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In The News

Holly Springs Sun, June 2008

Kids Learn the Land at Amazing Acres

By Kelly Griffith
Wednesday, June 4, 2008 9:22 PM EDT

Children will flock to Amazing Acres Farm in Holly Springs this summer for camp. Learning about farm animals and the relationship between people and the land, children from rising first graders to eighth graders will have the chance at hands-on experience.

Matt Kesselring shows off Spot the duckling during an open house May 31 at Amazing Acres Farm in Holly Springs. His parents, Kathleen and David, started the farm nearly four years ago to teach children to appreciate the natural world.

Kathleen Kesselring and her husband, David, started the summer program on Piney Grove Wilbon Road after their three sons didn’t have anywhere they could go to learn an appreciation for the natural world.

Kathleen said the family always had lots of animals and different types of plants growing, even before starting up the farm nearly four years ago.

“We were always the crazy house on the street,” Kathleen said.

The Kesselrings teach children about diversity, patience and kindness as part of the curriculum Kathleen designed to go along with camp activities. Each age group learns different lessons centered on farm animals and the organic plants in the garden.

“We really lay it on thick, and the kids eat it up,” she said. “If the kids can make an emotional connection, they will appreciate the earth. You can’t get that from a video game or a computer.”

Kids get to pet, brush and feed farm animals like ducks, chickens, turkeys, goats and pigs. They also have the opportunity to play games outside and plant vegetable or flower seeds.

Children can even check to see if the chickens have laid their eggs each day, while Kathleen teaches that some chickens lay brown eggs while others lay green ones at Amazing Acres Farm.

The first and most important topic Kathleen teaches kids is how to wash their hands. The small groups help keep the ratio of kids to adults low, but also to make it possible for kids to have the hands-on experience the Kesselrings pride themselves on.

“It means a lot to me that the kids go away with so much,” Kathleen said.

All of the animals are considered companion animals; they are not raised for the meat. The Kesselrings often find themselves a home to strays or geriatric animals that need a good home to live out their days.

“The animals just find us,” Kathleen said. “They’re just our little babies.”

Two ducklings found their way into the farm last week after Kathleen went to Green Hope Elementary for a school visit with the animals.

The two baby ducks were lost and wandered into the school. Some teachers thought the ducklings belonged to the Amazing Acres Farm and called Kathleen to come by for them.

Even though the Kesselrings didn’t have ducklings less than a week old, like the two babies, they accepted them into their farm family.

The camp was nominated for one of Nickelodeon’s Parents’ Pick awards this year for best day camp. The awards go out to the best kids’ museum, best toy store, best green space, best playground or park and many other categories in 52 major cities across the United States.

“That’s quite an honor,” Kathleen said.

Kathleen said the farm is open each Saturday in October for an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parents can also bring children out during the last week in September when the farm celebrates its membership of the Take-a-child-outside network.

The farm camp runs at $50 per child per day or $200 per week. The farm also holds camps on teacher workdays. Mini camps run at $125.

The farm accepts 35 students for each week of camp. Spaces are still available.

Amazing Acres begins its farm camps for the summer June 11. For more information on the summer camps, call 919-349-7153 or email Kathleen at Kathleen@GetOutsideAndLearn.com.

Cary News, April 2008

Decades ago going to the city was a treat for this area’s rural kids.

These days it’s a trip to the farm that is a little more exotic.

That’s why Kathleen Kesselring started the Amazing Acres Farm camp at her Holly Springs home three years ago.

She wanted to give the area’s suburban kids a chance to experience the country life she grew up loving during camping trips in New York.

“There’s so much that’s significant on the planet besides ourselves,” Kesselring said.

Those things can be seen on the eight acres that stretch mostly in front of her home close to the N.C. 55 bypass.

While her farm harkens to Holly Springs’ past — goats, chickens, turkeys and pigs find a home there — the farm butts up to a piece of Holly Springs’ future: a large subdivision.

Kesselring says the neighbors don’t mind.

The kids who come to the farm are often from similar suburban neighborhoods, kids who know more about video games than farm animals.

The kids who come to the farm come from schools and other groups and while at the farm do simple chores around the place, such as taking care of the animals and the small garden.

And these days, with several area schools on nontraditional calendars, the farm is busy just about year-round.

On a recent teacher workday Kesselring was hosting a group of about eight children for the day.

They were busy feeding pygmy goats — really small goats — beneath the hot spring sun.

Kindergartener Damion Younts, 5, loved the pygmy goats “because they’re so cute.”

Then the group, which had already spent the morning tending plants, moved on to see Charlie, a duck whose bill was damaged from a run-in with one of the farm’s pot-bellied pigs.

Charlie’s bill had healed long ago, but Kesselring still held him protectively while she told the kids about how his webbed feet helped him move quickly through the water.

Most of the farm’s lessons are hands on. Not only is it fun for the kids to pet the animals and touch the plants they are learning about, it makes them retain the information better, Kesselring said.

Three kids who have retained the information really well are Kesselring’s sons, Jack, Brian and Matt, who often help teach at the camps.

“I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with speaking to people,” said Jack, a sophomore at Holly Springs High School.

Mostly though it’s Kesselring’s show and her passion.

The 40-year-old moved the family from Cary specifically to start the farm.

She didn’t grow up on a farm herself, but each summer her family would leave their Staten Island home and go camping in the mountains.

She loves being outdoors and in nature and her little farm in a way is like coming home.

Contact Beth Hatcher at 460-2608 or bhatcher@nando.com

News & Observer, July 2007

July 2, 2007 Pfft. ... pft. Pfft. On this particular afternoon at Amazing Acres Farm, campers blew hard on hand-made plastic-pipe shooters. They aimed marshmallows at pigs, cows, turkeys and ducks, which gobbled down the sweet treats.

This has been the first summer Kathleen Kesselring opened her Holly Springs farm for weeklong day camps.

"Typically, we take the farm out to others," said Kesselring, a former day care director.

Two years ago, Kesselring began hitching up a trailer and taking part of her 8-acre farm out to children at schools and festivals. So many parents started asking "Are you going to do camps? Can we come to the farm?" -- that she decided to try the idea.

"We just wanted to provide kids an outdoor classroom and time away from TV and video games," the mother of three boys said.

The camp caters mostly to suburban kids from western Wake County towns, such as Holly Springs, Apex and Cary. The children spend hands-on time with animals every day. They brush the coat of Peek-A-Boo, a goat; feed Daisy, a pot-belly pig; or stroke the shell of Pumpkin, a specimen of the eastern box turtle, the state reptile.

Kesselring recruited older students she knew through N.C. State University's animal science program, the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts to serve as counselors. And she coaxed a friend -- microbiologist-turned-yoga-instructor Laura Woodall -- to create a garden.

Woodall teaches campers about beneficial bugs they might find turning over a zucchini leaf. Sometimes, they scoop up ladybugs or praying mantises into glass jars to talk about them, before setting them free. Campers also recently helped her plant a "pizza garden" of tomatoes, basil, peppers and oregano.

Xandy Henkel, 8, of Apex is quick to recite things he learned at the farm this summer.

"Boy turkeys are called toms. Goats have four stomachs -- they DO! And chicks like pecking at shiny things. See, they're pecking at my ring," Xandy said, kneeling next to a chicken coop.

"They're nuts about grass," added Sarah Kate Doherty, 5, of Raleigh, grabbing a fistful of green and passing the clump through the chicken wire.

"Here you go, chicks," she called. "Chickees ... Come on, chiiiiicks."

When the weather gets really hot, it's sprinkler time. The children slip and slide and wallow in shaving cream.

"Some kids have never played in a sprinkler," Kesselring said, "because of watering restrictions."

The campers go home, she said, tired, dirty, sweaty, but happy.

"I'll come again," said Dylan Wheatley, 6, of Cary. "It's so much fun."

Peggy Lim, Staff Writer for the News & Observer, Raleigh, NC

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