, Sheila said.

“So often now you go to a zoo, you can look, but you can’t touch a thing,” she said. “That interaction is really important.”

For Paul, it was also about creating a place where families could go together and just have fun. With increased dependence on electronics to supply entertainment, Paul wanted to created a slow-paced, fun-filled place that families could take a moment, be together and just relax.

“We would like families to do something together, where they can enjoy themselves and it is not rushed,” he said.

Over the years, word-of-mouth has been their best form of advertisement, as children who visit with their schools want to bring their parents. Business has been good, Sheila said, but the couple is set on keeping the business small.

“We don’t want to get so big that we can’t handle the people,” she said. “We want it to remain manageable and family orientated.”

Paul said they are planning a few more giant slides in the near future, but he doesn’t anticipate much beyond that. Having the help of their four children, three of which are grown, has also helped to keep employee costs down.

“We just want to stay small,” he said. “To keep the price down, you need to stay small.”

A maze’n Farmyard is open every weekend until the end of October. Fall Fests are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 15 and Saturday, Oct. 22 from 6 to 10 p.m. Sheila said the Fall Fest is a unique time to visit the farmyard as most activities will be conducted in the dark, including pumpkin carving, wagon rides, bonfires, cosmic bounce at the bounce barn and night mini golf.
Each year, A maze’n Farmyard is open Monday through Saturday beginning Memorial Day.

More information on upcoming events at A maze’n Farmyard can be found at www.amazenfarmyard.com.

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