Learning Tree Farm teaches kids

Setting offers intimate learning experience.

The farm, located at 3376 S. Union Road in Jefferson Twp., just outside of Dayton, was started in 1973 by teachers Sally Keyes and Jean Ryan. The Learning Tree Farm’s mission is to provide hands on learning experiences in a traditional farm setting.

Visitors can see chickens, donkeys, horses, cows, ducks, geese, goats, pigs, sheep and ponies housed in two barns. The farm also features a vegetable garden, herb garden, an orchard and grape vines. The fields are used to grow corn, straw, soybeans and hay.

“It’s a great place to come and relax with family,” said Loralynn Hickey, director of farm operations. “(Visitors) have an opportunity to visit with the animals that is more intimate. You can go in and pet the animals. People can taste vegetables in the garden. It’s an opportunity to slow down and take in nature.”

Nearly 10,000 students visit each year through school or daycare field trips.

The farm includes one full time and 12 part time staff members. Nearly 100 volunteers from schools, corporations and 4-H programs help sustain the farm.

The two original co-founders are still involved, and the farm operates as a nonprofit organization with a board of directors who oversee operations.

“We want to be able to host weddings and corporate picnics,” Hickey said. “We also want to keep it as much like the 1800s as possible. You can come and use the place as a park, you can do what you want and don’t have to wait in lines.”

The Learning Tree Farm recently expanded to include a preschool program, starting in August.

“We acquired the 10 acres that surrounds the farm through a Clean Ohio grant,” Hickey said. “We hired Meredith Florkey as the education director of the farm and preschool director, and secured funding through the Dayton Foundation.”

According to grant writer Elaine Bonner, the preschool program is full with 30 students, and there is a waiting list.

Other programs include the Little Red Hen Club, a weekly program for toddlers and preschoolers. Kids learn about a different animal every month, and read books and complete crafts about the animal. The Saturday Family Fun series allows children and parents to explore the farm with a different theme each month.

Upcoming events include the annual Autumn Festival, which is the farm’s main fundraiser. This year’s event will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 24. The farm partners with the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District to offer free pony rides, and steam engines and butterflies will be part of the event.

“We’re always working on capital improvements on the farm,” Hickey said. “We want to improve the patio behind the Century House. We also want to have restroom facilities, instead of port-o-Johns.”

The farm is open daily during day light hours. A shelter and picnic tables are available for those who wish to pack a lunch.

The cost is $3 per person with a maximum of $10 per family. Children two and younger are free. An honor box is available if staff is not in the office.

For more information, visit www.learningtreefarm.org or call 937-866-8650.

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Contact this contributing writer at writeawayk@gmail.com.

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