By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Erickson’s Petting Zoo, located just west of Osakis, offers a variety of farm
animals and activities to acquaint area children with creatures the kids don’t
often see face-to-face, and to give families fun and memorable experiences.
Dave Erickson grew up on the farm where he and his family live, which will reach Century Farm status in four more years. Dave brought his wife, Pam, to the farm 38 years ago. It was 25 years ago that they inherited the farm.
In 2000, they sold their cows after Dave hurt his knee. In 2004, they started the petting zoo with a “grandpa’s farm” idea. They had a couple of goats, a pony and a calf which formed their first mobile petting zoo.
“We used a teeny red barn which was like a fish house on wheels,” said Pam. “There were separate pens inside for a turkey, a pony and bunnies. Rabbits and chickens were in cages mounted on the walls.”
The mobile zoo travelled to the city park in Osakis that first year, and a couple of other events pretty close to home.
“We expanded from there,” Pam said. “Now we have 12 miniature horses, six of them for pony rides in the ring.”
There are goats, sheep and rabbits, a llama, geese and chickens. “We like to keep things small, with only two sets of babies every year. The llama and a pony are expecting now,” she said.
Although visiting children rave over all of the baby animals, it’s the cat pen where they invariably head first.
“Now, with the corn maze, the kids go through the barn first and as soon as they spot the ponies, they want a ride,” said Pam.
On this fall’s first day of the corn maze and pumpkin patch, Pam didn’t see anyone she knew. “It was good to know so many new people were coming to the farm,” she said.
Cider and hot chocolate, pop and water are offered for sale in one of the sheds, which is called the “party shed.” Candy bars and fresh popcorn are also available. The Ericksons outfitted the shed this year with several picnic tables, and big toys for the kids to play with inside.
Dave and Pam’s daughter, Lisa, drives the antique 630 John Deere tractor back and forth to the pumpkin patch with a trailer full of people.
A new playground includes a big sand pile. Fall decorations are scattered around the farm.
“Often people take family photos here to use in their Christmas cards,” said Pam.
The petting zoo season starts in the spring with an Easter egg hunt. It’s open on weekends until Memorial Day, when it opens all week long through Labor Day.
After closing for a couple of weeks, the farm opens for fall weekends until the end of October. It is open during the week by appointment.
The petting zoo travels to area events and community celebrations. “We’ve had to turn down requests from the Twin Cities because it’s just too far and we’re too busy this time of year,” said Pam.
Many school field trips visit the zoo also. “The kids go crazy over the animals,” Pam said.
Admission is $5 per person, with children one year old and under visiting for free. Pony rides are $3. Anyone may choose a pumpkin from the patch, with prices varying from $3 to $5 each.
Admission for the petting zoo, pumpkin patch and corn maze together is $7 per person.
For more information call (320) 762-0184, (320) 491-3578 or e-mail [email protected]