Bringing farm animals to the city
While the nurse at the clinic was pricking my finger for a blood sample, I noticed that the photo viewing program on her desk computer was showing a series of photos of her husband and their young child. One photo had their year- old baby girl looking closely (with a bit of awe) at a small piglet.
I knew the nurse and her family lived in Madison so asked where they had seen the little pig.
“In our back yard,” she explained. “The farm family brought a bunch of farm animals to us and it was really fun. That’s the first time our daughter saw animals and we wanted her to know about them.”
After briefly searching for the name of the people who brought the animals to her house — in response to my question — she wrote the name “Havens Petting Farm” on a piece of note paper.
Naturally, after returning to my office I called the farm. I had never before heard of any one visiting homes with a petting zoo in tow, but now I have.
Logan and Sarah Havens operate Havens Petting Farm at Blue Mounds that dates back to 2011 and includes farm visits during April and their Mobil Petting Farm that enables them to set up at company events, family reunions, birthday parties and even weddings.
Back to the farm
In 2010, Logan Havens, then an operating engineer in construction in Madison and his wife, Sarah, police chief at Ridgeway and their two children had the opportunity to move home to the small farm where Logan was raised. He remembered all the experiences he had growing up; helping with the animals, doing chores, fixing fence and knew that the 80 acres of hilly, wooded land in Blue Mounds, WI, was a perfect place to raise their children and give them the same opportunity to have those ag experiences.
After a few short months of being on the farm, they knew that they wanted to share the ag experience with those who otherwise wouldn’t have that chance and in December of 2011 they opened Havens Indoor Petting Farm.
"Kids don't get a chance to actually hold a baby chick, get in the pen and see a baby pig up close, feel the soft fur of a rabbit, see that milk actually does come out of a goat or cow, or watch a sheep being sheared. We give them that chance,” Logan Havens says.
“My parents Farron and Barb Havens had talked for many years about educating city children about farming and farm animals and we went ahead in December 2011 with a 'Santa Comes to The Farm' open house at our farm,” Logan says. “We had a Christmas tree and our animals. We didn’t know if people would come but the crowd of 300 people was bigger than we expected. The Christmas event was held yearly until last year when it was canceled due to the cold weather.
“We’re still deciding about this year — I tore up my knee badly and can’t yet walk without crutches. We’ll see,” Logan added.
April open barn
In April 2013, the Havens held their first month-long open house at the farm with a wide variety of animals from sheep, goats, pigs and beef cattle to little chicks and rabbits on display, We had over 1000 people show up,” Logan remembers. "Last year we had over 2000 visitors during the month as people learned about us on Face book."
For several years, the Havens Petting Farm was open for visitors year-round but is now limited to the month of April only. “It’s a matter of time and people,” he says.
Moving off the farm
On Easter of 2013, the Havens took some animals to participate in an Easter egg hunt at Dodgeville. They soon decided that it wasn't enough to allow people to enjoy the animals only on the farm but to enjoy the experience right at their homes, company gatherings, family reunions and such, thus the beginning of the Mobil Petting Farm.
The mobile petting farm has proved to be a great gift at youngsters' birthdays the Havens have found. They have a number of different ways to set up the pens to fit any area.
"We really focus on letting kids interact with the animals. In the spring we have a lot of babies born on the farm so we try to bring as many younger animals as possible so that kids can literally get in the pen with them," Logan said.
The Mobile Petting Farm has proved to be popular at company picnics and business parties and family reunions, Sarah says. “We bring fun activities and animals for all ages to enjoy.“
One of the biggest events they have participated in is the Epic Systems Corporation’s annual users group meeting in Verona. “We’ve been there for five years,” Logan says. “One year we had 175 animals including three cows which we milked. Last year we put up a corn box made up of 12 big square hay bales and nearly 300 bushels of corn. Both kids and adults played in it an loved it. The corn was owned by Doerfer Farm at Verona and delivered by Landmark Co-op. We later bought it for our livestock feed.”
Logan also remembers their three lambs that walked down the aisle at a wedding and the animals in a ballroom at an Easter brunch at the Oconomowoc Lake Club.
The Havens Mobile Petting Farm has made as many as four appearances in one day including at two different churches last Sunday. “My parents and other family members are much involved, as are our children Leyla (9), Leland (7) and Lincoln (4),” Logan explains. “Even our youngsters are good at explaining how the animals are a big part of agriculture."
It really is a farm
"We are still an active farm raising corn, beans, beef cattle, pigs, sheep and goats," Logan says. "We also raise Alpacas, pot belly pigs, chickens, ducks and other animals we take to events. We borrow Jersey calves from Slate Haven Jerseys and Holsteins from Doerfer Brothers of Verona.
“Our original and still our goal is to have people interact with agriculture in a positive way. We explain that animals are raised for food that includes milk and meat and are not pets," Logan said. "Yes, kids sometimes want to buy our baby chicks, rabbits or pigs and we explain that they will all grow and get bigger and you may not be able to take care of them. Bring them back and we’ll put them on our farm.”
The Havens are pondering how they might get their animals into high school as a part of ag education classes. “Most FFA members were not raised on farms and didn’t grow up with animals. We’d like to find sponsors so as to make it a free program for the schools,” Logan says.
The days of Logan operating a crane and trimming hooves and Sarah being a police chief are long gone. They are now farmers. But, farmers in a different way: “Agriculture is still a big part of everyone’s life but they are a long way from the farm and farm animals, we’re trying to help create understanding,” the couple says.
I’ll admit I never thought of taking animals off the farm to be seen by city folks, now I know why the nurse and her daughter were so happy to have seen the piglet up close.
John Oncken is owner of Oncken Communications and can be reached at 608-222-0624, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.