All three of my children said “cat” for their first word. This is true despite the fact that none of our three cats birthed, bathed or even once fed my children. Luckily, I love cats too (“kitty” was my first word), so no hard feelings that “Mama” didn’t make the cut.
My oldest, now 7, is the biggest animal lover of the bunch. He loves to recite strange animal facts that he gleaned from his impressive collection of animal encyclopedias. (Did you know a baby kangaroo is the size of a jellybean when born?) But sometimes, you need to get out in the field to really understand them. And here in Portland, you don’t have to go far.
Farm in the City
Located on an old dairy farm in the Lents neighborhood, Zenger Farm is now cow-less. It remains an animal haven though, with volunteers tending to chickens, worms and bees. Natural wildlife also abounds on the neighboring wetlands, and throughout the farm. (While we were there, we saw two leopard slugs mating, and let me tell you, that’s something we’ll never forget. Check out the video at pdxparent.com/leopard-slug-video.)
While you may come for the animals, stay to learn a bit more about the plants that feed them — and us. This working farm provides low-cost, healthy food for the community. Kids can see some of the abundance with a tour through the children’s garden, which contains loads of veggies and edible flowers. Not to be missed: the fort made of willow trees, which you will long to replicate at home.
While there are no open tours of the farm, there are a number of ways to visit. You can gather a group of friends to schedule a field trip, volunteer at a honey bee work party, take part in a community cooking workshop, or keep on top of their events page at zengerfarm.org.
Although it’s only a short drive away, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a farming oasis when you cross the bridge into Sauvie Island. Head to the right of the bridge, and you’ll soon see a field of cows. Keep going to get to The Pumpkin Patch.
The Pumpkin Patch’s barn is stocked with kids’ favorite barnyard animals. You’ll see an alpaca, goats, chickens, bunnies — even peacocks! Above each animal’s stall, you’ll find a sign with interesting facts about them. (Did you know chickens have more bones in their necks than a giraffe?) Make sure kids know before you go that they aren’t meant to touch the animals, though. Some of them can be a bit nippy if little fingers get too close.
While you’re there, check out the well-stocked farm store. I definitely recommend the churro kettle corn, which I may or may not have “forgotten” to share with the kids. You can also do some u-pick, from berries in the summer to pumpkins in the fall. Find more info at thepumpkinpatch.com.
More Urban Farms
Located in Sherwood, Oregon, Heart 2 Heart Farms is a permaculture farm that specializes in education. Be as involved as you want — from a fun family farm day, to a six-week piglet fostering program. Also check out their traveling petting zoo, which heads to Bella Organic on Sauvie Island on weekends.
Old MacDonald’s Farm, a nonprofit in Corbett, aims to educate youth about farm animals, agriculture, gardens and natural resources. Gather a few friends for the morning chores package, an intense educational program where kids can learn how to feed and care for all types of livestock.
Put a Goat on It
Portlandia may be pretty true to life most of the time, but not about the whole “put a bird on it” sketch. Really, it should be put a goat on it.
For a real goat adventure, head down to Hood River’s Draper Girls Country Farm. In addition to lots of opportunities for fresh u-pick and they-pick fruits and veggies, they’ve got goats. And when we went there, adorable 5-day-old goats.
You can purchase a small packet of goat food for a few dollars if you want to have the goats really eating out of your hands. Or you can just watch them nurse, climb and chew.
Definitely bring a picnic for you and your crew. They’ve got lots of tables and chairs for you to sit at while you enjoy the unbeatable view of Mt. Hood. There’s also a large wooden swing, big enough for two or three kids to play on. There’s more info at drapergirlscountryfarm.com.
Other Places to Get Your Goat
Head to Lents, where the Belmont Goats have found a new spacious lot to play in. During visiting hours, you can get up close and personal, with volunteers on hand to help make sure everyone stays safe. thebelmontgoats.org.
Nothing says Portland like a canning, pickling, soap-making emporium with a pair of goats in the back. Portland Homestead Supply Co. is located right on Sellwood’s main street. Head through the store to the back to get your local goat fix. homesteadsupplyco.com.
Where to Go
Zenger Farm, 11741 SE Foster Rd., Portland
The Pumpkin Patch, 16511 NW Gillihan Rd., Portland
Draper Girls Country Farm, 6200 Hwy 35, Mt Hood Parkdale
Heart 2 Heart Farm, 21555 SW Hells Canyon Rd., Sherwood
Old MacDonald’s Farm, 1001 SE Evans Rd., Corbett
The Belmont Goats, SE 92nd Ave. and SE Harold St., Portland
Portland Homestead Supply Co., 8012 SE 13th Ave., Portland