Giraffe Sightings in Amish Country, Ohio

If there was ever any doubt, the Amish don’t have a sense of humor, read page three of the the Farm Guidebook, a 31 page color document explaining the wonder that is The Farm at Walnut Creek. Ohio, that is. Showcasing its Amish influence as much as its collection of animals from around the world, The Farm at Walnut Creek may be one of the more memorable road trips your family ever makes.

Our wagon passes under a macaw.

Our wagon passes under a macaw.

Strictly prohibiting the feeding of misbehaving children to the animals, offering a reassurance that all animal slobber can be rinsed from your car, and the invitation to spend as much time on the property as your day permits, The Farm at Walnut Creek has achieved a slower, more down-to-earth, business model. A model that succeeds by embodying the Amish way of life.

Part working farm, part exotic animal compound, the bizarre combination seems somehow part of the natural flow of everyday life in Sugarcreek. Owned and operated by Henry Hampton—a well-respected, non-Amish, exotic animal handler—employees at The Farm and Walnut Creek are all members of the Walnut Creek area Amish community.

Buildings ranging from the blacksmith shop to the milk house, main house, and Dawdy (Grandparent) house are open to wandering patrons. With animals like lemurs, kangaroo, tortoise, and porcupines in habitats accessible by foot, larger animals are best seen by vehicle or horse-drawn wagon ride. Roaming in an enclosed area comprising a large chunk of the 120 acre farm is where the excitement happens. Immediately bombarded by any combination of four-legged, cloven-hoofed creatures drooling in unison at buckets of pellet-sized treats, elk may work one side of a wagon while llamas hit up a slow-moving minivan.

Feeding the Giraffe

Feeding the Giraffe

Taking this tip straight from the Farm Guidebook, beware the Eland (native to the savannas and plains of eastern and southern Africa). Raised like cattle in the former Soviet Union for their milk, Eland have earned the nickname “bucket snatchers” at The Farm. A personal highlight was getting up close and personal with the giraffe in their segregated pin. Offering a first-hand account of purple tongues, the gentle giants took our food and added to the slobber count (albeit onto our heads).

An "arc" themed playground, picnic area and sand-volleyball courts.

An “arc” themed playground, picnic area and sand-volleyball courts.

Offering a wealth of additional information about the over 500 animal species on the website, The Farm is experience is educational as much as it is fun (those of us who haul our kids out in the name of “edu”cation appreciate these teachable life moments). Charging admission comparable to that of any zoo, adults pay $11.75 for themselves and $8.75 for their children ages 2-12. Wagon-ride rates are slightly more, but well worth the few extra dollars for the giraffe experience alone (adult: $16.75, children: $11.75). Much friendlier on the wallet than the cost of a day at an amusement or water park, family picnic* and playground areas encourage loitering, playing, and socializing with your family.

* If you find yourself in Sugarcreek hungry and without food, visit Walnut Creek Cheese, a popular grocery store/restaurant/deli/ice cream shoppe for all your picnic needs.

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.