Pick a pumpkin, ride a pony and take a hay ride at Old McDonalds Farm Oct. 5-6, 12-13

Miss McDonald had a farm, EE-I-EE-I-O.

And on that farm she had a Pumpkin Pick, EE-I-EE-I-O.

by: OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - Take your pick of pumpkins at Old McDonald Farm.Nearly five years after the economy flopped and the farm got stuck in the mud, the annual Pumpkin Pick at Corbett’s Old McDonald’s Farm is back. It’s coming the next two weekends, Oct. 5-6 and Oct. 12-13.

Games, a pumpkin patch, horse and hay rides, and the 29 animals on the farm surely will keep the kids entertained while adults can relax on the farm, taste beverages from Gresham’s Leaning Star Winery and Salem’s Gilgamesh Brewery, and enjoy locally made crafts and organic produce.

Plus, there will be an open fire for families to cook up a sausage dog and toast marshmallows.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Surrounded by animals: Stephanie Rickert of Old McDonalds Farm.Cost for the event is a suggested donation of $2. Proceeds go to the farm’s nonprofit children’s program and activity expenses. Old McDonald Farm is 10 minutes from Gresham at the end of the road at 1001 S.E. Evans Road in Corbett.

Stephanie Rickert started Old McDonald’s Farm 21 years ago (McDonald is her maiden name).

Out of college she began working at a local radio station where she was put in a charge of promoting a nonprofit program that helps poor families afford reading glasses and hearing aids for their kids.

Doing right by kids soon became her passion, so much so that Rickert decided to open and run her own nonprofit to teach kids life skills on a farm setting.

At 27 years old, she left the station and began building an animal farm from scratch on the side of a 68-acre raspberry farm in Corbett, homesteaded in 1919 by Lawrence “Toot” Evans. With the help of a friend and military volunteers, Rickert turned the 4-acre barnyard — cluttered with torn-down sheds, car parts and garbage — into a school house, animal barn and horse-riding ring.

Using grants to fund buildings and a curriculum, Rickert opened the farm to serve kids in 1996.

At Old McDonald’s Farm

A day on the farm starts in the school house.

Like the other buildings on the farm, it’s painted red with white trim to evoke the old farm style.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Lavinia the English Lop rabbit.In the classroom, kids sit on benches and Rickert teaches elementary basics — geography, math, science and reading from textbooks and a single black chalkboard,

But Rickert, who has a master’s degree in teaching from Warner Pacific College, said the real learning takes place in the barnyard, with the animals, with whom kids can be motivated to learn.

“We are not teaching students to be farmers, but rather using a farm to teach kids to be kind, compassionate, capable, and ‘can do’ people,” she said.

Out in the barnyard, there are goats, pigs, sheep, ducks, geese, chickens, a bunny rabbit, horses, a cow, donkey and pony. Two dachshunds and a golden retriever also roam the farm freely and follow Rickert everywhere. “The kids love them,” she said.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Safaga, the Nubian goat. Every animal, of course, has a name, but with the help from students, Rickert has named all of them with reference to their origin. There’s a Vietnamese potbellied pig named Ninh Binh, a giant English-bred, Shakespeare-inspired Lop rabbit called Lavinia, and Keaka, an African pygmy goat bred in Cameroon and named after the local Keaka tribe.

As kids socialize with the animals, Rickert teaches them about the animals’ eating habits, place of origin and the kinds of food they produce for commercial use.

Many kids visiting the farm come from the city and aren’t familiar with farm life, said Rickert, who grew up near Spokane, Wash., in a family that bred, trained and showed Morgan horses.

“It’s amazing what a disconnect there is for kids from town,” she said.

City kids are fascinated to see the cows and chickens that produce the milk and eggs they eat for breakfast and the sheep that produce the fiber used to make their clothes.

Kids also have the chance to ride one of Rickert’s five horses, hike nature trails and learn to grow plants in the garden. There is an old tractor and a horse swing for kids to play on, a fake cow to rope, a ring to throw horseshoes at and an area to test out farm tools and build inventions.

Old McDonald’s Farm has several different programs.

People can visit the farm just for the day or kids can attend a week-long summer camp. Families or small groups can opt for the farmer-for-a-day program and spend the night at the farm. There also are programs for individuals with special needs.

“I love to teach kids and have people visit the farm,” said Rickert, who expects to expand the farm to include a farmer’s market. “I’m so thrilled it’s still going and we’re still here serving kids.”

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